Cholesterol and Diet


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Lowering your dietary intake of cholesterol is recommended to maintain overall good health. Basic dietary guidelines are as follows.

Limit the following in your diet:

Fats, especially saturated fats.
All foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (most margarines and baked goods.
Dairy fats, such as whole milk, cheese made with whole milk, butter, egg yolks, sour cream.
Vegetable oil and lard.
Beef, especially the less-lean cuts.
Products made of refined sugars and flours.

Most animal fats and hydrogenated fats are solid at room temperature, and have more of the LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol. Also known as ‘trans fats, ’ these are the fats to avoid. Look carefully on the ingredients label for the words, ‘hydrogenated, ’ or ‘trans fats. ’ The most common foods with trans fats are cookies, pies, cakes, chips, snack and convenience foods. These foods also usually contain refined sugars and flours, making them doubly bad for cholesterol levels.

Instead, use these:

Fruits and vegetables, most of which are cholesterol-free, and which help lower cholesterol levels.
Whole-grain breads and cereals.
Low-fat or skim milk, yogurt, sour cream and cheeses.
Canola oil or extra virgin olive oil.
Chicken, turkey and fish.
Legumes and nuts.
Margarines made of plant sterol esters, such as Benecol, which help to lower cholesterol levels.

Foods high in fiber have the added benefit of helping to absorb and eliminate cholesterol from the intestines. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts are all high in fiber. Some fruits, such as citrus, apples, cranberries and blackberries are high in pectin, and are particularly good at reducing cholesterol levels.

Putting it into Practice

A change of lifestyle and eating habits can be very, very hard, especially if the habits are habits acquired over a lifetime. One way to help implement these all-important changes, is to start small. Set a small, short-term goal, such as switching to low-fat dairy products and whole grain breads. When that becomes habit, and the tastebuds are acclimatized to the new flavors, make another small change, such as adding fruits and vegetables to the diet. Next, try eliminating soda pops, exchanging them for water and sugar-free, non carbonated drinks.

The most difficult change to make for many people is the elimination of refined sugars and flours from the diet. Refined fours and sugars can be very addictive, giving the body a ‘sugar rush’ that may be hard to live without at first. A first step may be switching to whole grain flours, and then switching from sugar to sucralose, such as Splenda sweetener.

Make each step small and be patient, waiting for the change to become easy. It may take a year or two, but eventually, persistence will pay off, and a new healthier diet will be habit.

Eddie McNally is a health care professional of 10 years. Learn more about maintaining healthly cholesterol levels at


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