Meghan Tiernan (MS, RD, LDN) is a registered dietitian with a passion for helping others achieve a healthy lifestyle. She strives to help others learn the most nutritious way to eat, in order to achieve good health. Meghan enjoys cooking and running and believes that with just some basic knowledge, you can gain the confidence in yourself to know that you can eat well.

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Dietitian Consult

by Meghan Tiernan, MS, RD, LDN

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Your cholesterol numbers are important ones to know and ones to work towards improving on a daily basis. The tough part about your cholesterol is that it's influenced not only by diet and lifestyle choices, but also by heredity, age and gender. You can do everything right and still have high cholesterol. It's important to make sure you keep those numbers within reasonable limits to allow for maximum blood flow to get to your heart and lower your risk for heart attacks or other issues related to heart disease.

Best Foods to Control CholesterolThere are three values associated with cholesterol: total cholesterol, LDL (the bad cholesterol) and HDL (the good cholesterol). All three are equally important for heart health.

LDL is the main cholesterol responsible for clogging arteries, whereas HDL helps to remove cholesterol from your blood and is considered protective for your heart. Ideally, you want your Total Cholesterol to be 200 mg/dL or less, LDL to be less than 100 mg/dL and your HDL to be 60 mg/dL or higher.

Like prevention or management of many other diseases, diet plays a huge role in how your numbers are, and it can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. Many of the things you can do to lower your LDL levels will also help raise your HDL levels in addition to lifestyle changes including: increased physical activity, quitting smoking and losing weight. All of these things not only help lower LDL, but they also significantly increase HDL.

As far as the diet is concerned, here are a few things you can focus on:

1. Watch your saturated and trans-fat intake. Saturated fat has the most significant influence on your LDL levels and should be consumed in moderation. High fat foods like cheeses, fatty meats, processed foods and fried foods all contain higher amounts of saturated fats. Trans fats are also important to limit because not only to they raise your LDL and cholesterol levels, but they also lower your HDL levels. The good news is there has been a great push for products both in the grocery store and at restaurants to lower trans fats in the foods they offer, which makes this an easier one to limit these days.

2. Eat high fiber foods. Oatmeal and other soluble fiber-filled foods (beans, apples, pears, brown rice, barley and oatmeal... just to name a few) help reduce LDL levels. They help remove those cholesterol clumps in your bloodstream as they get processed through your body. Insoluble fiber is also good for weight management, which helps with cholesterol, but the soluble fibers are the ones directly related to your cholesterol.

3. Omega 3's. Omega 3's help significantly lower cholesterol. One of the biggest sources of these omegas in our diet is fatty fish. It's recommended you try and consume fish at least twice per week. Some fish to include in those meals are salmon, tuna, herring and trout. Not a fish person? No problem! Try adding ground flax seed to your yogurt or oatmeal to get a good dose of omega 3's. Just a word about flax seed: It needs to be ground up to be absorbed and beneficial, so if you have whole seeds, throw them in your coffee grinder to allow your body to use them! You can also add some soybeans to your salad or as a snack, or have a handful of walnuts.

4. Speaking of nuts... Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and many other (unsalted) nuts are great for heart health and lowering cholesterol. They are very caloric, so stick with about a 1/4-cup serving. You can also try swapping out cheese in your salad and replacing it with nuts.

5. Increase fruits and vegetables. Between the soluble and insoluble fiber, the antioxidants and the low calorie content of these foods, you can't go wrong by increasing your intake of all these delicious foods.

6. Olive, oil, garlic and other "good" fats. Foods like avocado, peanut butter, garlic, olive oil and olives are all sources of good fats in our diets which can help protect your heart.

As you can see, the foods you should be consuming are all part of a well-balanced, ...    Continue

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@ 7:41pm ET on October 26, 2014
I have high cholesterol and I really need to watch what I eat because of this. I am on medication and hope to stop once I lose weight and adjust my eating.

