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Foods to Avoid for High Cholesterol

Avoid saturated fats and oils, such as butter, bacon drippings, lard, palm oil, and coconut
oil. Instead, use soft tub margarine or vegetable oils, such as olive or canola oil.
Limit trans fats or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These oils go through a process
that makes them solid. They're found in hard margarines, snack crackers, cookies, chips,
and shortenings.
Limit fatty meats such as corned beef, pastrami, ribs, steak, ground meat, hot dogs,
sausage, bacon, and processed meats like bologna. Also limit organ meats like liver and
kidney. Replace with skinless chicken or turkey, lean beef, veal, pork, lamb, and fish. Try
some meatless main dishes, like beans, peas, pasta, or rice.
Limit meat, poultry, and fish to no more than two servings, or 5 oz (140 g), a day.
Remember that a serving is about the size of a deck of playing cards.
Limit egg yolks.
Limit milk products that contain more than 1% milk fat. This includes cream, most
cheeses, and nondairy coffee creamers or whipped topping (which often contain coconut or
palm oils). Instead try fat-free or low-fat milk (0% to 1% fat) and low-fat cheeses.
Limit snack crackers, muffins, quick breads, croissants, and cakes made with saturated or
hydrogenated fat, whole eggs, or whole milk. Try low-fat baked goods, and use any spreads
or toppings lightly.
Instead of using butter or margarine on bread, try dipping it in olive oil.
Avoid fast foods like hamburgers, fries, fried chicken, and tacos. They are high in both total
fat and saturated fat. When you eat out, choose broiled sandwiches or chicken without skin,
salads with low-fat dressing, and foods that aren't fried. Ask the server to leave off the
cheese and high-fat dressings like mayonnaise.
What's Better Than a Rib-Eye Steak for Dinner?
Even under the best of circumstances (with the fat well-trimmed, and cooked in olive oil), a
4-ounce rib-eye steak takes up a big chunk of your recommended daily allowance
for saturated fat and cholesterol. With nothing else on your plate, you will be eating 20
percent of your allowable saturated fat and 22 percent of your cholesterol, which doesn't
leave much room for the rest of the day. If youre not ready to say goodbye to beef, consider
leaner cuts of meat such as tenderloin, flank, round, rump, or tip steak for lower

Your cholesterol is too high. Well, perhaps not specifically you, but thousands of Britons
have this news broken to them by doctors every day. We all have an amount of this special
type of fat in our blood. It is essential for many bodily functions, but most of us 60 per
cent have too much.
High cholesterol is a key factor in developing heart disease, which claims three times more
lives than breast cancer and twice as many as lung cancer. The good news is that lowering
your cholesterol is the biggest thing you can do to reduce your risk.
Its something TV personality Gabby Logan, for one, is keen to promote. A key risk factor for
heart disease is high cholesterol but you can protect yourself with simple changes to lifestyle
and diet, says Gabby, who is supporting the British Heart Foundation Love Your Heart

But just how can you do this? Much of the health advice on the matter, including that on the
NHS Eat Well site, is vague, leading to many misconceptions and myths.
So can diet alone be used to bring down high cholesterol or should we leave it all to
statins? The answer for very many people is yes, you CAN reduce your levels significantly
through making changes in your diet. Should we stop eating eggs? Arent they high in
cholesterol? In fact, the answer is no. No food is prohibited, so you can still eat cheese, red
meat and chocolate, within the limits of a low-fat diet.

Confusingly, countless foods carry labels claiming they can protect your heart or cut
cholesterol. They work, but you have to take them in a specific way to reap the benefits. To
find out what we should and shouldnt be eating to lower cholesterol levels, we spoke to
leading diet and heart health experts.
Now turn over for our brilliantly simple step-by-step guide which includes building six food
types into your diet and you may be able to lower your reading by up to 20 per cent in
three months ...

These include Flora pro.activ and Benecol yogurt shots, as well as other products containing stanols and sterols.
These naturally occurring molecules, which are found in plants, block the absorption of dietary cholesterol, which
is then excreted with other waste.

Studies have shown that plant sterols reduce cholesterol levels by seven to ten per cent within three weeks, as
part of a diet low in saturated fat.

