We recently had our health screenings at work and I was surprised to see that my “bad” cholesterol is a touch higher than it was last year. The nurse suggested that I should add some exercise to my daily routine. Really? I teach 6 classes a week at the Y and run/walk and lift weights at lease every other day so I don’t think lack of exercise is the problem.
I did my own investigating and found that you can “control” about 25% of your cholesterol, the rest is in the DNA (manufactured by your body). It’s possible that you are doing everything correctly and will still need to take medication because you have inherited high cholesterol. This doesn’t mean you should give up, you still need to eat right and exercise but don’t get discouraged if your cholesterol remains higher than you like.
So…how do we control that 25%? By eliminating bad fats, reducing our intake of salt and high sodium foods, and stop drinking sugar-sweetened beverages. Once we have done that, here are some foods to start eating.
1- Fruits and Vegetables. I know, that’s a shocker! It seems no matter what part of our body needs correcting, the answer is eat more fruits and vegetables. So why aren’t we?
2-Choose Healthy Fats. I went through a phase where I tried to eliminate all fat. What I should have done was eliminate bad fat and choose good fat. Fats should comprise about 25% of your diet, you need it to fight internal inflammation, improve cholesterol levels, boost the immune system, and keep your brain and central nervous system healthy. What’s a good fat? olive, canola, flax, walnut, peanut, and sesame oils are excellent choices.
3-Fiber. I think of fiber as little scrub brushes that just clean away all the bad stuff! Barley, apples, and oatmeal are very good at attaching to the bad stuff and whisking it away. There are some great double fiber breads and fiber cereals that will also help. Warning! Add fiber gradually. You will notice a change in your bowels and gas output if you add too much at once. I have given up on eating Fiber One bars, those things hit my system and I have to avoid other people the rest of the day!
4- Nuts to you! Nuts can help lower bad cholesterol and contain antioxidants but they are also fairly high in calories so eat them in moderation. Good choices are walnuts, almonds, and peanuts- choose no or low salt varieties. One serving is 1/3 cup, you need to measure this out as it is easy to eat WAY too many without thinking. Eat nuts 3-5 times per week.
5- Beans. I have talked about the wonderful bean before and here it is again! All variety of beans, such as kidney, chick peas (garbanzos), lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas, and white beans, are high in antioxidants and fiber, and can help improve your cholesterol reading. Again- be cautious when adding beans to your diet and don’t add to much at once! Your body needs to adjust to the added fiber.
Can I still eat meat? Yes- but there are good and not so good choices. More on that topic tomorrow.