@ 12:29pm ET on April 18, 2015
Your total cholesterol number means squat. Seriously. Toss it out the window with the margarine, whole grain bread and egg whites (actually, hold on to those, just eat the yolks too!). What really matters is the breakdown of your total cholesterol number (covered in this post). Did you know that nearly half of all heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol levels? Only half of them have high cholesterol! So what’s with all the hype in lowering our cholesterol? What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is the hero, not the villain. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in every cell in your body. Elevated cholesterol is a symptom of inflammation, not the cause. So when cholesterol levels increase, it can mean your body is trying to fight inflammation and cholesterol came to the rescue to heal the damage, as a protective mechanism. What’s promoting heart disease is the inflammation, not the cholesterol. Simply reducing cholesterol numbers does not reduce risk of death from heart disease.
Without cholesterol, you would die. Not only is cholesterol the hero, but you actually need it to survive. It’s so essential that if your body doesn’t get enough of it through the food you’re eating, it will make it! (Alternately, eating enough of it supports your body by giving it a break from having to make as much.) Cholesterol is necessary to make hormones, fix microscopic tears in blood vessels, repair nerves, aid in fat digestion, and more!
Your high LDL isn’t necessarily bad. We’ve been given an oversimplified and incomplete view of LDL cholesterol, or as it’s commonly referred to as “the bad cholesterol”. LDL cholesterol is made up of two different particle sizes: big fluffy type A profile particles (these are healthy and healing!) and small dense, type B particles (these are harmful and inflammatory). Your LDL cholesterol number isn’t much help without knowing the whole makeup of the LDL and therefore, how much of it is the harmful kind. Labeling all LDL as bad and driving that total LDL number to the ground isn’t the simple solution for heart health that we’ve been told. You can find out the full breakdown of your LDL by getting a NMR Lipoprofile test. If you’re total LDL number is considered “high,” many doctors will firmly suggest a drug without ever running this test and finding out your LDL particle size.
Statin drugs are pretty much a scam. By far one of the best selling drugs in the United States, statin drugs are given out like candy as a quick fix to lower cholesterol. Currently, the only group that has been shown to benefit from taking a statin drug is middle aged men who already have heart disease. They’ve never been shown to be effective in people without heart disease. Besides being much less effective than we’ve been led to believe, statins have many terrible side effects that drug manufacturers do their best to keep hidden, including muscle pain, fatigue, weakness, memory and cognition problems and depleting the body of CoQ10, one of the most important nutrients for the heart. All that said, even if statins do work, it has very little to do with their cholesterol-lowering ability and more to do with the fact that they are anti-inflammatory…and we can reduce inflammation with food, key supplements and lifestyle changes—all of which don’t include side effects! Unless of course you count more energy, weight loss, pain management, and all around better health a side effect! That’s the exciting part of the story.
Butter and eggs are good for your heart. Despite what we’ve been told for five decades, saturated fat does not increase your risk for heart disease, as shown in a thorough review article compiling data from decades of studies and a meta-analysis of data from 72 studies involving 600,000 participants in 18 countries and a systematic review and meta-analysis by the American College of Physicians. Healthy fats, like butter and egg yolks (and coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado) help reduce inflammation which in turn, protects your heart. Your heart actually needs saturated fat.
Heart_Disease_DietitianYour bread and pasta addiction are likely promoting heart disease. And so is your morning bowl of oatmeal. Oh, and your glass of “heart healthy” orange juice. It’s hard to hear, I know, especially when whole grains have been pushedon us as a heart healthy food for years! The truth is that heart disease is a sugar disease. All carbohydrates turn into sugar in your body. Think of carbs and sugar as little pieces of glass that are cutting up your vessels and causing inflammation. It would make sense as to why pouring less shards of glass into your body will be beneficial for your heart then, right? Replace inflammatory bread and pasta with nutrient dense veggies and fruits. Ditching processed grains that contain anti-nutrients and replacing them with real food carbohydrates will protect your heart!
So, instead of stressing over your total cholesterol number or filling the prescription for that insanely expensive and not-even-effective statin drug, you can protect your heart naturally in seven simple ways. Consume less carbs and sugar, embrace healthy fats (which means avoiding trans fats and vegetable oils), eat in PFC balance, include heart protective supplements like CoQ10, Fish Oil, Probiotic and L-Glutamine, incorporate exercise into your day, and last but not least, de-stress! Check out this post “7 Ways to Protect Your Heart Naturally” for more on those tips.

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