You need to consume 2g in one go alongside your biggest meal of the day, each day, to get the full effect. The
best form is the yogurt shot drinks that provide this amount of plant sterols alongside just under 40 calories and
1.4g of fat. You need to eat six teaspoons of fortified margarine to get the same amount of sterols, which delivers
150 calories and 18g of fat, although low-fat margarines with sterols are now also available.

Drink with your main meal as sterols reduce the amount of fat absorbed. A shot with your morning coffee or little
bits of margarine through the day will not produce the same benefits, says Catherine Collins, principal dietician at
St Georges Healthcare NHS Trust.
The high fermentable-fibre content of beans and pulses means that they cannot be digested easily by the gut.
This fibre binds to cholesterol so that it is removed through waste. High-fibre bread can be added to the diet to
boost fibre intake further.

A meta-analysis of 67 studies on dietary fibre and cholesterol levels revealed that consuming more fibre helped
reduce bad LDL cholesterol by a small but significant amount.
Fibrous foods such as beans also trick the body into absorbing less saturated fat, which can help control weight
and protect arteries from heart disease.

Eighteen grams a day. Around 5g will come from oat-based products and you can get the rest from just a slice of
high-fibre toast and two tablespoons of beans. Fruit and veg will also boost fibre intake.

Just swapping white bread for wholemeal can lower cholesterol levels, a manageable step for everyone.
Its easy for most people to add fibre to their diet, says Linda Main, of the cholesterol charity HEART UK.
Most nuts, including almonds, walnuts, pecans and peanuts, are good for lowering cholesterol. However, avoid
salted varieties, especially if you have raised blood pressure. It is not clear how nuts lower cholesterol, but it
might be because they contain plant sterols as well as monounsaturated fats that protect blood vessels from
damage. They are also high in fibre and Vitamin E.

In 2010, an American analysis of 25 studies on nut consumption and blood fat levels found that eating a portion
every day (eight to ten nuts, or a small palm-full) reduced overall cholesterol by five per cent and was particularly
good for people with high levels of bad LDL cholesterol.

Between 25g and 50g of nuts daily.

Linda Main says: Nuts are very filling, so not only do they reduce cholesterol, but they can stop you snacking on
too many other fatty foods afterwards. While nuts are in theory very calorific, it is unlikely all the energy is
available to the body.

Soya milk, soy nuts, tofu and soya yogurts may help the liver to take bad LDL cholesterol out of the
bloodstream. Using soya to replace dairy and meat can also displace saturated fat from the diet.

There is some evidence, including a 2011 study, that soy protein can help reduce total cholesterol.
Although the effects were modest, some experts say that because soy products such as tofu often replace meat
in the diet, they reduce the intake of saturated fat from other sources.

Experts recommend having at least two to three portions a day. That is equivalent to half a litre of soya milk and
a soya yogurt. The reduction in cholesterol may be as much as five per cent, but scientific proof for this is limited.

Start with one portion a day and slowly build it into the diet from there. If you dont like soya, follow the other tips
instead, advises Catherine Collins.
Olive oil and rapeseed oil, which contain mainly monounsaturated fats, neither increase nor decrease cholesterol
However, they help to make the artery walls stronger, meaning that they are less likely to be damaged by
cholesterol. These fats are also cleared easily by the body.

Studies suggest that replacing saturated fat such as lard and butter with these oils results in a fall in cholesterol.
It may also stop LDL causing inflammation in the arteries, a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Two tablespoons a day used in cooking. A 2002 study found that consuming this amount of olive oil each day
decreased total cholesterol by eight per cent in six weeks. Generally, studies suggest that virgin olive oil is best.

Polyunsaturated fats from sunflower oils were considered to be as good as olive oils, but recently it has emerged
that having too much of them causes oxidation, meaning they may increase furring of the arteries. However,
remember that polyunsaturated fats are still better than butter and lard.
Oats contain compounds called beta glucans, which give them their paste-like consistency. The beta glucans
form a thick gel inside the digestive tract and bind to cholesterol in the gut, helping to prevent cholesterol from
being absorbed by the body. The gel and cholesterol are then excreted as waste.

