Cholesterol is a thick, smooth substance produced by the liver and found throughout the body’s cells and the bloodstream. It comes in two varieties: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as good cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also referred to as bad cholesterol. HDL can help transfer cholesterol throughout the body and back to the liver, while LDL can build up in the bloodstream and prevent blood from pumping oxygen to the heart. Although cholesterol is a natural substance, certain foods can contribute to the accumulation of cholesterol in the body. People who are on a low cholesterol diet plan are generally advised to consume foods low in saturated fats because saturated fats have been found to increase LDL levels in the bloodstream and increasing the risk of heart attack.
When a person is on a low cholesterol diet plan, he or she will typically be advised to limit the amount of sodium used to preserve or flavor his or her foods. High amounts of sodium in the diet may raise blood pressure, which can raise the risk of heart attack, particularly in people who already have high cholesterol. People on this diet are allowed to flavor their foods with citrus juices, vinegars, fresh herbs, and spices, in place of salt. Processed foods, such as canned or frozen items, are to be limited on the diet because they usually contain high levels of sodium to increase their shelf lives.
Saturated fats are often used to cook foods or in baked goods, but are generally forbidden on a low cholesterol diet plan. Not all fats must be eliminated on the diet and most vegetable-based oils, such as canola, olive, and soybean, are permitted. Solid fats, such as margarine, shortening, or butter, tend to be the highest in saturated fats and are to be avoided as much as possible on the eating plan. If a recipe calls for a solid fat, a commercial low-cholesterol spread can usually be substituted.
A low cholesterol diet plan permits meat, poultry, and seafood, but in limited portion sizes and varieties. A person on the diet is usually advised to limit their meat, poultry, or seafood consumption to 6 oz. (170 grams) per day. Lean cuts with little visible fat are preferred, while prime or fatty cuts are to be avoided as much as possible. It is often recommended to replace vegetables for meats as often as possible in main, meat-based dishes. Beans, mushrooms, and eggplant are generally substantial enough to use as a meat replacement.
In addition to lowering the amounts of foods that contain saturated fats, a low cholesterol diet plan also recommends foods that are high in nutrients and can keep dieters satisfied so they do not resort to high-fat foods because they are too hungry. Fresh fruits and vegetables are highly promoted on the diet, as well as nuts and seeds. Dieters are also advised to add whole grains into their daily eating. Whole grains, such as whole grain breads and pastas, contain high levels of fiber which takes longer to digest and can make a person feel satisfied for a longer period of time.