According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a total blood cholesterol level of greater than 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood puts you at an increased risk of heart attacks, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease and stroke. While weight loss and regular aerobic exercise are recommended ways to lower your blood cholesterol level, incorporating low-fat habits into your regular eating routine is another excellent way to raise your HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels and decrease your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
One change you can make to your diet is to increase your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains like oats and brown rice, nuts, seeds and beans. The AHA recommends eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables and six servings of whole grains daily. Beans, nuts and seeds are recommended four to five times weekly. By focusing your diet on low saturated fat, low cholesterol plant-based foods, you will decrease your overall consumption of saturated fat, one of the main factors contributing to high cholesterol.
Limit Saturated Fat
Whole milk dairy products, eggs, fats solid at room temperature, such as butter or lard, and processed meats like salami or hot dogs all contain high amounts of saturated fat. Limit your intake of these foods and replace them in your diet with low or non-fat milk, cheese and yogurt; unsaturated vegetable oils like corn or olive oil; and lean cuts of meat or poultry with the skin removed.
Limit Trans Fats
According to the Mayo Clinic, another change in a cholesterol-lowering diet should include limiting your consumption of commercially baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, crackers and deep-fried foods, like fried chicken and french fries. These foods contain large amounts of trans fats, another contributor to high cholesterol levels.
Certain fish–including salmon, mackerel, herring and tuna–contain large concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating large amounts of these fatty acids can help lower your LDL cholesterol levels. The AHA recommends consuming at least two baked or grilled servings each week.
Alter your cooking habits to include fewer overall fat in foods. Broil and grill instead of pan frying. Place cuts of meat on a rack when roasting to prevent them from basting in the rendered fat. Always remove all visible skin and fat from the meat and poultry before cooking and use as little unsaturated fat as possible when sauteing. When serving food, try to emphasize larger portions of vegetables and grains and less meat or dishes containing animal products.