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American Heart Month: Cholesterol

Let talk Cholesterol. Today I am going to go over some common terminology you should be familiar with, as well as what to avoid, and what to eat.

Here is some common terminology, with definitions from NHLBI (1):

High blood cholesterol is a condition in which your blood has unhealthy levels of cholesterol—a waxy, fat-like substance.

LDL CHOLESTEROL- Sometimes called the "bad" cholesterol because high LDL levels cause cholesterol to build up in arteries. High blood cholesterol increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

HDL CHOLESTEROL- Sometimes called the "good" cholesterol, because it returns cholesterol to the liver for removal from the body. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all the cells of the body.

TRIGLYCERIDES- A type of fat or lipid. It is made of fatty acids and glycerides. These fats are found in lipoproteins, which transport the fats in the blood to parts of the body. These fats are stored in adipose tissue.

What to avoid- - Foods high in saturated fat from Cleveland health clinic (2)

  1. Full Fat Dairy

  2. Red Meat: steak, beef roast, ribs, pork chops, & ground beef (opt for 90% lean ground beef)

  3. Processed Meats: bacon, sausage & hot dogs

  4. Fried Foods

  5. Baked goods and sweets: cookies, cakes, & doughnuts

( For more information visit my blog on blood pressure and saturated fats here )

What’s good to eat? (2, 3, 4, 5)

“Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol” (3)

Foods that help lower your LDL (2, 3, 4,):

  • Oats, Barley, Whole Grains, Fiber Supplements

  • Beans, Nuts (especially Almonds, Walnuts, & Peanuts), Soy, Fatty Fish

  • Eggplant, Okara, Dark Leafy Greens

  • Apples, Grapes, Berries, Citrus Fruits, Avocado

  • Vegetable Oils (Canola, Sunflower, Safflower), Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic,

  • Dark Chocolate, Tea, & Cocoa

  • Foods with Sterols & Stanols (you get from fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetable oil); for more information check out What to Know About Sterols and Stanols (by WebMD) (5)

  • Higher cholesterol foods that are okay: eggs, shellfish, & lean meats

Take Action

  • Try to add something to your diet that will improve your cholesterol levels

  • Replace some foods from the avoid list with healthier options

1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “Get Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Checked”. NHLBI.NIH.GOV. Mar 24, 2022.

2. Cleveland Clinic. “High-Cholesterol Foods to Eat and Avoid”. Oct 13, 2021.

3. Harvard Health Publishing. “11 foods that lower cholesterol”.

4. Jennings, Kerri-Ann. “13 Cholesterol-Lowering Foods to Add to Your Diet”. Oct 26, 2018.

5. Ellis, Rachel. “What to Know About Sterols and Stanols”. WebMD. June 15, 2021.

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