Struggling from high cholesterol?

I found this article on-line and thought it had some good information on changing your diet and lifestyle to help reduce cholesterol.

Cholesterol and your diet

By Kylie Mangan First published: October 4th, 2009 

“High-protein”, no carb diets are putting people at risk of developing high cholesterol.

The average total cholesterol level for Australians is about five to 5.5 millimoles. Doctors like patients to have a total level of four. My doctor was not happy and gave me a stern warning: “You have three months to get your levels down or else we put you on medication.”As I waited in the doctor’s surgery for the results of my annual blood test, the worst I imagined was that my liver was probably in need of a detox. But, to my great shock, it was not my liver I needed to be worried about, but my cholesterol, which clocked in at a dangerous 7.9 millimoles per litre.

At age 34, I did not want to commit myself to a lifetime of cholesterol-lowering pills, nor did I want to be at risk of dying of a heart attack, so I sought the help of a dietitian. It did not take long for Dr Naras Lapsys, principal consultant at The Body Doctor in Sydney, to pinpoint my problems.

A rundown of my food intake revealed that I was eating 14 eggs a week in an attempt to follow a high-protein diet. “That’s a lot of cholesterol a week,” said Dr Lapsys. My lunch was a healthy tuna salad, but by the afternoon I’d abandoned my no-carb regime and resorted to high-sugar, high-trans-fat snacks including muffins, banana bread and yoghurt. After dinner, the snacking continued with chocolate and biscuits.

Put simply, my diet was high-cholesterol and high-fat with virtually no fibre. I was not eating cereal and rarely reached for a piece of fruit.Dr Lapsys gave me a new eating and exercise program, rebuilding my diet and lifestyle. Dietitian and author, Catherine Saxelby, says it is much easier to lower your cholesterol through diet these days than it was a decade ago.

“Through research and studies, we know of a lot more things that work to either block the absorption of cholesterol or push it out of the system,” she says. “Before, we used to concentrate on just cutting out saturated fat. Now [we know that] adding foods such as fibre, nuts and cholesterol-lowering margarine can have a cumulative effect and help people get their cholesterol down.”

Research has shown that soluble fibre binds to bile and helps to pass the bile out of the body. Omega-3, found in oily fish such as sardines, tuna and salmon, has been shown to provide good heart health benefits, as does a handful of nuts each day. “It’s not just about fats alone. All these things add up and if you are diligent and do more exercise you tend to find that the cholesterol comes down,” says Saxelby.

What changes did I make?

Breakfast: Porridge with half a banana. Rolled oats have been proven to lower cholesterol. They contain a special cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre called beta-glucan. Oats also contain a range of antioxidants including vitamin E, selenium and phenolic acids that can reduce oxidation of cholesterol, which contributes to hardening of the arteries.

Snacks: Unsalted raw almonds and cashews. It is always hard to stop at just a handful so Dr Lapsys supplied me with a small tin, which fitted about 12 nuts (a third of a cup). Once it was empty, I’d had my quota. Raw nuts contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and are a protein-rich snack, which made me feel fuller for longer.

Lunch: Tuna or chicken salad, soup or a salad sandwich with wholegrain bread.

Dinner: This was tough as my busy social life meant few nights at home. Dr Lapsys wanted me to eat fish three times a week, which was a struggle. I tried to order fish at restaurants, and I avoided Thai takeaway. Instead, I discovered Carnation coconut-flavoured evaporated milk for my red curries. At home, I also cooked tofu stir-fries because soy-based foods are naturally high in soluble fibre and soy protein has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol.

No post-drinking mop-up: On weekends, it was not unusual for me to reach for the fry-up after a big night out, but Dr Lapsys banned this. So instead of the obligatory bacon and hash browns to accompany my fried eggs, I was virtuous – poached eggs with baked beans and toast (no butter).

Sweet treats: This was tough as I love biscuits and chocolate. Dr Lapsys allowed me one treat a week, which I usually stretched to two. I also discovered a recipe for oat biscuits (see below).

Exercise: I began a daily exercise routine of running or going to the gym. Exercise has been found to reduce cholesterol.

Supplements: Because I wasn’t eating three fish meals a week, I took an omega-3 supplement, which seemed to help my skin too.

Did it work?

Yes, after a few months, my total cholesterol dropped from 7.9 to 5.9 millimoles. I still have a way to go (I’m aiming to get it to 5.5), but it was encouraging to know that changing my diet and lifestyle could have an impact on my cholesterol and overall wellbeing. The bonus was that I also lost two kilograms.



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