According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 98.6 million Americans have serum cholesterol over 200 mg/dl, the diagnostic threshold for having hypercholesterolemia. While the body produces all the cholesterol it needs for regular cell maintenance, fluid retention and hormone production, the high levels of cholesterol seen in Americans is usually the result of eating too much saturated fat and trans fat. The good news is that it's easy to make moderate changes in your diet to lower your cholesterol.
Add a cup and a half of old-fashioned oatmeal to your breakfast, replacing eggs, sausage and fried potatoes. Oatmeal is a delicious way to reduce your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, and it increases your intake of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber attaches to LDL cholesterol so that it can be excreted before being deposited on the lining of your arteries.
Eat an ounce and a half of walnuts, almonds, cashews, macadademias and pecans. Many types of nuts are great sources of vitamin E and flavanoids, two powerful antioxidants that reduce LDL levels in the blood. They're also good sources of insoluble fiber that aid in digestion and help reduce the incidence of certain types of colon cancers.
Add one clove of garlic throughout your daily diet. Garlic impedes the liver's ability to make cholesterol, lowering your LDL levels. It's also a great way to add flavor to your many of your dishes without adding high-fat, high-cholesterol condiments.
Choose fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that contain plant sterols and stanols. Scientists have discovered that sterols and stanols are structurally similar to cholesterol, so when they enter the intestine to be digested, they complete with cholesterol. As a result, the sterols and stanols are digested and the LDL cholesterol is excreted. Good sources of plant sterols and stanols (with their sterol quantities) are sesame seeds (714 g), olive oil ( 221 g), peanuts (220 g), bananas (16 g) and carrots (12 g).
Eat fish at least twice a week. Certain types of cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids, meaning that the body cannot manufacture them itself. Instead, it must look toward outside dietary sources. There are three major types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Two of the fatty acids, EPA and DHA, have been reported to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Start slowly by making gradual changes in your diet. Look for creative ways to add nuts and plant sources to your current diet.
Avoid fad diets that recommend eliminating entire food groups. Always follow your doctor's instructions if under medical care.