If you're diagnosed with high cholesterol, your doctor will probably tell you that you need to change your diet. That doesn't mean going on a diet for a weight loss quick-fix; it means changing the way you buy, cook, and eat food.
What a Heart-Healthy Diet Means
A cholesterol-lowering diet isn't just about what foods you shouldn't eat — it includes foods that you should. The American Heart Association and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute's National Cholesterol Education Program recommend these guidelines for heart health and lower cholesterol:
1. Total fat consumption each day should be between 25 percent and 35 percent of your daily calorie intake.
2. saturated fat intake needs to be less than 7 percent of your daily calorie intake.
3. Trans fat intake should make up less than 1 percent of your daily calorie intake. 4. Limit cholesterol in your diet to less than 200 milligrams (mg) every day if you already have high cholesterol.
5. Consume no more than 2,400 mg of sodium (salt) each day. That includes salt you sprinkle on your food, and salt that's already in packaged foods, so read labels.
6. Limit alcohol to only one drink per day or less for women, two drinks a day or less for men.
Part of a cholesterol-lowering diet includes knowing how much food to eat as well as which foods are appropriate. Even healthy foods have fat and calories, which can quickly add up if you're eating double or even triple the amount that you're supposed to eat. Here's an easy way to judge how much food you're eating: One cup is about the size of your fist; one serving of meat is about three ounces — imagine a piece of meat the size of a deck of cards.
Making Healthier Food Choices for Low Cholesterol
Food can be both delicious and good for your heart — if you know what to choose. Many foods are full of cholesterol, but there are lots of low-cholesterol options. Fill your plate with these delicious and heart-healthy foods:
Lean meats. Good options include skinless chicken or turkey, lean beef (sirloin, chuck, round, loin), pork tenderloin, or pork loin.
Light dairy. Dairy products are full of calcium, but can also be high in fat. Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products like milk, cheese, cream, and yogurt.
Fiber. Choose whole-grain products like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta. Fruits and vegetables are also great sources of fiber. Be sure to include at least 25 to 30 grams of fiber in your diet each day.
Fruits and vegetables. You need at least four to five servings of fruits and vegetables every day — the more variety, the better.
Fish. Eat at least two servings of fish each week. Avoid fatty meats, processed meats, high-sugar drinks, cookies and other desserts, and chips.
Cooking Techniques for a Healthy Heart
Eating vegetables or lean chicken won't do you any good unless you prepare them in a healthy way. Try these cooking techniques to lower cholesterol and cut fat and calories:
Avoid salt. Instead, season with fresh herbs, spices, or even a squirt of lemon juice.
Don't fry. Bake, grill, or broil your foods instead.
Use vegetable oils. Skip the butter, shortening, or margarine and cook with low-cholesterol products like sunflower oil, olive oil, or canola oil.
Choose fresh. Instead of canned vegetables or fruits, prepackaged dinners, and other prepared foods, choose the fresh version. You'll save sodium and calories.