Learn how your diet can plan an important role in lowering your cholesterol and triglyceride levels!
Below is an overview of what type of foods to focus on if you have high cholesterol (hint hint…it’s a healthy diet that almost EVERYONE should follow). If you’d like to learn more about the specific types of cholesterol and what numbers are in the healthy range, see my first post of this series.
Like many health conditions there are several risk factors associated with high cholesterol including:
- Diet: foods high in saturated and trans fat can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol
- Overweight and obesity: extra weight can raise your LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Smoking: can raise your triglyceride levels and lower your HDL (good) cholesterol
- Physical Activity: can help you lose weight and lower your LDL cholesterol
- Genes: some people may inherit high LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and low HDL cholesterol levels from family members
- Age: as you age, you are more likely to have higher cholesterol levels
Today’s focus is DIET.
Here’s a little background on my husband and why this is PERSONAL (and don’t worry he knows I’m writing about him and is gracious enough to allow me to in hopes of helping others). If you’d like to jump to the diet section, skip to DIET AND CHOLESTEROL below.
I’m not going to lie, I did ask Dan on a scale of 1 to 10, how likely he would agree to become vegetarian after his diagnosis of high cholesterol. I didn’t really get a straight answer, but his look was quite perplexed. Since if you know me, I’m quite serious, so he was trying to figure out how serious I truly was (and probably a bit petrified). Now I am NOT saying going vegetarian is going to fix everything. Heck, I knew someone in college who was vegetarian and one of the unhealthiest people I knew. Her “vegetarianism” consisted mainly of French fries and potato chips, not quite the “healthy” diet.
Since I am married to him I have an insider look of his eating and exercise behaviors. Over the past decade Dan’s diet has varied, but not drastically. He eats generally healthy food (cooked by me), eats fast food about once a month, and eats out a few times a week. He probably was drinking an equivalent to 5-8 alcoholic drinks a week when he received his high cholesterol diagnosis. The daily recommended amount of alcoholic beverages is 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women (1 drink = 12 oz. beer (5% alcohol), 4 oz. wine, 1 ½ oz. liquor 80-proof, 1 oz. liquor 100-proof).
His exercise has also varied which started as irregular 10 years ago, transitioning into regular exercise through running and triathlons, which eventually led to marathons and a full Ironman triathlon. However, during this time he also worked full time and went to law school, and we had 3 kids! So needless to say he was busy. Since his Ironman he has focused more on building his law practice with less focus on exercise, however, he still exercises on a regular basis just nowhere near Ironman training. For anyone who doesn’t know, Ironman training begins at around 10 hour of training per week (swim/bike/run) and peaks at about 20-25 hours per week – yes, it’s practically a part-time job!).
So there’s a little background on my husband.
DIET AND CHOLESTEROL
You have likely heard of a heart healthy diet, but what does that really mean? If you listen to my husband’s doctor’s office, someone with high cholesterol should “follow a low-fat diet.” I gasped when I heard that – it’s not that simple, but our health care system unfortunately is not designed to have each patient with nutrition-related health conditions(which are plentiful) be counseled by registered dietitians!
A heart healthy diet is NOT some difficult diet to follow – it’s actually what EVERYONE should be following (in general).
The American Heart Association recommends the following when it comes to diet. Overall, eat a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, high in whole grains and fiber, while limiting meat and foods with saturated fats and added sugar, and avoid trans fat. Also, limiting sodium to no more than 1500 mg sodium (3/4 teaspoon) daily, which includes sodium (salt) found in foods.
Following you’ll see a detailed list of what is recommended and what is advised to limit.
So you may be wondering, how can I realistically change my diet to fit a heart healthy diet? What does a serving of meat actually look like? What type of fish should I be eating? Stay tuned for more specific examples and answers to these questions!
For now, here a few of my recipes that I would consider to be part of a heart healthy diet:
Sources: American Heart Association (www.heart.org); National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (www.nhlbi.nih.gov)
© 2015 Kristy Hegner Disclaimer