Last updated: Sep 05, 2008
Are You Cholesterol Smart?
What's your cholesterol IQ? Read more
Saturated fat is likely to raise blood cholesterol more than any other food in your diet (except for, perhaps, trans fats, which are slowly being phased out of many foods). A goal of just 7% of total calories is no more than 16 grams per day for most people. To stay within these boundaries, eat more of a plant-based diet with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit red meat, full-fat dairy products, baked goods, and fried foods.
If youre overweight, reduce calories and work toward your ideal body weight
Its unclear exactly why being overweight tends to increase blood cholesterol, but too much abdominal fat is particularly heart-unhealthy. (Video: See why your spare tire is so dangerous.) Women should strive to keep their waist circumference below 35 inches and men below 40. If you are overweight, losing just 10% of your body weight can provide a significant health improvement; use this interactive tool to see your weight-related health profile.
Soluble fiber is found in oats, beans, fruits, and vegetablesit's why products like Cheerios can claim heart-healthy benefits. Soluble fiber helps trap cholesterol in the digestive tract so that it passes through your body rather than getting into your bloodstream. Eating oatmeal breakfasts and having whole fruits as snacks can get you closer to this goal.
Plant stanols and sterols are natural compounds found in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds that compete with cholesterol for absorption into the bloodstream from the gastrointestinal tract and thus decrease the amount of cholesterol that makes it into your system. Stanol- and sterol-enhanced foods and beverages have become commonplace in supermarkets, from margarines and spreads to orange juice. For best results, eat foods containing plant stanols and sterols with meals twice a day.
These adjustments, combined with exercise and consultations with a doctor, make up the TLC program. By following this plan, you may be able to avoid the cost, hassle, and potential side effects of prescription drugsor at least keep your dose down. The following chart (drawn from the National Institutes of Healths Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC) shows the improvement you can hope to achievea total percentage that's comparable to many cholesterol-lowering drugsby implementing these adjustments.
|Add 2 g of plant stanols/sterols per day||5% to 15%|
|Reduce saturated fat to less than 7% of calories||8% to 10%|
|Lose 10 lb. if overweight||5% to 8%|
|Add 5–10 g of soluble fiber per day||3% to 5%|
|Reduce dietary cholesterol to less than 200 mg/day||3% to 5%|
|Total||20% to 30%|