A Guide To Healthy Eating: Strategies Tips And Recipes To Help You Make Better Food Choices
Eat real food. Thats the essence of todays nutrition message. Our knowledge of nutrition has come full circle, back to eating food that is as close as possible to the way nature made it. Based on a solid foundation of current nutrition science, Harvards Special Health Report A Guide to Healthy Eating: Strategies, tips, and recipes to help you make better food choices describes how to eat for optimum health.
Eating Well + Exercise
For best results with a healthy lifestyle, new research has found that plunging right in with both healthy eating and exercising is the way to go.3
The Stanford University School of Medicine study involved 200 middle-aged Americans, all sedentary and with poor eating habits. Some were told to launch new food and fitness habits at the same time. Others began dieting but waited several months before beginning to exercise. A third group started exercising but didnt change eating habits till several months later.
All the groups received telephone coaching and were followed for one year. The winning group was the one making food and exercise changes together. The people in this group were most likely to meet U.S. guidelines for exercise and healthy eating , and to keep calories from saturated fat at less than 10% of their total intake of calories.
For best results with a healthy lifestyle, new research has found that plunging right in with both healthy eating and exercising is the way to go.3
Getting Accurate Test Results
Getting a cholesterol test is easy. It involves having a tubes worth of blood drawn from your arm during a routine visit to your physician. The preparation, however, takes a little effort to ensure the most accurate reading. Food and drink can affect your triglyceride level, so you should fast for 12 hours beforehand. You should also avoid drinking alcohol for at least 24 hours before the test. You can drink water and take most medications you normally use, as these should not affect the test results. If you are not sure about your medications, check with your doctor before getting the test done.
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How To Swap Unhealthy Fats For Healthy Fats
- Choose to buy foods containing healthy fats such as olive oil, or other unsaturated fats.
- Read the product labels. Green and amber colour codes are used for low and medium saturated fat content.
- What is low fat? For each 100g of food, low fat is 3 g or less. Low saturated fat is 1.5 g or less.
- What is high fat? For each 100g of fat, 17.5 g or more is high-fat. 5g or more is high-saturated fat.
- Cook with small amounts of healthy fat such as 1-calorie olive oil cooking spray.
- Boil, bake, steam, or grill, using small amounts of healthy fat only.
- Cut the fat off meat before you cook it and get rid of the skin. Use the best quality, leanest meat you can find. If you use cooking oil from a bottle, measure out your cooking oil so you use no more than a teaspoon.
- Bulk-out recipes with vegetables, beans, and pulses.
- Look for healthy alternatives. You can swap standard chocolate brownies for example for healthy chocolate and avocado brownies, made with avocado instead of butter.
- Use plant-based spreads on bread rather than butter.
- Choose skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, and low-fat yoghurts.
- Avoid high-fat takeaway foods, often containing fatty meat, high-fat cheese, sauces, and fried accompaniments such as chips and fried rice.
- Avoid biscuits, cakes, and chocolates choose healthy snacks such as fruit and nuts instead.
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Ways To Lower Your Cholesterol Without Medication
Cholesterol is a waxy substance in your blood and is also found in certain foods. Ideally, your total cholesterol levels will fall under 200 milligrams per deciliter . Your LDL, or bad cholesterol, levels should fall under 100 mg/dL. And your HDL, or good cholesterol, should stay at 40 mg/dL or higher. If you have high cholesterol levels, changing your lifestyle can go a long way.
Dr. Javier Sosa and our team at Woodlands Primary Healthcare provide blood tests to help identify cholesterol-related risk factors. We can also make lifestyle recommendations that suit your specific needs.
Here are nine ways you can lower your cholesterol levels without medication:
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Recipes For Lowering Ldl Cholesterol
Adding foods every day that are naturally rich in fiber, like beans and brown rice, are an excellent way to lower your LDL cholesterol without drugs. The recipe below combines two great foods into one healthy cholesterol-lowering dish. Dont like beans or rice? Check out these other great cholesterol-lowering meals.
Plant Sterols And Stanols
Plant stanols and sterols, such as beta-sitosterol, are naturally-occurring substances found in certain plants. Stanols are also found as dietary supplements. Some are added to margarine, orange juice, and dressings.
Research suggests that plant stanols and sterols may help to lower cholesterol. They are similar in chemical structure and may help block the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends you take in 2 grams of plant sterols and stanols each day.
The FDA allows an approved health claim on phytosterols stating, “Foods containing at least 0.65 gram per serving of vegetable oil plant sterol esters, eaten twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 1.3 grams, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Stanols and sterols appear to enhance the effects of other methods to lower cholesterol. In studies, people taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol had an additional improvement in their cholesterol levels with stanols/sterols.
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Jump On The Probiotic Trend
We are loving how widely available fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha have become as more research continues to highlight the importance of having a healthy gut. Not only is your microbiome responsible for improving digestion and boosting your immune system, it also can impact our cholesterol.
