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Eating a low cholesterol diet is one of the most effective ways to avoid or lower the risks of heart disease, in addition to improving overall health. It can even help a patient to avoid taking medication for high cholesterol or heart disease. The best cholesterol lowering diet includes both avoiding high-cholesterol and high-fat foods and incorporating not only healthy foods, but specific ingredients that can help to lower cholesterol levels. It is also important to get regular exercise in order to boost the effects of a healthy diet. Individuals who are looking to start a cholesterol lowering diet will usually get the most favorable results by consulting with a doctor.
Some of the best foods to choose for a cholesterol lowering diet include oatmeal, fish, nuts, and olive oil. Fruits and vegetables are also an effective way to lower cholesterol. Some particularly good foods are walnuts, almonds, apples, pears, blueberries, salmon, and halibut. Foods with high fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and added plant stanols or sterols — naturally occurring compounds that can block cholesterol absorption — can also be beneficial. It is best to cook with oils that are high in healthy monounsaturated fats such as canola and olive varieties.
As carbohydrates can raise cholesterol, it is advisable to eat them in moderation. Whole grains are preferable to processed flour, both as a part of a cholesterol lowering diet and for overall good health. Dairy should also be consumed in moderation, though low-fat products can be beneficial. Meat can be a part of a low cholesterol diet if it is lean. Good choices include chicken, fish, and turkey.
Foods to avoid while on a cholesterol lowering diet include processed foods — which often include trans fats-full dairy items — fried foods, and high-fat varieties of meat such as beef. It is best to avoid high-fat foods in general and saturated fats in particular. Partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are commonly found in products such as shortening and margarine, should also be avoided.
Moderate, regular exercise can help to encourage the effects of a cholesterol lowering diet. Aerobic exercise provides the best cholesterol-lowering benefits. Walking and any kind of swimming, be it individual or team sports, can also be beneficial. Yoga and tai chi are other low-key, effective activities for maintaining physical fitness. The most common recommendation among doctors is to exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week. If it is not possible for an individual to exercise the recommended amount in one stretch, activity can still be effective if split into 15-minute increments.
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