Improving Cholesterol: Eat This, Not That
Talking about improving cholesterol can be confusing. You may have heard different things about “good” and “bad” cholesterol, or if you should avoid foods that are high in cholesterol, so let’s clear the air. Cholesterol is a natural substance in your blood that your body needs at least some of to make vitamin D, estrogen, testosterone and it serves other important biological functions.
That said, high levels of cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol can increase your risk for heart and blood vessel diseases. Thankfully, many people can keep their cholesterol levels in a healthy range through lifestyle changes, particularly food choices and eating patterns.
Improving Cholesterol with Certain Foods
The nutrients in food that can be a problem for your cholesterol are saturated and trans fats, and refined carbohydrates. Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products, like meat and dairy, as well as in coconut and palm oil. Trans fats may be in fried foods and baked goods. Refined carbohydrates are in ingredients made from white flour, and sugary foods and beverages and may even be added to sauces and other premade foods and ingredients you wouldn’t normally expect.
- Instead of fatty cuts of meat, try lean proteins like fish, skinless poultry, tofu or even beans, lentils and other pulses
- Instead of full-fat dairy, try cooking with olive or vegetable oils instead of butter, or using reduced-fat versions of milk, cheese and yogurt
- Instead of processed snacks with trans fats, use fruits and vegetables as your between-meal treats
- Instead of white rice, bread and pasta, choose whole grains at least half of the time
Besides the foods to limit, make sure you’re incorporating enough fruits and vegetables into your diet. They contain fiber and other helpful compounds that can help keep your cholesterol levels in line. Increasing your physical activity is important as well. Make sure to consult your primary care physician on how best to approach cholesterol management, since it does have a genetic component, and some people may benefit from a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.
Improving cholesterol is a goal for many employees across the country. The combination of biometric screenings, health education and coaching, and ongoing support to make lifestyle changes can help people make meaningful change. Learn how we can help!