Managing cholesterol is essential when it comes to heart health, but high cholesterol can be tricky to keep in check. Most health professionals agree that a healthy diet and exercise, sometimes combined with the right medications, can help balance your cholesterol levels.
Even if your cholesterol tests have been normal, it is always a good idea to learn healthy prevention tips that can promote heart health. Check out the following ideas for healthy eating to lower cholesterol.
Why cholesterol is important
Cholesterol issues can contribute to heart disease and cause issues like heart attack or stroke. Over time, cholesterol tends to accumulate in your blood vessels, which causes blood vessels to become narrow and hardened. When this happens to blood vessels, blood flow is restricted and you are more prone to developing blood clots, which may lead to serious heart health risks.
The type of cholesterol that is often too high is called LDL, but it is possible to have risk factors with a type of low cholesterol. Low levels HDL cholesterol might also indicate your risk for heart disease. Low HDL cholesterol is typically the result of a modern sedentary lifestyle, so remember that exercise is essential.
How to check your cholesterol
Cardiac emergencies can be serious or life-threatening, so the sooner you know your cholesterol levels and about any heart condition the better you can manage it and work to prevent any serious health events, like a potential stroke or heart attack.
To check your cholesterol, you can make an appointment with your health practitioner who can order a test, send it to the lab, and schedule a follow up appointment to go over your results. A faster and sometimes more affordable way is to order the tests and go directly to a health testing center. Before going, you should obtain more information about your cholesterol blood test.
There are a few ways in which managing your diet can help control your cholesterol. Fats in foods play a role in cholesterol levels, but not all fats are the same. Saturated fats and trans fats are often cholesterol-rich and tend to harden in blood vessels.
Fats in processed snacks and animal products are most likely to raise your cholesterol. Replacing unhealthy choices with healthy foods can prevent issues with cholesterol. Limiting or avoiding fatty dairy products and red meat is ideal.
Unsaturated fats are considered safer and sometimes even beneficial to cardiovascular health. Healthier fat options to try are olive oil, nut oils, omega-3 fatty acids in fish, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and more. Omega-3 fatty acids are excellent since they create a slick environment that helps prevent cholesterol from attaching to blood vessels.
Low cholesterol substitutions
Keep in mind that you can still enjoy many of the same foods by preparing them in a healthier way.
- Swap out butter for vegetable broth or low-fat cream
- Use beneficial vegetable oil spreads, like margarine with olive and flax oil, instead of butter.
- Exchange cooking oils for fruit puree or apple sauce in baking ingredients, and grease pans with healthy oils.
- Cut fats and oils completely by steaming fresh vegetables or eating raw produce with a delicious dip.
Rich and satisfying fiber
A natural way to reduce cholesterol levels is by including soluble fiber in your diet. Soluble fiber binds with cholesterol and assists your digestive system in removing it from the body before it can attach to your blood vessels and wreak havoc.
Whole grains are an excellent way to add fiber to your diet. Consider having hot oatmeal topped with fruit and flax seeds for breakfast.
Beans are a hearty food that contain plenty of cholesterol-lowering fiber. They provide a good amount of protein and there are many types to choose from. Enjoy a hearty lentil soup, southwestern black bean empanadas, eastern-style garbanzo dish, or whole grain cornbread with black-eyed-peas.
Apples aren’t the only heart healthy fruit to help keep you out of the doctor’s office. Fruits like strawberries, and oranges contain pectin, a soluble fiber that is known to lower harmful cholesterol.
While kale or romaine salads are popular, you might like to mix up your side options with something less common. Okra, eggplant, carrots, and more can be tossed in a low-cholesterol oil and some light seasonings for roasting in the oven for a crisp texture.
Exercise and changing your diet are things that you can do in steps. Try adding new healthy foods and low-cholesterol substitutions one at a time until you have transformed your diet.
Hopefully these tips will help you to manage your cholesterol. Remember to check it with a simple blood test from time to time to monitor your progress. Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for taking care of yourself and living healthily.