The good bacteria found in probiotic foods help lower cholesterol levels, while kimchi in particular, contains compounds that can actually block cholesterol from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Just be sure to watch out for salt and sugar content when buying probiotic foods, as many can be high in one or the other.
Focus On Fruits Vegetables Whole Grains And Beans
Our typical American diet is now abbreviated as SAD by scientists nationwide because its full of foods that do sad things to both hearts and waistlines. Hyperprocessed foods like potato chips and French fries. Sugar-saturated drinks. And fatty, artery-clogging meats and full-fat dairy foods like cheese.
We dont have to become complete vegetarians to get our cholesterol levels into healthy ranges, studies on the Pritikin Program have found, but clearly, the more vegetables, fruits, potatoes, and other naturally-fiber-rich plant foods we eat, the healthier well be.
Plant foods high in soluble fiber are especially beneficial in lowering total and LDL bad cholesterol levels. Good sources include beans , yams, oats , barley, and berries.
For simple tips on bringing more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans into your life, here is a 5-day sample healthy meal plan from the doctors and dietitians at Pritikin Longevity Center.
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Up Your Soluble Fiber Intake
Soluble fibers are those that get gummy when wet. “Think chia seeds and oats,” says Hogan. These fibers bind to the “bad” cholesterol in your digestive system and help the body get rid of it, while helping to reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Hogan’s favorite soluble fiber-rich foods are whole grains, beans, apples, berries, oranges, citrus fruits, and eggplants. She says most women should aim to consume between 2035 grams of fiber per day, of which 510 grams should be soluble fiber.
Natural Ways To Lower Your Cholesterol Levels
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Cholesterol is made in your liver and has many important functions. For example, it helps keep the walls of your cells flexible and is needed to make several hormones.
However, like anything in the body, too much cholesterol creates concerns.
Like fat, cholesterol does not dissolve in water. Instead, to move around the body, it depends on molecules called lipoproteins. These carry cholesterol, fat, and fat-soluble vitamins in your blood.
Different kinds of lipoproteins have different effects on health. For example, high levels of low-density lipoprotein results in cholesterol deposits in blood vessel walls, which can lead to (
- heart attack
- kidney failure
In contrast, high-density lipoprotein helps carry cholesterol away from vessel walls and helps prevent these conditions (
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Healthy Eating Tips To Lower Cholesterol
As well as sticking to a varied and healthy diet, try these tips to help you manage your cholesterol:
- Limit takeaway foods to once a week .
- Limit salty, fatty and sugary snack foods to once a week .
- Eat plenty of vegetables aim for 5 serves of vegetables every day. .
- Choose wholegrain breads, cereal, pasta, rice and noodles.
- Snack on plain, unsalted nuts and fresh fruit .
- Include legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, split peas), beans into at least two meals a week. Check food labels and choose the lowest sodium products.
- Use spreads and margarines made from healthy unsaturated fats instead of those made with saturated fat .
- Use healthy oils for cooking some include canola, sunflower, soybean, olive , sesame and peanut oils.
- Use salad dressings and mayonnaise made from oils such as canola, sunflower, soybean, olive , sesame and peanut oils.
- Include 2 or 3 serves of plant-sterol-enriched foods every day .
- Have 2 to 3 portions of oily fish every week. Fish may be fresh, frozen or canned.
- Include up to 7 eggs every week.
- Select lean meat and limit unprocessed red meat to less than 350g per week.
- Choose reduced fat, no added sugar milk, yoghurt, or calcium-added non-dairy food and drinks.
- Limit or avoid processed meats including sausages and deli meats .
If you are having trouble with your cholesterol levels, a dietitian can help you to eat healthily for your specific needs.
Cut Back On Added Sugar
A sugary diet can cause your liver to make more LDL cholesterol while lowering your HDL levels. Excess sugar can also raise your triglycerides and inhibit an enzyme that breaks them down. To prevent this, replace sugary fare with naturally-sweet alternatives. Instead of a bowl of candy, for example, have unsweetened applesauce or a baked pear. When you do indulge in high-sugar treats, stick to modest portions.
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How Can I Lower My Cholesterol With Medicines
As well as making lifestyle changes, some people will need to take cholesterol-lowering medicines to reduce their risk of heart and blood vessel disease, known as cardiovascular disease. The medicines most commonly used are called statins.
Your doctor will consider all your risk factors for cardiovascular disease before suggesting medication not just your cholesterol and lipid results. If youve already had a heart attack or stroke, taking statins can substantially lower your risk of having another one.
Statins work by slowing the amount of cholesterol made in your liver. In response, your liver uses the cholesterol already in your blood to make up for the deficit. This lowers the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood.
If statins alone do not lower your cholesterol enough, you may need additional medicines.
Contact your doctor if your medicines are causing any side effects.
