Experts agree that a change in diet is appropriate if your total cholesterol level is greater than 200 mg per deciliter (5.2 milimols per liter) or if the low density lipoprotein (LDL) level is greater than 130 mg per deciliter (3.5 milimols per liter). Here are some tips on how to regulate your cholesterol levels through your diet.
Reduce your intake of saturated fats.
This approach is the most effective way to lower cholesterol levels in the blood. A diet that limits fat intake to 20 percent or less of total calories and limits saturated fat to seven percent or less can reduce total cholesterol by an average of 14 percent. Most people can drastically reduce their intake of saturated fats by reducing or eliminating fatty meats, whole milk, and other high-fat dairy products, as well as tropical oils (coconut, palm, and palm kernel). It is also important to reduce your consumption of trans fatty acids in oils and partially hydrogenated foods that contain them, such as cookies, crackers, other commercial pastries.
Try a vegetarian diet.
The low-fat vegetarian program (less than 10 percent of calories) developed by Dr. Dean Ornish can significantly lower LDL cholesterol. His program also uses exercise and meditation.
Eat foods that reduce cholesterol levels.
What matters is not just what you do not eat; eating foods that have a cholesterol-lowering effect can also help you. Foods rich in flavonoids, such as citrus fruits and onions, promote healthy cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber is also an effective weapon against cholesterol. It is commonly found in oats, beans and flaxseed. Pectin in apples and other fruits reduces cholesterol, like the soy protein found in tofu, tempeh and soymilk. It has also been established that regular daily consumption of carrots can lead to a reduction in LDL cholesterol levels.
Eat fish rich in omega-3.
Two to three servings a week of salmon, sardines and other cold-water fish are associated with reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes. Basically, it was thought that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish reduced cardiovascular risk by reducing cholesterol levels in the blood; however, recent studies suggest that their benefit comes from their interference with blood clotting and possible changes in how the liver metabolizes other lipids.
Eat a lot of soy products.
There is ample evidence that adding soy protein to a low-fat diet helps to lower cholesterol levels. Soy protein is found in soy sprouts and products made from these germs, such as tofu and soy beverages.
Look for margarine with plant sterols.
Plant sterols have been proven to help lower cholesterol when consumed as part of a heart-healthy diet. They are found in vegetable sterol enriched margarines, vegetable oils, nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, soybeans and other legumes.
By following these tips, you can help keep your cholesterol levels at healthy levels.