Cholesterol is produced by your body and found in foods you eat, and a certain amount is necessary for your body to function properly. There are two types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL. HDL is often referred to as “good” cholesterol. It helps carry LDL cholesterol away from arteries to be removed from the body. LDL on the other hand is known as “bad” cholesterol. It can form plaque and clog arteries. Not enough HDL or too much LDL can increase your risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
How Much Is Just Right?
The American Heart Association considers a total cholesterol of less than 200mg/dL to be on target. HDL should be at least 40 mg/dL, but the higher the better. LDL should be between 100 and 129 mg/dL. Get your cholesterol tested in order to know your numbers.
You Are What You Eat
When it comes to diet, there are some concrete things you can do to help keep your cholesterol in check. Follow these healthy guidelines:
• Read food labels to determine serving size, servings per container, calories, fat, cholesterol and more.
• Eat a low-fat diet. Limit total fat to between 25 percent and 35 percent, saturated fat to less than 7 percent and trans fat to less than 1 percent of your total daily calories.
• Eat at least 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber a day. Soluble fiber, found in foods such as oatmeal and beans, can help block cholesterol from being absorbed.
• Eat at least 2 (3 ½-ounce cooked) servings of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon or mackerel, a week.
• Eat 3 (1-ounce) servings of whole grains a day. When eating foods such as cereal, bread or pasta, choose whole grain varieties at least half of the time.
• Eat 4 servings of nuts, legumes or seeds a week. Note that research has shown that eating approximately 11/2 ounces of unsalted nuts a day can help keep blood vessels healthy.
• Limit consumption of processed meats, such as bologna or hot dogs, to no more than 2 servings a week.
• Choose lean cuts of meat, and 1 percent or fat-free dairy products.
• Choose antioxidant-rich olive oil instead of butter or margarine.
• Shop for products, including egg substitutes, juices, butter-type spreads and more, that are cholesterol-free and/or fortified with plant sterols and stanols that help block the absorption of cholesterol.
• Choose low-fat, low-cholesterol offerings when eating out, and practice portion control.
Cholesterol is an often overlooked factor in our diets. Even people who pay close attention to calories and carbohydrates might not read the entire food label and hone in on cholesterol. We suggest that you start right away. Plan meals that will be not only delicious, but also low in LDL cholesterol. For more information call 1-888-741-5119 to speak with a registered nurse and get a free physician referral for a cholesterol check.
About Cholesterol (American Heart Association)