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Making Sense of Foods

Understanding Cholesterol: Guidelines for Lowering Blood Cholesterol

Eliminate Cholesterol from the Diet
Cholesterol is found only in animal products, including meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, and eggs. There is no cholesterol in plant foods. Cholesterol in food increases the LDL concentration in your blood.2

There is no "good cholesterol" in any food.

Reduce Fat in the Diet, Especially Saturated Fat
Saturated fats raise cholesterol levels. These fats are found predominately in animal products, such as all types of meat, eggs, and dairy products, so it's important to avoid these items.

Saturated fats are also found in a few vegetable oils, such as palm oil, coconut oil, hydrogenated oils, and chocolate. Some processed foods, including many baked goods and snack foods, contain trans fats, which also stimulate your body to produce more cholesterol. To find out if a food product has saturated fats or trans fats, read the Nutrition Facts panel.

Go Vegetarian
People who adopt vegetarian diets typically reduce their saturated fat intake and achieve a significant drop in cholesterol levels.3 The best diets for lowering cholesterol are vegan diets, that is, diets with no animal products at all. They are the only diets that include no cholesterol and no animal fat. Studies have also shown that replacing animal protein with soy protein reduces blood cholesterol levels, even when the total amount of fat and saturated fat in the diet remain the same.4

Increase Your Fiber Intake
Soluble fiber slows the absorption of cholesterol and reduces the amount of cholesterol the liver makes. It?s easy to increase your fiber intake. Oats, barley, beans,5 apples and some other fruits, and vegetables such as okra and eggplant are all good sources of soluble fiber. There is no fiber in any animal product.

For extra cholesterol–lowering power, choose from a "portfolio" of healthy, cholesterol–lowering foods: oats, soy products, and nuts combined with a plant–based diet can lower cholesterol nearly as much as a typical statin drug. 6

Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Weight
Losing weight helps to increase levels of HDL (the "good" cholesterol). Carrying excess weight can raise blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. Here are some tips on healthy weight loss.

Eat Frequent Small Meals
People who eat frequently throughout the day have lower cholesterol levels. In one study, men consumed either three meals a day or 17 snacks a day. The snackers experienced a significant reduction in cholesterol levels in comparison with the three–meal–a–day group.7

Reduce Stress
Mental stress causes an increased release of adrenaline, which may elevate blood cholesterol levels. Relaxation techniques such as stretching, deep breathing, or meditation help lower blood cholesterol.

Aerobic exercise raises HDL cholesterol concentrations. Exercise can also help reduce stress. A daily half–hour walk is helpful.

Avoid Tobacco
Tobacco poisons your heart as well as your lungs. Smoking decreases HDL levels, increases blood pressure, and increases the tendency for blood to clot. It is a major cause of coronary artery disease.

Next step: Making positive changes


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