About managing cholesterol with healthy nutrition
Cholesterol can be well managed by consuming a balanced diet in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle. The following tips will help you to achieve a healthy balance of LDL and HDL cholesterol.
1. Limit saturated and trans fats
These types of fat play a major role in high cholesterol levels
- When buying meat, choose the ‘lean’ or ‘heart smart’ option, this will be specified on the label. Trim off any visible fat prior to cooking and remove the skin from chicken. Restrict consumption of processed meats such as salami. As a guide, a portion of meat should not be bigger than the size of your palm, anything over this is unnecessary and will contribute to excess energy and saturated fat intake.
- Substitute butter for margarine and plant based oils. Butter can have a significantly higher concentration of saturated fat than margarine. Healthier choices include margarines and oils based on canola, olive, safflower, sunflower, soybean and peanut oil as they are sources of mono and poly unsaturated fats (‘Good’ fats that in moderation help to lower cholesterol). Exceptions include coconut and palm oil which are sources of saturated fat and should be limited.
- Choose reduced fat or no fat dairy products.
- Limit take away foods and baked goods as the majority have a high saturated fat content and likely contain trans fats. Examples include fried foods, pies, cakes, biscuits, pastries, pizza and chips.
- Trans fat and saturated fat have to be included on product nutrition information panels. Try and choose products that have below 10g of total fat per 100g and below 3g of saturated fat per 100g. However, Keep in mind how much of that product you plan to eat because it could be in excess of 100g.
- Remember that ‘cholesterol free’ does not the product is fat free. Always be wary of the saturated fat content of the product.
2. Consume soluble forms of fibre
Soluble fibre hastens the rate at which cholesterol is removed by the bowel and can actually lower LDL cholesterol. Good sources of soluble fibre include oats, lentils, dried beans, vegetables and fruit.
3. Incorporate plant sterols in to your diet
Plant sterols and cholesterol compete for absorption in the small intestine, this results in the plant sterols blocking the uptake of cholesterol in to the blood. Research has shown that an intake of 2-3g of plant sterols per day has a lowering effect on blood cholesterol by approximately 10%. It is difficult to obtain this quantity from intake of plant foods alone so foods fortified with sterols are now on the market, for example, some margarines, cereal and dairy products. Two to three serves per day of these enriched products is needed to lower blood cholesterol levels.
4. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and be active
- Substitute saturated fats for mono and poly unsaturated fats. These ‘good’ fats should still be eaten in moderation however. Examples include raw, unsalted nuts and vegetable oils/ margarine
- Consume 2-3 serves of fatty fish per week (150g per serve). Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to aid in the prevention of heart disease.
- Aim for 5 serves of vegetables per day, include a variety of colours.
- Eat 2 pieces of fruit daily.
- Limit ‘extra’ foods that are high in salt, sugar and fats.
- Choose wholegrain options where possible e.g. wholegrain bread and pasta.
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Drink plenty of water
If you have questions about healthy eating to manage cholesterol, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a dietitian and nutritionist. We can provide dietary advice to help you manage your cholesterol and general health. Our dietitian Belinda Elwin can provide you guidance and personalised advice.