Low Cholesterol Diet Tips for a Heart Healthy Diet



Before talking about low cholesterol diet tips, let’s talk about cholesterol generally…



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Cholesterol is a hot topic – with oodles of conflicting opinions among the experts about how much is okay; how much is  too much; and which cholesterol matters, when it comes to protecting oneself from cardiovascular disease and other health conditions.



Low cholesterol diet tips as part of  a heart healthy diet - Athresclerosis - Blood lipids - lipoprotein-a
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Cholesterol has gotten bad press over the years that a multi-million dollar cholesterol-lowering statin drug industry is not keen to change. The fact is not all cholesterol is bad – and even much of the so-called bad stuff will only cause harm when damaged by other lifestyle factors, including other foods you eat or, as the case may be, don’t eat.


Low Cholesterol Diet Tips - Cholesterol – one of the players in cardiovascular disease – sometimes a good guy and sometimes the bad guy

While smoking, exercise and triglyceride, fibrinogen, homocysteine scores as well as co-existence of conditions like obesity, diabetes, chronic inflammation and high blood pressure affect your risk for cardiovascular disease, cholesterol levels (certain kinds) remain a telling factor in whether you  will suffer cardiac problems or stroke.  

 

Indeed, when it comes to low cholesterol diet tips, you want to pick foods that decrease the bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol. You also want foods that protect  the cholesterol you have from oxidizing and becoming dangerous.

 

 

Low Cholesterol Diet Tips – So what is cholesterol?

Good question!

Cholesterol is the medium by which lipids or fats are transported throughout the body in mammals including us humans; plants produce a similar product called phytosterols (more about these later, I promise) The liver produces about 75% of cholesterol; diet provides the remaining 25%. You need cholesterol for such important things as hormone production as well as brain, immune and digestive function.

 

The good side of cholesterol You need cholesterol to produce

  • Vitamin D
  • Sex hormones
  • Stress Hormones
  • Digestive Enzymes

Too little cholesterol can lead to muscle pain and weakness, infection, mental confusion and memory problems as well as depression, anxiety and aggression. Too much LDL cholesterol has been linked to cardiovascular disease with too little HDL linked to cardiac problems. While high LDL cholesterol is marker for heart disease, the growing evidence suggests the link is less than other markers of cardiovascular health one can test. 

The concern with statins - Statins do a great job at lowering cholesterol, however, they lower all cholesterol types both the good and the bad. While that may be useful for certain groups at risk for heart attack, like overweight men with a prior heart attack, blanket cholesterol lowering as a preventative measure for heart disease may not be best for everyone. Too little cholesterol can lead to muscle weakness and pain; mental confusion and memory problems; andlack of sex drive along with decreased ability to fight infection. These are both signs of cholesterol deficiency and side effects of statin drugs.

Because much of your cholesterol levels is genetically determined, diet, even the most effective low cholesterol diet tips, will only go so far to lower the undesirable kinds and increase the beneficial kinds. Despite the ultimately limited effect of food on cholesterol, diet will definitely affect the quality of your cholesterol and ensure it doesn’t oxidize and, if you will, become toxic.

As we will see much of the “bad” kind of cholesterol is only bad, when damaged by free radicals. Diet can play a huge rule preventing this.

 

Low Cholesterol Diet Tips - What are healthy cholesterol levels?

When we talk about total cholesterol levels in conventional tests, we’re talking about two figures –low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL).

LDL, the bad cholesterol, is not all bad. LDL has different subtypes. LDL-A is a fluffy molecule - harmless so long as it doesn’t oxidize – a process that promotes plaque formation and atherosclerosis. LDL-B is a hard dense molecule that helps form atherosclerosis. A high concentration of LDL- A is the healthiest LDL to have when it comes to heart health.

LDL is considered the bad cholesterol because contributes to arthrosclerosis and, if oxidized, can contribute to heart attack and stroke.

 

HDL is considered the good cholesterol because it helps transports lipids from the blood to the liver where they can be excreted. The ratio of good HDL to bad LDL is an important figure. Generally, the higher your HDL and lower your LDL, the better for heart health.  As mentioned, effective low cholesterol diet tips should help this process.

HDL, the good cholesterol, is not all good. It has different subtypes – HDL-2 is large and buoyant and play an anti-inflammatory and plaque preventative role. It transports excess fats from the blood stream to the liver where they can be excreted. HDL-3 is small and dense and, while the jury remains out, is likely inflammatory.


The conventional advice on cholesterol levels is….

  • Total cholesterol  ( LDL + HDL scores) shouldn’t be above 200 mg/dL
  • LDL (the bad stuff) should be below 100 mg/dL. Levels above 190 mg/dL are in the high risk zone.
  • HDL (the good guy) ideally should be above 60 mg/dL  and never below 40 mg/dL. 

