Doctors recommend that we aim for a total cholesterol of less that 5.5m mol/L. (easily determined by a fasting blood test). Some doctors will prescribe medication, however you can improve the ratio of your "good" HDL versus "bad" LDL cholesterol through diet and lifestyle changes.
Some foods have been clinically proven to lower raised cholesterol, so you would be wise to incorporate these foods into your everyday diet, if you don’t already. So what are these foods?
Nuts in sensible quantities
- Nuts – almonds are always touted as the best for our health, but also consider pecans, pistachios, walnuts and brazil nuts. They are all high in heart friendly fats and Vitamin E and keep you feeling full because of their protein and fibre content. Aim for 30g of nuts per day to help reduce your bad LDL cholesterol over time. (Portion control is important with nuts through, as they are high in kilojoules and can lead to weight gain if eaten in large amounts.)
- Pop a handful of unsalted nuts in a ziplock bag to keep in your drawer at work
- Chop nuts to put in your muesli or granola
- Toss some toasted almonds or walnuts into your salads
Fibre beans, grains and fruit
- Oats, barley, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas and fruit (particularly pears, oranges and grapefruit). All these foods are high in soluble fibre which is linked to a reduction in the amount of cholesterol absorbed in our digestive system. Around 20g of soluble fibre per day is recommended and while this is obviously hard to measure, ensure that you include these foods in your everyday diet.
- Eat porridge or a sugar free oat based cereal for breakfast
- Spread hommus on wraps or seedy crackers or eat with vegie sticks for a snack
- Toss lentils, chickpeas or barley into soups and casseroles
- Eat fresh fruit as snacks
Choose colourful vegetables with plant sterols
- Plenty of colourful vegetables which contain plant sterols. These naturally occurring substances can also lower cholesterol if included in your daily intake. Some foods have also been developed for this purpose, such as plant sterol enriched margarines, breakfast cereals and milk. I personally prefer to access these substances through “non-processed” sources such as vegetables, but they are obviously more concentrated in the products mentioned above.
- Enjoy your recommended “5 serves a day” of vegetables by piling your plate with an array of colourful vegetables at meal times
- Make vegie soups in winter to warm and nourish you
- Include a variety of lightly steamed vegetables in your salads
- Crunch raw vegies spread with peanut butter, tahini or hommus as snacks
The good thing about all these foods is that you can easily include them in your diet, or increase them if they are already part of your daily intake.
If you have any queries or would like to get more information on this, please contact me at Spice of Life.