Many Americans and people throughout the world suffer from high cholesterol. There is a solution to this deadly problem. But, oftentimes, people are prescribed medication without any dietary coaching, or exercise guidance….this is the equivalent of giving a morbidly obese person liposuction or a tummy tuck, without teaching them how to eat a well balanced diet and incorporating the proper amounts of exercise. Without implementing dietary and exercise therapies, you are essentially creating the perfect “environment” for high cholesterol to thrive. The fact is, most conditions including high cholesterol can be controlled or even reversed through diet and exercise. Obviously there are times where drug interventions are necessary, but upon prescribing, they should always be coupled with dietary and exercise guidelines.
High cholesterol, more specifically known as hyperlipidemia in the medical community, is an excess of lipids, but mostly cholesterol and triglycerides, which are found in the blood. According to an article published by the CDC in Feb 2010, (1) 16.3% of the U.S. adult population has a high total daily cholesterol. Hyperlipidemia is a risk factor for atherosclerosis and heart disease and is caused by several factors including, heredity, taking certain medications, and the factor we have the most control over; diet. (2) Researchers have sought out to determine which specific dietary interventions have the most beneficial effect on high levels of fats in the blood.
An article published in the May 2010 of the American Academy of family Physicians, (3) revealed the following
The most beneficial changes will occur when you:
- Reduce the intake of saturated and trans fats (generally solid at room temperature)
- Increase the intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (plant fats)
- Fortify foods with plant stanols or sterols (these are a naturally occurring fiber-like substance)
- Isocalorically adding tree nuts to the diet
- Consume one or two alcoholic drinks per day
- Adopt a mainly vegetarian, Mediterranean, low-carbohydrate, or low-fat diet
Smaller, but still beneficial effects result from reducing intake of dietary cholesterol, increasing intake of soluble fiber and soy protein, and eating fatty marine fish or taking marine-derived omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Red yeast rice supplements have effects similar to those of statin medications and are better tolerated in some patients. Regular aerobic exercise has beneficial effects on lipid levels, particularly if performed for at least 120 minutes per week. Brief physician counseling will have relatively small effects on unselected patients, so efforts should be concentrated on patients who are motivated and ready to make lifestyle changes.”
This further confirms why a diet that is free from processed foods, low glycemic in nature, moderate amounts of healthy fats, combined with exercise, and nutritional supplementation is a winning combination for lowering cholesterol. Below are foods that will help in your quest to improve your health and keep high cholesterol at bay.
1.Increase fiber intake: Fiber is a unique food substance because it is indigestible and does a wonderful job at helping to control cholesterol level. Excessive blood fats and cholesterol will bind together with dietary fiber and your body will eliminate them as waste products. The current USDA guidelines (4) recommend the minimum amount of fiber which should be consumed daily by a female -28 grams and a male 38 grams.
Foods high in fiber:
- 1 cup Red lentils- 15 grams
- 1cup rolled oats – 12 grams
- 1 cup of Pinto beans- 15 grams
- 1 cup raspberries- 8 grams
- 1 cup raw oat bran- 14.5 grams
- Add a little Olive oil: Olive oil is a great substitute for cooking and can also be used on salads and other vegetables. It is often used as a dip for breads with cracked pepper in lots of restaurants. Utilize caution when using olive oil as the calories add up really quickly due to the high fat content. (120 calories per tbsp) Remember to utilize the extra virgin olive oil.
- Foods with added plant sterols or stanols: These substances are great to add to your cholesterol lowering plan. They are natural occurring substances similar to fiber when ingested and help prevent the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Read your food labels and opt for those that have these substances added in them. They can be found in the following types of foods but in smaller amounts.
- Fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils, and seeds
- Tree Nuts: These foods are a very healthy source of fats, but just like olive oil they must be eaten sparingly as they are very calorie dense foods. Some of the most commonly eaten tree nuts are the pecan, cashew, almonds, macadamia, almond, pistachio and brazil nuts.
- Cardiovascular Exercise: Last but certainly not least, no healthy lifestyle plan is complete with mentioning exercise. You should be performing a minimum of 3-4 days a week of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise. Cardio can be any mode of cardio exercise where you increase your heart rate and involves the large musculature of the legs. (running, walking, treadmill, swimming) Find something you enjoy doing and have fun doing it!
- Diet and Exercise in the Management of Hyperlipidemia
Kelly R B (Am Fam, Physician, 2010;81 (9): 1097-1102, 1103-1104. http://search.aafp.org/search?q=Diet+and+Exercise+in+the+management+of+hyperlipidemia&site=afp&client=aafp&proxystylesheet=aafp&filter=0&output=xml_no_dtd&getfields=*&hl=en&lr=lang_en&x=9&y=11