 

Low Cholesterol Diet Tips - Why all the fuss about cholesterol and low cholesterol diet tips?



New research and a relook at old research on cholesterol and heart disease have some surprising insight into how HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) affect our risk for cardiovascular disease.  In summary - some of the cholesterol types we thought bad (LDL) are not so bad and some that we thought beneficial (HDL) have sub types that may not be as hunky dory as first thought.

 

It appears that lowering total cholesterol levels (combined HDL and  LDL), provided in most standard cholesterol tests, is not a particularly effective marker of heart disease risk.

There are different cholesterol subtypes that affect the heart and cardiovascular system differently and you want to decrease the ones that do the damage and ensure you have enough of the beneficial kinds.

Confused? Don’t be.

Here’s more skinny on cholesterol and low cholesterol diet tips.

 

 

Low Cholesterol Diet Tips – Which cholesterol matters?

To determine whether your cholesterol levels are putting you at risk for heart disease, get an LDL cholesterol particle test. Why?

A cholesterol particle test determines both your LDL -A and LDL- B levels.  LDL-B particles are hard, small, dense and inflammatory. A high concentration increases the risk of arthrosclerosis and heart attack.  In contrast, LDL- A molecules are fluffy and harmless, if not damaged by free radicals.


Lipoprotein A - Lp (a) is an inflammatory cholesterol component that promotes clotting and atherosclerosis by dumping oxidized LDL cholesterol where it can damage arteries. High levels are a risk factor for heart disease.

Another cholesterol component to test is LP (a) which stands for lipoprotein A. It’s a type of LDL cholesterol and is good to keep in check because Lp (a) promotes clotting and arthrosclerosis. – not good news when it comes to cardiovascular disease. High Lp (a) levels are a good indicator of heart attack risk.



Low Cholesterol Diet Tips - Which Cholesterol and related Tests to Get? – Particle test for levels of LDL-A and LDL-B as well as for lipoprotein A - Lp (a). These are the figures that matter when it comes to heart attack risk. High LDL-B and Lp (a) levels increases your heart attack risk. A high LDL-A level does not.  


Another valuable test to determine your risk of heart attack and stroke is for C-reactive protein (CRP). This is a marker for inflammation, which can damage cholesterol and arteries as well as promote clotting. Together, these can lead to arthrosclerosis and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.  An alternate test to determine  overall inflammation is the interleukin-6 test.  An anti- inflammatory diet is a good way of reducing inflammation generally along with heart disease risk.

Triglycerides are a type of lipid, which blood levels are often tested along with cholesterol.  High triglycerides are a strong marker for <em>cardiovascular disease</em> as well as <em>insulin resistance</em> and <em>diabetes</em>. Low cholesterol diet tips can help reduce high levels. Levels below 150 mg/dL are best. Above 500 mg/dL means trouble.


Another test that is a marker for your future likelihood of a heart attack is fibrinogen levels. Fibrinogen increases blood stickiness which, in turn, promotes clotting. If your levels are high, fish oil and Omega 3 oils are an effective way of reducing blood stickiness.


… and without further ado, some low cholesterol diet tips

 


Low Cholesterol Diet Tips - Top dietary strategies to lower cholesterol (the bad kinds) and increase the good kind .

  • If overweight – lose it.
  • Nix added sugar & processed carbs including sodas, candies and foods made with refined grains like white rice and flour.
  • Nix trans fats by avoiding processed and fried foods, margarines and reading ingredient labels on packaged food, even the ones that say “no trans fats” .
  • Increase your Omega 3 intake by eating fish and flax and keep a lid on too many Omega 6-rich foods. Aim for an Omega 6 Omega 3’s ratio of 4:1 or lower.
  • Eat a surfeit of Vitamin C rich and antioxidant and flavonoid-rich fruits and veg including dark green, red, orange and yellow varieties and load up on the berries.
  • Eat beans and whole grains including oatmeal as well as fiber rich fruit and veg like sweet potatoes, apples and broccoli to boost your insoluble fiber intake.
  • Drinkresveratrol - rich red wine in moderation when consuming alcohol.
  • Put catechin rich dark chocolate and green tea on the menu .
  • Eat nuts and seeds and their cold pressed oils to increase your Vitamin E and Omega 3 intake.
  • Keep saturated fat intake in the form of diary and meat in moderation and eat grass fed kinds, if you can. They are less inflammatory than grain fed versions.
  • Go Mediterranean - consume extra virgin oil in place of margarine and other commercially produced vegetable oils .



Low Cholesterol Diet Tips- Goals when it comes to low cholesterol diet foods

Remember that  low cholesterol diet tips are not only  about reducing levels of bad cholesterol but also about increasing levels of good cholesterol and protecting from oxidization the cholesterol you have, so harmless types don’t go bad….