Develop Healthy Sleep Habits
Sleeping too little is common but detrimental to your health. In fact, loss in sleep is associated with increased cholesterol levels and related problems, such as high triglycerides and blood pressure. To improve your sleep, aim for consistent bed and waking times, sleep in a cool, dark, comfortable room, and avoid stimulating activities, such as working on a computer, before bed.
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Eat Less Saturated Fat
You can lower your cholesterol by eating less saturated fat. Saturated fat is found in the following
- Saturated fats are those fats that are often solid at room temperature. They are present in butter, lard, ghee, cheese, cream, and other full-fat dairy products.
- Processed foods often contain large amounts of saturated fats called trans fats. Examples include pies, pastries, biscuits, and ice cream.
- Red meat contains high levels of saturated fats, including bacon, salami, and sausage.
- Coconut oil, and palm oil are high in saturated fat.
- Fried food, fast food, and prepared microwave meals often contain high levels of saturated fat.
Swap these foods for healthy unsaturated fats for example, foods cooked in vegetable oil such as olive oil, or sunflower oil. Unsaturated fats are also found in nuts, seeds, and fish.
How To Incorporate More Walking Into Your Routine And Lower Cholesterol
- Make exercise part of your normal routine. Ditch the car, and walk, cycle, or take public transport, when you can.
- If you need to drive, park further away and walk a bit further to your final destination.
- Dont sit at the computer for hours on end get up once an hour and move, for example, go up and down the stairs 10 times.
- Have meetings standing up. When you take phone calls, stand up and walk up and down instead of sitting still.
- Walk in your lunch break dont just sit at your desk or on the sofa.
- Take 2 or 3 short walks per day, maybe 10 minutes before breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Join up with a friend for a walk, or maybe join a walking group. Make walking fun.
- Sign up for a walking charitable event and get in training.
- Walk a dog.
- Get a pedometer and aim for a minimum of 10,000 steps per day.
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What Happens If I Incorporated Dietary Changes And My Cholesterol Is Still Not Within Recommended Ranges
If youve made some dietary changes and you still havent seen results, try incorporating phytosterol into your diet. Phytosterol is similar to the bodys cholesterol and can block cholesterol from being absorbed into your body.
Phytosterol can lower your cholesterol by 10% and your LDL by 14%, she says. Aim to get about 2 grams of phytosterol a day. Some common food and dietary supplements include high sterol or stanol esters be sure to read the labels.
Dangers Of High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance made by the liver and required by the body for the proper function of cells, nerves and hormones.
Although your body needs cholesterol, excess cholesterol can build up and form a fatty plaque on the walls of the arteries, decreasing the flow of blood to vital areas of the body. If plaque continues to build long-term, it can significantly increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
So what causes high cholesterol? Believe it or not, the answer goes way beyond a high cholesterol diet.
While cholesterol is normally kept in balance, an unhealthy diet high in hydrogenated fats and refined carbohydrates can disrupt this delicate balance, leading to increased cholesterol levels. This imbalance is manifested in elevated LDL and low HDL , which increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. Other causes can include physical inactivity, diabetes, stress and hypothyroidism.
But keep in mind that not all cholesterol is created equally. LDL cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol, is the form that can build up on the artery walls and increase your risk of heart disease. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is often dubbed good cholesterol because it travels through the bloodstream, removing harmful cholesterol from the arteries to help enhance heart health.
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Putting Together A Low Cholesterol Diet
When it comes to investing money, experts recommend creating a portfolio of diverse investments instead of putting all your eggs in one basket. The same holds true for eating your way to lower cholesterol. Adding several foods to lower cholesterol in different ways should work better than focusing on one or two.
A largely vegetarian “dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods” substantially lowers LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure. The key dietary components are plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of highly refined ones, and protein mostly from plants. Add margarine enriched with plant sterols oats, barley, psyllium, okra, and eggplant, all rich in soluble fiber soy protein and whole almonds.
Of course, shifting to a cholesterol-lowering diet takes more attention than popping a daily statin. It means expanding the variety of foods you usually put in your shopping cart and getting used to new textures and flavors. But it’s a “natural” way to lower cholesterol, and it avoids the risk of muscle problems and other side effects that plague some people who take statins.
Just as important, a diet that is heavy on fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts is good for the body in ways beyond lowering cholesterol. It keeps blood pressure in check. It helps arteries stay flexible and responsive. It’s good for bones and digestive health, for vision and mental health.
Fish Oil Supplements With Omega
Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in fish and fish oils. Salmon, tuna, lake trout, herring, sardines, and other fatty fish are especially rich sources.
Experts have long believed that omega-3 fatty acids in fish help reduce the risk of getting heart disease. Other nutrients in fish, or a combination of those nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids, may help protect your heart. Eating one or two servings of fatty fish a week may lower your chances of having a heart attack.
If you have heart disease, you may also benefit from taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements or eating other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. For example, walnuts, canola oil, and soybeans are good sources. Evidence is stronger for the benefits of eating fish with omega-3 fatty acids than taking supplements or eating other foods.
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