If you have high cholesterol, it might seem logical to eat a
“low cholesterol diet”, but that’s not quite how it works.
First you must determine which faction of your cholesterol is elevated.
If your LDL cholesterol is high, it’s best to focus on reducing your intake of saturated fat. If triglycerides are elevated, reducing your sugar and
alcohol intake may have the most impact.
But cholesterol by itself doesn’t necessarily cause plaque to deposit in the arteries. There is another piece of the puzzle, called inflammation. Like striking a match and creating a fire in the arteries, inflammation causes the cholesterol particles to oxidize and develop plaque.
This can be caused by smoking, or stress, but it can also be caused by diet. That’s why it’s good to follow an anti-inflammatory diet.
Limit ultra-processed, overly greasy, or super sweet if you have inflammation
Sugar causes insulin levels to rise which irritates blood vessel linings, promotes high blood pressure, increases cell oxidation, and increases the risk for metabolic syndrome. Keep in mind sugars not only include desserts, candy, and sodas as well as lemonade and sweetened teas, but also refined carbohydrates like too many white carbs- bread, pasta, rice -
can increase inflammation.
Limit high fat meats, like prime rib or steak as well as processed meat, like sausage and hot dogs, because they are high in saturated fat, which can cause inflammation if you get more than a small amount, which is around 20 grams per day, or 10% of total calories.
Limit butter, whole milk and cheese, also due to saturated fat. Instead, choose low-fat dairy products and use olive oil or plant-based oils instead of butter.
Eliminate foods that contain trans fatty acids. Read labels to determine if a food contains “partially hydrogenated” oils listed as an ingredient, which is code for trans fatty acids. This includes avoiding margarine, coffee creamers or products like packaged desserts, cake mixes or frosting.
Include Omega 3’s
Increase your intake of foods rich in the anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. Some sources of omega 3’s include salmon, as well as other fish walnuts, and ground flaxseed. You may want to consider a fish oil supplement to boost your omega 3 intake.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables throughout the day
Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants to fight inflammation and the formation of free radicals. Great choices include berries and dark green leafy vegetables…but any fruits and vegetables you add to your diet will boost antioxidant intake and reduce inflammation.
The foods you choose can inflame your arteries, like striking a match or can calm your arteries and promote good heart health. Why not make wise choices that work for you and not against you?. Limit packaged, processed foods and choose fresh whole foods as much as possible. That’s Smart Eating!
Mary Donkersloot, RDN
Beverly Hills, CA