The Mediterranean Diet: Cholesterol
In the United States, more than 12% of adults had elevated cholesterol levels in 2015-2016. Elevated cholesterol levels is a risk factor for developing heart disease, which is, unfortunately, the #1 killer of both men and women in this country.
Naturally, many people are looking for ways to reduce their cholesterol levels to help protect their ticker from giving them trouble later on in life. And embracing the Mediterranean diet can do just that.
The Mediterranean diet has been linked to health benefits since the 1960s. It was over half a century ago when researchers showed that people who live in the Mediterranean region experienced lower coronary heart disease mortality compared those who live in other areas of the world. Since then, a growing body of research has shown that following the Mediterranean dietary pattern can result in both a lower total cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol level.
The results of an American Journal of Medicine study, suggest that following a Mediterranean diet appears to be more effective than low-fat diets in reducing cardiovascular risk factors, including cholesterol levels.
This diet continues to be a favorite in the medical community because of the tried-and-true outcomes that it offers.
What Should You Eat To Lower Your Cholesterol
Nutrition is a highly complex topic, but eating a nutritious diet can be as simple as you want it to be. And most of us want it to be simple, so well start with some general rules of thumb for eating to lower your bad LDL cholesterol and raise your good HDL cholesterol.
- Cholesterols in food, which comes exclusively from animal products, dont necessarily raise your blood cholesterol. But in many cases, foods that have cholesterol also have high levels of saturated fat, which can increase bad cholesterol in your body.
- Strive to consume mostly plants in your dietfruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and whole grains.
- Dont be afraid to perk up your lean meats and vegetables with lots of herbs and spices, which have numerous positive nutritional properties.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day to keep your bodys system working optimally.
- Aim to eat mostly whole, unprocessed or lightly processed foods. In general, the less processed it is, the better it is for you. Highly processed foods contain a lot of added sugar, unhealthy fats, salt, artificial ingredients, and chemical preservatives.
Here is a high-level rundown of the groups of foods that help lower cholesterol, followed by some tips for creating a cholesterol-lowering meal plan that works for you.
Nuts Especially Almonds And Walnuts
Nuts are another exceptionally nutrient-dense food.
Theyre very high in monounsaturated fats. Walnuts are also rich in the plant variety of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat associated with heart health .
Almonds and other nuts are particularly rich in L-arginine, an amino acid that helps your body make nitric oxide. This, in turn, helps regulate blood pressure .
Whats more, nuts provide phytosterols. These plant compounds are structurally similar to cholesterol and help lower cholesterol by blocking its absorption in your intestines.
Calcium, magnesium and potassium, also found in nuts, may reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of heart disease.
In an analysis of 25 studies, eating 23 servings of nuts per day decreased bad LDL cholesterol by an average of 10.2 mg/dl .
Eating a daily serving of nuts is linked to a 28% lower risk of both fatal and nonfatal heart disease .
Fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, are excellent sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s bolster heart health by increasing good HDL cholesterol and lowering inflammation and stroke risk.
In one large, 25-year study in adults, those who ate the most non-fried fish were the least likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that includes high blood pressure and low good HDL levels .
In another large study in older adults, those who ate tuna or other baked or broiled fish at least once a week had a 27% lower risk of stroke .
Don’t Miss: Beginners Menu For Keto Diet
Saturated And Trans Fats
Foods high in saturated and trans fats top the list of items to reduce or eliminate on a low cholesterol diet. The American Heart Association recommends reducing saturated fat to less than 6% of total daily calories if you need to lower cholesterol levels. Trans fats are found in margarine, baked goods, non-dairy coffee creamer, and fried foods. Saturated fats are in many common foods, so its helpful to read food labels while shopping.
Interestingly, lard, which is pork fat, is lower in saturated fat and higher in monounsaturated fat than butter. It has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. That said, it is still a middle-of-the-road choice when it comes to cooking, and whenever possible, you should opt for healthier fats like olive oil.
Enjoy Lots Of Fruits And Vegetables
Studies show that adults who consume at least four servings of fruits and vegetables each day have roughly 6% lower LDL cholesterol levels than people who eat fewer than two servings per day .
Fruits and vegetables also contain high numbers of antioxidants, which prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and forming plaques in your arteries .
Together, these cholesterol-lowering and antioxidant effects can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Research has found that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables have a 17% lower risk of developing heart disease over 10 years compared to those who eat the fewest .
Summary Eating at least four servings of fruits and vegetables daily can lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce LDL oxidation, which may reduce your risk of heart disease.
You May Like: How To Reduce Carbs In Diet
Eating Well + Exercise
For best results with a healthy lifestyle, new research has found that plunging right in with both healthy eating and exercising is the way to go.3
The Stanford University School of Medicine study involved 200 middle-aged Americans, all sedentary and with poor eating habits. Some were told to launch new food and fitness habits at the same time. Others began dieting but waited several months before beginning to exercise. A third group started exercising but didnt change eating habits till several months later.
All the groups received telephone coaching and were followed for one year. The winning group was the one making food and exercise changes together. The people in this group were most likely to meet U.S. guidelines for exercise and healthy eating , and to keep calories from saturated fat at less than 10% of their total intake of calories.
