5 Ways to Lower Cholesterol

We all want to be healthy for our hearts, and the first step is to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol, a fat or lipid that is carried through the bloodstream.

Along with triglycerides, another type of lipid, low-density lipoprotein or LDL (bad) cholesterol, it contributes to the formation of plaque. Plaque can cause a heart attack, stroke, or even death if it threatens the blood supply to the heart, brain, legs, or kidneys.

Registered dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CCSD, LD, and exercise physiologist Michael Crawford, MS, share strategies for lowering cholesterol through diet and exercise to lower your risk of heart-related emergencies.

1. Reduce your intake of animal fats by avoiding processed and fatty meats like hot dogs, salami, bologna, and pepperoni, as well as fatty red meats like ribs and prime cuts of beef, pork, veal, or lamb. Also, avoid turkey and chicken with skin on. Full-fat dairy products like butter, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, and whole milk should be avoided. Both cholesterol and saturated fat in these foods are linked to elevated blood cholesterol and plaque buildup.

2. Make friends with fiber, and in particular, make friends with foods that contain a lot of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber has the ability to remove cholesterol from bile, which is made up of cholesterol. Oats, oat bran, ground flaxseed, psyllium, barley, dried beans and legumes, fruits, and whole-grain cereals all contain soluble fiber.

3. Choose vegetarian fare at least once a week. Plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, tofu, or quinoa can take the place of animal protein like meat, poultry, fish, cheese, or eggs. To reduce saturated fat and increase fiber intake, try these plant-based proteins in a burrito, salad, soup, or stir fry. Try to eat meatless one day per week if you enjoy meatless meals!

4. Pay attention to carbs! Studies have shown that following a low-carb diet can help you lose weight and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Oatmeal, whole grain starches, beans, lentils, and whole fruit are all high-fiber carbs that will give you the energy you need while also keeping you full for longer. The key is to limit your serving sizes, aiming for no more than one cup of fruit or starch per meal. Additionally, consume plenty of vegetables, which are high in fiber and low in calories.

5. If you need to, lose weight If you are overweight or obese, get rid of the extra weight. LDL cholesterol can be lower by losing weight. Even a modest weight loss of 10 to 20 pounds can make a difference. Start by cutting back on your portions. Your plate should consist of half non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth whole-grain starches, and one-fourth lean protein. Try not to drink your calories, as well. Instead, choose beverages with no calories as your primary source of fluid. To avoid consuming more calories through mindless snacking, pay attention to your hunger levels.

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