Preventing & Reversing High Cholesterol
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the #1 cause of death in America. CVD describes the diseases of the heart and blood vessels and includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and congenital defects.
Cholesterol is critical to our cells. The good news is that our bodies make all the cholesterol that we need for our bodies to function well. Where do we get in trouble with cholesterol? The trouble comes when we eat cholesterol through our diet.
Dietary cholesterol comes from eating animal products and processed foods. Unfortunately, animal products are a staple in the standard American diet. Animal products such as meat, poultry, dairy products, and eggs all contain dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. Throughout America there has been an increasing consumption of processed foods, which also include cholesterol, saturated fat and trans-fat containing sources.
In addition to cholesterol, mostly all animal products are high in saturated and trans fats. When we consume foods high in these fats our liver produced more cholesterol. In addition, the animal products, and most processed foods, we also need to avoid oils; especially those oils that contain saturated fats (e.g., palm oil, coconut oil).
Why is cholesterol not optimal for our blood vessels? Cholesterol can form fatty deposits and contribute to atherosclerosis on the inside of arteries creating a narrowing and hardening of the arteries. These are major risk factors for both heart attack and stroke.
What is a good cholesterol level? In America, the common recommendation is to have your total cholesterol level lower than 200 mg/dL. However, according to a large body of evidence the optimal cholesterol levels should be under 150 mg/dL.
Do you know your current cholesterol level? If you have not had your cholesterol numbers checked recently you may want to consider reaching out to your doctor to ask for a blood test order that evaluates key CVD metrics including cholesterol levels.
So, how much trans-fat, saturated fat and cholesterol should we receive through our diet?
Zero. Any intake of trans fat, saturated fat or cholesterol may increase or maintain your high LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
To prevent or reverse high cholesterol, consider the below options:
- Avoid trans fats containing foods – junk food and animal products.
- Avoid saturated fat containing foods – cheese, ice cream, pizza, chicken, grain-based desserts, sausage, hot dogs, bacon, ribs, reduced fat milk, burgers, etc.
- Avoid cholesterol containing foods – eggs, chicken, beef and beef mixed dishes, burgers, regular cheese, sausage, hot-dogs, bacon, ribs, fish, and fish mixed dishes, etc.
- Consume a lot of whole plant foods daily. Consume plenty of whole grains daily.
- Consume a variety of nuts daily to lower cholesterol.
- Consume a variety of seeds daily.
- Avoid coffee until your cholesterol is within healthy ranges.
No matter where you are right now, you can:
- Start avoiding trans-fat, saturated fat and cholesterol containing foods.
- Shift towards focusing your diet on consuming more whole-food, plant-based fiber packed healthful foods.