The Best Diet to Lower Cholesterol

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD

If you're struggling to keep your cholesterol in check, you're not alone. The average cholesterol for adults in the U.S., about 200 milligrams per deciliter according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is borderline high. The best diet to lower cholesterol is one that limits your intake of foods that increase levels and includes foods that lower your numbers. Consult your doctor to discuss diet for lowering your cholesterol.

Cholesterol Facts

You do need some cholesterol for good health. Cholesterol is necessary for making hormones and vitamin D and is a component of bile, which is a substance that helps you digest fat. But your body makes what it needs.

Too much cholesterol, specifically LDL cholesterol, increases your risk of coronary heart disease, which is the accumulation of plaque along your artery walls.

To lower levels and keep cholesterol under control, the American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to 5 percent to 6 percent of total calories, reducing your intake of trans fats to less than 1 percent of calories and limiting dietary cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams a day.

Diet Basics

Based on AHA recommendations, you need to limit your intake of foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. You can achieve this by eating a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, high-fiber grains, low-fat and fat-free milk and milk products, lean proteins such as poultry without skin, fatty fish such as trout or salmon, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

However, there is debate on whether dietary cholesterol has as much of an impact on your cholesterol. While it's important to limit your intake of foods high in cholesterol, it's more important that you make healthy food choices, and limit your intake of saturated fat and foods high in refined carbs such as white bread and sugary drinks.

The Right Fats

Foods high in trans fat, such as baked goods, and saturated fat, such as butter, high-fat meat and full-fat dairy, cause your liver to make more cholesterol than it needs.

Instead, get your fat from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, soy oil, canola oil, walnuts, peanuts and fatty fish. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats helps lower cholesterol levels.

Foods That Lower Your Numbers

In addition to eating a healthy diet, there are also substances in a variety of healthy foods that can help lower your numbers. Soluble fiber, found in oats, barley, okra, eggplant, apples, strawberries and beans, grabs onto cholesterol in the digestive tract and carries it out of your body before it gets to your blood.

Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day, including walnuts, peanuts or almonds, can help lower your LDL a little, according to the Harvard Medical School.

You should also try to eat two to three servings of fatty fish a week. The omega-3s in the fish help lower LDL levels.

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