It’s great to look at the diets that are aimed toward fat loss, muscle building, osteoporosis prevention, cancer prevention, and so on, but there’s another very important type of diet that many men should be considering. We’re talking about cholesterol-lowering diets.
There’s a prevalent increase in the consumption of fast food across our nation, and as such there’s also a corresponding increase in bad cholesterol levels and heart disease. If you want a healthy system, it’s worth taking the time to understand cholesterol-lowering diets.
Decoding the Terms
Saturated fats should be on the radar of anyone who is on a cholesterol-lowering diet. These fats are found in a variety of foods, both processed and unprocessed, so start reading labels on a regular basis and you will be one step ahead in the cholesterol-lowering game.
Another factor that many people overlook is the role your carbohydrate intake has on cholesterol levels. With carbohydrates, the exact type you ingest is absolutely essential to your health, because where one will cause problems the other helps.
Simple, refined carbohydrates, such as those in table sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, candy, baked pastries, granola bars, and processed cereals, contribute to problems with cholesterol levels due to the impact they have on insulin levels.
Unrefined complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, tend to help lower cholesterol levels. They are able to do so because they are a good source of fiber, which helps to move cholesterol out of the body via the bloodstream, and they prevent you from eating other foods that could be potentially higher in saturated fat.
Now, let’s look at what a healthy cholesterol range is and at what foods you should be eating in cholesterol lowering diets.
What is a Healthy Cholesterol Level?
Getting regular checkups and blood cholesterol readings is important to maintaining the upper hand with cholesterol. You need to take immediate action to lower your cholesterol if it reaches an unsafe range.
If there is no family history, you should get your cholesterol level measured once every five years. Having a family history or being overweight means that you should get checked more frequently.
Ideally, you want your blood cholesterol levels to be below 180, with 180 to 199 being acceptable. If you move into the 200 to 219 range, you have a level that’s borderline high and if you are above 220, you need to look for and follow cholesterol-lowering diets.
Looking at the cholesterol types individually, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the kind of cholesterol that’s good and it’s considered too low if it is below 35, acceptable if it is between 36 and 50, and ideal if it is 50 or greater.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad cholesterol and it’s at an ideal level if it’s less than 130, it’s considered borderline high between 131 and 159, and it’s too high if it is above 160.
Understanding the two types of cholesterol is important, as they dramatically affect your health standing. HDL helps protect against heart attack and carries cholesterol away from the body in the arteries, transporting it to the liver where it will then be excreted.
LDL circulates in the blood and can build up on the inner walls of your arteries. This accumulation then causes plaque, which proceeds to make the arteries less flexible. If this progresses enough, you are at risk for heart attacks or strokes.
Now that you know your cholesterol limits, learn about cholesterol-lowering diets. So, that brings us to how you can go about creating a cholesterol-lowering diet. Right away, you should try and make the core focus of your diet around fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
These will provide you with essential vitamins, antioxidants and they’re generally lower in both fat and calories, which helps you control your weight. Weight is yet another factor that causes problems with high cholesterol; losing weight or preventing weight gain is important to your cholesterol as well.
When it comes to choosing your carbohydrates, oatmeal and oat bran are particularly good to include in your cholesterol-lowering diet because of its high-soluble fiber content, which will absorb the cholesterol you ingest while it’s in the intestines. Other good choices that will achieve the same objective include kidney beans, brussels sprouts, apples, pears, psyllium, barley, and prunes.
Pay attention to the fruits that are in your cholesterol-lowering diet and include as many as you can. Blueberries, for example, contain a cholesterol-lowering antioxidant known as pterostilbene, should be consumed on a regular basis.
When selecting the protein sources that you will include in your cholesterol-lowering diet, you really want to watch the quantity of red meat you eat. Red meat is high in saturated fat and you should, therefore, make extra effort to only choose the leanest sources possible.
Furthermore, it’s important to lower your cholesterol to include omega-3 fatty acids and to get your recommended daily dose. Aim for 3 grams to 6 grams per day, with good sources being flaxseed, walnuts, salmon, canola and soybean oil, mackerel, herring, and sardines.
Eggs are a common controversy when it comes to cholesterol. One large egg contains about 213 mg of cholesterol and for those watching their intake, it’s recommended to keep daily intake levels at 300 mg or lower. If you are eating a very low-cholesterol diet the rest of the time, one egg a day should be fine — but you do need to pay extra attention to everything else you consume.
The last aspect of your diet is dietary fat choices. As stated in the introduction, saturated fat is what you really want to watch here, as well as any products containing trans fats. Common food choices that contain these are high-fat dairy products, vegetable oil, fried or deep-fried foods, butter, liver, cookies, crackers, and any other commercially processed foods. Instead, try and choose mono and polyunsaturated sources of dietary fat, with good sources being safflower, sesame, soy, corn and sunflower oil, all forms of nuts and seeds, olive oil, peanut oil, and avocados.
Additionally, when you consume nuts, try to choose forms that still have their skin, since they will further contain properties that help lower cholesterol.
Cholesterol is compared to traffic, and for good reason. We all know that our vascular system is comparable to a network of roads, and when there’s an accident or a stalled car, the congestion that follows ruins everyone’s day. The same is true in the body, only if the car that has stopped traffic isn’t removed, the road system gets closed permanently.
Whether your cholesterol numbers are currently in the problematic range or not, it’s a good idea to start taking precautions and making select choices to your diet to help promote better cholesterol levels and protect your health in the future.
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