For best results with a healthy lifestyle, new research has found that plunging right in with both healthy eating and exercising is the way to go.3
Diet Plan To Lower Cholesterol And Lose Weight
Improve your cholesterol levels, and much more… Lose weight. Lower your blood pressure. Reduce blood sugar.
You get it all with this meal plan to lower cholesterol, created by the dietitiansand physicians at the renowned Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami. Plus, you’ll enjoy all kinds of filling, delicious foods. Get started now!
Consistently, research has found that a meal plan full of soluble-fiber-rich foods was incredibly successful in lowering cholesterol as effective, in fact, as statins.
Sure, drugs like statins can reduce cholesterol. But following a heart-healthy diet like the Pritikin Eating Plan, or adding Pritikin to statin meds, may lower your cholesterol even more. Down shoots LDL cholesterol as well as all forms of bad cholesterol, known as non-HDL.
You May Like: Low Carb Diet For Male
Vegetarian Or Vegan Diet
These plant-based diets could do a lot for your cholesterol, if you choose your foods wisely.
Vegetarians don’t eat any meat. Vegans don’t eat any animal products, including meat, eggs, dairy, or even honey.
Studies suggest vegetarians are less likely to get heart disease and high blood pressure. Thatâs because a diet with low or no animal products tends to be lower in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
But if youâre going vegetarian or vegan, you’ll still need to check food labels and keep sweets and fatty foods to a minimum.
Foods With Added Sterols And Stanols
Sterols and stanols are plant chemicals which are a similar size and shape to cholesterol. They are absorbed from the intestines into the blood stream and block some cholesterol from being absorbed, lowering the cholesterol in your blood.
We get a small amount of sterols from plant-based foods such as vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, but its not enough to lower cholesterol. So, food companies have developed foods with plant sterols or stanols added to them, such as mini yogurt drinks, fat spreads, milk and yogurts.
These fortified foods lower your cholesterol gradually, over a few weeks, and how much depends on the amount you eat. Some experts believe they are the most effective single food for lowering cholesterol.
Who should eat foods with sterols and stanols added?
Sterols and stanols have been thoroughly researched, so they can be added to foods and are safe to eat.
They are suitable for:
- People with high cholesterol theres no real benefit if you dont have high cholesterol.
- Children with inherited high cholesterol such as familial hypercholesterolaemia with support from a doctor or dietitian.
- People taking statins sterols and stanols will help to lower your cholesterol further because they work in a different way to the statin.
They are not suitable for:
Aim for: one to three servings of fortified foods a day. This will give you 1.5 to 3g of stanols and sterols.
Three servings of: OR
- 1 glass of milk
One product a day:
Read Also: Best Prepared Diet Meal Delivery Service
What Diet Is Best For Lowering Cholesterol
Studies have found that plant-based diets lower cholesterol levels more effectively than other diets. In 2017, researchers reviewed 49 studies that compared plant-based diets with omnivorous diets to test their effects on cholesterol. Plant-based diets lowered total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL levels when compared to omnivorous diets. Low-fat, plant-based regimens typically reduce LDL levels by about 15 to 30 percent.
Some recommendations for lowering cholesterol still include consuming chicken and fish. However, a number of studies have shown that heart disease patients who continue to eat these foods still tend to get worse over time. Those who adopt a low-fat, plant-based diet, get daily exercise, avoid tobacco, and manage stress have the best chance of reversing heart disease.
Curb Cholesterol Not Flavor
Itâs no secret that certain foods can help you lower your LDL cholesterol, which causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries that leads to heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. But what may surprise you is that many of these foods are delicious and easy to incorporate into your everyday meals without sacrificing flavor or fun.
Also Check: Instant Weight Loss Diet Plan
Foods Rich In Unsaturated Fats
- vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower, corn, rapeseed, nut and seed oils
- avocado, nuts and seeds
- fat spreads made from vegetable oils, such as sunflower and olive oil
- oily fish
Oily fish are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, specifically a type called omega-3 fats. Aim to eat two portions of fish per week, at least one of which should be oily. A portion is 140g, but you could have two or three smaller portions throughout the week. Tinned, frozen or fresh all count e.g. salmon, sardines, pilchards, trout, herring and mackerel.
Avoid coconut and palm oil as, unlike other vegetable oils, they are high in saturated fat.
Dark Chocolate And Cocoa
Cocoa is the main ingredient in dark chocolate.
It may seem too good to be true, but research verifies the claims that dark chocolate and cocoa can lower bad LDL cholesterol .
In one study, healthy adults drank a cocoa beverage twice a day for a month.
They experienced a reduction in bad LDL cholesterol of 0.17 mmol/l . Their blood pressure also decreased and their good HDL cholesterol increased .
Cocoa and dark chocolate also seem to protect the bad LDL cholesterol in your blood from oxidation, which is a key cause of heart disease .
However, chocolate is often high in added sugar which negatively affects heart health.
Therefore, you should use cocoa alone or choose dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 7585% or higher.
The effect seems strongest in people with high cholesterol.
SummaryThere is some evidence that soy foods can reduce heart disease risk factors, especially in people with high cholesterol.