Analysis of 12 studies involving more than 1,000 people showed that adding beta glucans each day to your diet
via porridge, other oat-based cereals and oatcakes reduced cholesterol by up to five per cent within three

Three grams of beta glucans a day. This is equivalent to a small bowl of porridge, three oatcakes and two slices
of oat bread. This would also contribute about 5g of your daily fibre intake (see panel, left).

Studies show beta glucan is good for heart health and its easy to eat more oats, says Linda Main. There are
now even breads with added oat bran. But people need to try to eat three portions a day on a regular basis to
have an effect. HEART UK have an Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan fact sheet that explains it all.

Why do we need cholesterol if it can be so bad for our bodies?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the liver and used to build cell walls, create a protective glove
around nerves and to make other chemicals such as hormones.
Cholesterol gets round our bodies by combining with protein to form a protective coating around tiny balls of fat
absorbed from our diet termed lipoproteins. The purpose of this coating is to hold fat together, so we dont have
oil slicks of fat in our bloodstream.
The two lipoproteins usually measured are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL
is like a juggernaut big clumps of fat and protein that trundle along the arteries and can only be cleared from
our system by the liver. As it travels, fat can break away and enter the artery walls, becoming embedded. This
build-up called atherosclerosis causes artery walls to narrow so blood cannot get through, resulting in blood
clots that can trigger a heart attack or stroke.
HDL is known as good cholesterol. It is much smaller in size and hoovers up fat deposits from the artery wall as
it moves around the body. This is why its important to know how much LDL and HDL are in your blood, as the
ratio between these two types of fat is what really matters when it comes to risk.
What causes levels to rise?
They are controlled by our genes and diet. In the West, more people have high cholesterol than in countries with
a low-fat diet, such as Japan. Eating foods high in saturated fat, such as butter, cream, processed meat such as
sausages and fast food, means that our cholesterol goes up.

How is cholesterol measured?
The ratio between LDL and HDL is what matters. A blood test at your GP surgery can measure this. The result
gives volume of cholesterol in a measurement called millimoles per litre of blood or mmol. The target is to have
an LDL reading below 3mmol and a total cholesterol reading (which takes into account the HDL and LDL) of
5mmol. People at high risk of heart disease those with high blood pressure, who are overweight, older and may
have family history of the disease are told to get their total cholesterol lower, to 4mmol, with an LDL of 2mmol.
The higher you score, the more chance of suffering heart disease in the next decade. Scores for total cholesterol
above 8mmol will mean the person is at medium to high risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), depending on age
and blood pressure. Even a reading of 5 or 6mmol may be too high if you have other risk factors, such as
rheumatoid arthritis.

Good news: You do not have to give up on steak, red wine and dessert to lower your cholesterol

How often do I need to get a test?
After the age of 40, your GP should check your cholesterol every five years. If you have a family history of
premature heart disease or raised cholesterol, you should tell your GP as soon as possible and would be eligible
for tests before the age of 40.

Does a high reading mean Im going to have a heart attack?
CVD can lead to heart attacks and stroke. It becomes a bigger worry the older you are, if you smoke, have high
blood pressure, a family history of heart problems and dont exercise. Its the combination of cholesterol with
these other things that triggers alarm bells.

Will I need to take statins?
If your total cholesterol is above 5mmol, most doctors will tell you to review your diet. If it is a lot higher, they may
tell you to take statins because these drugs are likely to reduce cholesterol by 20 to 40 per cent a massive
drop. Doctors will prescribe statins to anyone with a 20 per cent chance of developing cardiovascular disease in
the next decade. They will work out this risk based on a range of personal details. But they will still say you need
to improve your diet as well.

So how much can diet alone help?
Diet can reduce cholesterol levels by ten to 20 per cent, which significantly decreases heart-disease risk. Studies
show that for the average person, the drop is 13 per cent. For some of us, this may be enough.

How long does it take to work?
To slash cholesterol by as close to 20 per cent as possible, youll need to adopt ALL of the healthy eating
elements mentioned above for at least three months. If you dont see changes after three months, talk to your
doctor. For some, a healthy diet does not have a great effect. Once your cholesterol has reduced, youll have to
keep up the good work and stick to your new eating plan.