Nutrition: 26 Ways to Lower Your Bad Cholesterol – Including Alcohol!
Meet Lauren Slayton, M.S. R.D., founder of New York City’s Foodtrainers, who has over a decade of experience as both a dietician and nutritional counselor. Offering one-on-one sessions on weight and nutrition management, Foodtrainers helps clients create, record, achieve, and maintain personal health goals. For those in need of grocery shopping guidance on a budget, Foodtrainers also offers an affordable program, Market Foodtraining. Blisstree asked Lauren for 25 Cholesterol Lowering Tips, specifically involving what we should eat – and she added one for good measure! (Personally, we're fond of #24.)
We hate to overwhelm our clients with guidelines that start with “no”, but if your cholesterol is high or you have a family history of heart disease, there are 26 things you should know:
1. Lowering cholesterol is not about avoiding foods high in cholesterol. Instead, avoid foods high in saturated fat. So shrimp is ok, but keep foods such as ice cream, full-fat cheese, and fatty meat to once a week or less.
2. Avoid all trans fats – period. Anything listed as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated should be banished.
3. Exercise! Daily exercise can raise HDL cholesterol (a.k.a. good cholesterol – think H for “happy” arteries). HDL removes the bad cholesterol (LDL – think “lousy”) from arteries, so walk, run, jump rope, row, bike, or spin six days a week.
4. Lose weight. It may seem obvious, but even without incorporating specific foods, modest weight loss will lower your cholesterol.
5. No smoking! Not only is smoking a major risk factor for heart disease, but it also lowers levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
6. Fruits and vegetables. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a key component to lowering cholesterol. Aim for at least two fruits and three vegetables per day.
7. Our fave cholesterol-lowering vegetables: Cremini mushrooms, asparagus, and peas.
8. Our fave fruits for lower lipid levels: Oranges, grapefruits, blueberries, and grapes.
9. Eat Oats! A fiber called beta-glucan found in oats can help lower cholesterol. Oats are higher in soluble fiber than whole wheat, and are natural cholesterol “bouncers” – grabbing cholesterol and escorting it out of you. Having oatmeal for breakfast can lower cholesterol levels by 10-20%.
10. Fish. It's the best source of cholesterol-lowering omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon (including smoked salmon) is a great omega-3 source, but if you like sardines they're another affordable and portable option. Aim for at least four fish meals a week.
11. Nuts. Regular consumption of nuts can improve cholesterol levels. Choose walnuts and pistachios. Walnuts are the only nut with omega-3’s, while pistachios may raise HDL. One ounce of walnuts is eight to ten halves, or go nuts with 45 pistachios in a serving!
12. Beans and lentils were featured in the Portfolio Diet used by Canadian researchers in a small but encouraging study. Legumes lowered cholesterol by more than 30%. Beans should be in every pantry – try to eat a legume every other day.
13. Garlic has blood-thinning properties, and may lower LDL cholesterol levels. Put a clove of garlic in a garlic press and add to salad dressings, or roast whole garlic in aluminum foil for a delicious spread. Half a clove a day may keep statins (cholesterol meds) away.
14. Salad Suggestions. Although salads with fresh fruits and vegetables are great cholesterol-lowering meals, many dressings and salad fixings are high in saturated fat. Olive oil contains potent antioxidants that are beneficial to cholesterol. Use one or two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Skip cheese, croutons, prefab, or creamy dressings.
15. Incorporate some whole soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame) in your diet, but avoid processed soy such as TVP, soy-based faux meats, and soy veggie burgers.
16. Broil, roast, bake, or steam rather than fry. And there’s no such thing as “lightly sautéed”!
17. Choose only lean cuts of meat such as round, sirloin, or loin, or tenderloin. Befriend the butcher and ask that all visible fat on meat be trimmed. And be sure to remove skin from chicken and turkey.
18. An egg a day may be okay. Though previously demonized, eggs and yolks seem to contain certain nutrients that do not affect cholesterol levels. Stick to seven eggs a week or less, as the yolk does contain saturated fat. And try omega-3 eggs.
19. Drink low-fat milk instead of whole or half-and-half. Choose low-fat cheese over full-fat. Remember that full-fat and regular dairy will increase cholesterol.
20. Watch lunch meats. Processed meats such as bologna, salami, and hot dogs are not only very high in sodium, but are also high in saturated fat.
21. Be Veg. Try to reduce meat more frequently. Replace meals featuring meat with those featuring beans and vegetables. To keep cholesterol low, it's best to think of meat as a condiment to be used sparingly rather than as the main ingredient.
22. Green tea contains compounds that may prevent LDL from oxidizing. Drink eight to 16 ounces a day of hot or iced green tea. Foodtrainers’ favorite is Republic of Tea grapefruit green tea.
23. Drink two ounces unsweetened cranberry concentrate (Lakewood brand) with seltzer. The polyphenol antioxidants raise HDL, and lower triglycerides. You can add a little stevia or honey.
24. One alcoholic drink a day is helpful, but more isn’t. This is research-based, I swear. One drink lowers LDL!
25. EFA supplement. Essential Fatty Acids supplements are another good source of omega-3 fatty acids, especially if you’re not a fish-eater. We suggest algae-based supplements to our vegan clients.
26. Spices and herbs. Try turmeric – it lowered cholesterol in studies after just seven days. Cinnamon also improves cholesterol levels, and mint may reduce cholesterol formation.