Also Check: Is Dates Good For Diet
What Is High Cholesterol
You have two main types of blood cholesterol in your body: low-density lipoprotein , which is often called bad cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein , often referred to as good cholesterol. Total cholesterol is a combination of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Thenormal range for total cholesterol is 125-200 mg/dL . Anything above that is considered high.
According toRobert Greenfield, MD, cardiologist and lipidologist at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center, certain foods and diets can influence cholesterol levels in your body.
The best diet for high cholesterol will include specific foods you should eat and ones to avoid. Read on to discover tips on how to lower cholesterol levels through medication, exercise, and other lifestyle modifications.
Other Ways To Lower Cholesterol
Eating a low cholesterol, heart-healthy diet is an effective way to manage cholesterol levels in the body. However, dietary changes alone may not be enough to bring cholesterol levels down to the normal range. Other non-dietary treatments for high cholesterol include:
- Regular exercise
- Cholesterol-lowering medication
Also Check: Best Diet For 47 Year Old Woman
Eat A Variety Of Unsaturated Fats
Two main kinds of fats are found in food: saturated and unsaturated.
On a chemical level, saturated fats contain no double bonds and are very straight, allowing them to pack together tightly and stay solid at room temperature.
Unsaturated fats contain at least one double bond and have a bent shape, preventing them from joining together as tightly. These attributes make them liquid at room temperature.
Research shows that replacing most of your saturated fats with unsaturated fats can reduce total cholesterol by 9% and bad LDL cholesterol by 11% in just eight weeks .
Longer-term studies have also found that people who eat more unsaturated fats and fewer saturated fats tend to have lower cholesterol levels over time .
Summary Eating more unsaturated fats and fewer saturated fats has been linked to lower total cholesterol and bad LDL levels over time. Avocados, olives, fatty fish and nuts are especially rich in unsaturated fats.
Cook With Herbs And Spices
Herbs and spices are nutritional powerhouses packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Human studies have shown that garlic, turmeric and ginger are especially effective at lowering cholesterol when eaten regularly .
In fact, eating just one garlic clove per day for three months is enough to lower total cholesterol by 9% .
In addition to lowering cholesterol, herbs and spices contain antioxidants that prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing, reducing the formation of plaques within your arteries .
Even though herbs and spices are not typically eaten in large quantities, they can contribute significantly to the total amount of antioxidants consumed each day .
Dried oregano, sage, mint, thyme, clove, allspice and cinnamon contain some of the highest numbers of antioxidants, as well as fresh herbs such as oregano, marjoram, dill and cilantro .
Summary Both fresh and dried herbs and spices can help lower cholesterol levels. They contain antioxidants that prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidation.
Don’t Miss: How Successful Is Noom Diet
Tips To Lower Cholesterol With Your Diet
Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by your liver and obtained by eating animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs.
Your liver will produce less cholesterol if you consume a lot of this substance from food, so dietary cholesterol rarely has a great impact on total cholesterol levels.
However, eating large amounts of saturated fat, trans fat and sugars can raise cholesterol levels.
Bear in mind that there are different types of cholesterol.
While good HDL cholesterol may be beneficial for your health, high levels of bad LDL cholesterol, particularly when oxidized, have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke .
Thats because oxidized LDL cholesterol is more likely to stick to the walls of your arteries and form plaques, which clog these blood vessels.
Here are 10 tips to lower cholesterol with your diet and help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Use Liquid Vegetable Oils In Place Of Solid Fats
Liquid vegetable oils such as canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean and olive oil can often be used instead of solid fats, such as butter, lard or shortening. If you must use margarine, try the soft or liquid kind.
Use a little liquid oil to:
- Pan-fry fish and poultry.
- Make cream sauces and soups using low-fat or fat-free milk.
- Add to whipped or scalloped potatoes using low-fat or fat-free milk.
- Brown rice for Spanish, curried or stir-fried rice.
- Cook dehydrated potatoes and other prepared foods that call for fat to be added.
- Make pancakes or waffles.
Recommended Reading: Kate Middleton Weight Loss Diet
Putting Together A Low Cholesterol Diet
When it comes to investing money, experts recommend creating a portfolio of diverse investments instead of putting all your eggs in one basket. The same holds true for eating your way to lower cholesterol. Adding several foods to lower cholesterol in different ways should work better than focusing on one or two.
A largely vegetarian “dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods” substantially lowers LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure. The key dietary components are plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of highly refined ones, and protein mostly from plants. Add margarine enriched with plant sterols oats, barley, psyllium, okra, and eggplant, all rich in soluble fiber soy protein and whole almonds.
Of course, shifting to a cholesterol-lowering diet takes more attention than popping a daily statin. It means expanding the variety of foods you usually put in your shopping cart and getting used to new textures and flavors. But it’s a “natural” way to lower cholesterol, and it avoids the risk of muscle problems and other side effects that plague some people who take statins.
Just as important, a diet that is heavy on fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts is good for the body in ways beyond lowering cholesterol. It keeps blood pressure in check. It helps arteries stay flexible and responsive. It’s good for bones and digestive health, for vision and mental health.