High cholesterol levels are common amongst Australians. Often we don’t take them seriously but having consistently high levels can significantly increase your risk of both heart disease and even diabetes, especially when in combination with high blood pressure. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol levels but more often than not, they are largely influenced by lifestyle.
So you have been told that you have high cholesterol levels. What can you do?
The best way to naturally lower your cholesterol is by eating well and exercising. Dietary modification that can have a huge impact involves:
Limiting saturated fats and trans fats
Your intake of fat will have the most significant impact on cholesterol levels. It is actually saturated fat that affects cholesterol levels as opposed to the cholesterol content of food. So the first step would be to look at how many high fat foods you are consuming. The following tips will help:
- Limit intake of takeaway foods and meals eaten out. These meals almost always have a high content of saturated fat and trans fats. Try to save these for social occasions and watch the portions.
- Limit intake of high fat foods like chocolates, pastries, processed meats, and potato chips.
- Decrease the portion/ frequency you are consuming red meat. Consider having a vegetarian nigh once or twice per week.
- Always trim visible fat off meats and choose lean cuts.
- Limit/ eliminate the use of high fat spreads like butter and margarine.
Incorporating healthy fats
Whilst it is important to limit less healthy fats, it is equally as important to add healthy fats (poly and mono unsaturated fats) to your diet that can help to increase good (HDL) cholesterol. Aim to add small portions of healthy fats in to your diet every day, such as:
- One handful of nuts as a snack
- Seeds in your porridge
- Avocado on your sandwich
- A small amount of olive oil in your cooking
- A serve of oily fish 2-3 times per week e.g. salmon
Increasing fibre intake
Higher fibre foods help to move cholesterol through the body to a degree. Increasing your fibre intake can help to stabilise blood sugar levels, decrease cholesterol levels and help to achieve/ maintain a healthy weight. Tips to increase fibre:
- Make a conscious effort to incorporate vegetables in to 2-3 meals each day e.g. 2 serves at lunch on a salad sandwich and 3 serves at dinner. Or take vegetable sticks with you during the day to snack on. Get a mix of cooked and raw.
- Have 2 pieces of fruit each day.
- Choose wholegrain foods.
- Have legumes as the protein portion of a salad or vegetarian meal.
By following the above recommendations and increasing physical activity (a mix of cardio and resistance), cholesterol levels can be dramatically reduced to fall within the healthy range. Trial these changes for a few months and it may not be necessary to start medication if your levels have dropped.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about nutrition, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns.