I recently had a health screening and my cholesterol numbers came back high. What are some of the diet changes I can make to avoid medication?

I am happy you asked! In my opinion, we rely too much on medications to “fix” things like cholesterol. I advise people to try to make changes in their diet and lifestyle first to see if that can improve your numbers. First start out by increasing your fiber intake. It is suggested that you aim for 20-35 grams of dietary fiber a day. Soluble fiber plays a major role in lowering cholesterol levels. Foods high in soluble fiber include: oat bran, oatmeal, beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and apple pulp. I would start your day with a bowl of oatmeal or high fiber cereal. Substitute whole-wheat pasta for regular refined pasta and choose brown rice instead of white rice. Better yet, experiment with other whole grains like quinoa, bulgur, faro, and amaranth. Another healthy addition to your diet could be foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These can help reduce your blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. In people who have already had heart attacks, fish oil — or omega-3 fatty acids — may reduce the risk of sudden death. Other sources of omega-3’s are: albacore tuna, salmon, flaxseed, soybeans and chia seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids can help raise your good cholesterol (HDL) and, although omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, because of their other heart benefits, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week.

Exercising at least 5 days a week (30 minutes a day) can really make an impact and help raise your good cholesterol levels (check with your doctor before engaging in an exercise program). Weight loss is another important factor in lowering cholesterol. Dietary changes and exercise can help those that are overweight achieve a healthy weight status.

Try limiting your intake of saturated fats and of trans fatty acids. Saturated fats include butter, high fat dairy products, red meat and other animal products. If you enjoy full fat dairy products, challenge yourself to begin to reduce the fat content. Start by moving from whole milk to 2%, then drop down to 1% and possibly to skim if the taste is acceptable. Trans fats are formed during the process of hydrogenation, where hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it a solid at room temperature. Examples include: hard stick margarine, processed foods like crackers, cakes, potato chips etc. Try substituting lean protein like boneless/skinless chicken breasts or fish for red meat entrees. Also, serve vegetarian entrees a few times a week like bean burritos and veggie burgers.

Login to Favorite