 

  • Increase the Omega 3’ fats in your diet by eating cold water oily fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna and mackerel on a regular basis. Fish is chock-a-block with EPA and DHA forms of Omega 3s that lower HDL. Nuts and seeds, including flax and chia seeds, walnuts and almonds provide important Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils that together help lower LDL and raise HDL. Aim to keep your Omega 6 Omega 3 ratio at 4:1 or less.  The problem is that we get an overabundance of Omega 6 fats in the typical Western diet and not enough Omega 3s. The reason for this is that most food processing techniques destroy Omega 3s but not Omega 6’s.  Press here for more on Omega 3 benefits including good food sources.

 

  • Increase your insoluble fiber by increasing your fruit, veg and whole grains and legume intake. Insoluble fiber has been found to lower bad LDL cholesterol and increase good HDL levels. We don’t get enough. Good sources are oats, beans, brown rice, broccoli and sweet potato. Because of our affinity for processed foods and refined fare along with overall low fruit, veg and whole grain intake, the average Westerner gets as little as 3 to 10  grams of fiber per day when other cultures (with little or no cardiovascular disease for that matter) get upwards of 70 grams per day. For more on fiber including good food sources, read constipation remedies.

What is insoluble fiber? Fiber that dissolves in water to form a gel-like consistency. The result is soft stool, speedy transit time and increased good HDL cholesterol. Insoluble fiber is found in large quantities in fruits and veg as well as beans, nuts and seeds.

 

  • Get enough selenium rich foods or supplements - studies have linked high selenium levels with reduced cholesterol oxidation as well as increased HDL cholesterol levels.

 

  • Consume soy products – a traditional staple in Japan that contains isoflavones that have been linked to increased HDL levels.  Rich sources are tofu, tempeh, tamari, miso and soy milk. Soy is a high quality protein that can help you reduce your reliance on saturated fat.

 

  • Consume extra virgin olive oil in cooking and at the table – use instead of butter or other chemically or heat refined vegetable oils. Studies have found that olive oil, a monounsaturated fat that is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean Diet, reduces mortality when it comes to cardiovascular disease. Experts speculate it is  a number of heart and cholesterol protective flavonoids and anti-oxidants found in extra virgin olive oil – the cold pressed or mechanically distilled kind – that may contribute to increased HDL levels.

Beware of Fake or Adulterated Olive Oil Make sure you buy quality extra virgin olive oil from a reputable source. Extra virgin in relation to olive oil means it is mechanically or “cold” pressed as part of the first pressing. Many commercially sold olive oils labelled extra virgin have been found to contain low grade chemically or heat refined non -olive vegetable oils. These may have fewer or none of the cholesterol lowering and heart healthy benefits of the real McCoy. For more on this read Tom Mueller’s book Extra Virginity . See details below.
  • Consider functional foods containing phytosterols. Food manufacturers have climbed on the cholesterol lowering bandwagon to make foods that contain added phytosterols.  Phytosterols and related phytostenols occur naturally in fruits, veg and grains but not in the amounts that supplemented food provide. An increasing number of products including orange juices and margarines contain them. Soybean oil is often the base. While able to lower cholesterol levels 8 to 10 %, provided you consume 2 grams of phytosterols per day, be cautious. While naturally-occurring substances, phytosterols additives are still processed and consumed in amounts you wouldn’t get naturally from food.   There are few or no studies on long term use or studies that suggest phytosterol-containing foods help lower heart attack incidence. Remember trans fats were pitched for decades as good for your health, until it was discovered…. they weren’t. Oops! Check with your doctor about foods containing added phytosterols, especially if you are already on statins.


Low Cholesterol Diet Tips – foods to avoid

  • Eliminate trans fats found routinely in processed foods, commercial baked goods, fried and fast foods and margarines. They increase bad and decrease good cholesterol.  Look for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil as ingredients on the labels to judge if a food contains trans fats and leave on the shelf.
Beware of 0% Trans Fats Claims on labels –An important low-cholesterol diet tip for the grocery store.
Current FDA labelling laws permit manufactures to state that a serving has 0% trans fats when it may contain a fraction of 1% trans fats per serving. Depending on how small a serving is, you may be getting several grams of trans fat eating a food labelled 0%. i.e. 0% trans fats do not mean the food is trans fat-free. … deceptive and misleading? You betcha!


  • Nix high glycemic foods including refined grains and sugars including white flour –in which much of the cholesterol reducing fiber as well as heart protective nutrients including vitamins and minerals and other heart protective nutrients  are removed or destroyed. Press here for more on low glycemic foods including how to identify them.



 
 



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