High cholesterol is a health concern for many people. While heredity does play a role in cholesterol levels, diet and exercise can greatly help in reducing those numbers. Ready to get on a low cholesterol diet plan? Here are some tips on how to choose the right foods:
- Shop the outer perimeter of the grocery store. The outer walls of the grocery store are usually the place to find the healthiest foods that can lower cholesterol numbers. First stop: the produce aisle, where you can load up on naturally cholesterol-free fruits and vegetables. Don't just pick out the same old items like bananas and tomatoes -- opt for a variety of produce selections like blueberries, raspberries, mango, zucchini, red and green peppers, kiwi and avocados. Avocados in particular are known for containing the healthy fats which can help to raise your HDL (your "good" cholesterol). Load up on garlic -- another "miracle" food.
Walk around to the meat department and choose the leanest cuts of meat and poultry. Choose skinless chicken and pick up lots of heart-healthy fish like salmon and mackerel. Make your way to the dairy aisle where you should walk right past the full-fat dairy products and select low fat and fat free dairy products and milk. Craving eggs? Switch from regular eggs to cholesterol-free Egg Beaters brand. Soy milk is another low cholesterol dairy option -- Silk and 8th Continent brands are two good choices. Keep in mind that the high fat, processed foods can usually be found in the middle aisles of the grocery store. Stay away from any snack item that comes in a box or a bag -- most of these items contain high cholesterol and trans fats. You can usually find all the healthier food groups around the outer walls of the grocery store, so you can still get a balanced diet.
- Read food labels. If you don't usually take the time to read food labels, start doing it now. Food labels must now list the amount of cholesterol per serving. Obviously your best choice is to choose items that have an amount at zero. And while you're checking the cholesterol count of your favorite foods, read the ingredients that are listed on the product label as well. Any food that contains hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils is bad news.
- Remember--not all margarines are created equal. Some of the new margarine products on the market are actually proven to help lower cholesterol. Skip the stick butter and margarines -- these are the worst kind for your heart. Instead opt for a tub spread that contains plant sterols, like Benecol or Take Control. Yes, these products are more expensive than the generic store brands, but they do help to lower cholesterol when eaten as part of a low fat diet. Or, if you'd rather skip the margarine altogether, try dipping your bread in just a little bit of heart-healthy olive oil.
- A few more options. You don't have to say goodbye to your morning bowl of breakfast cereal -- just say goodbye to those brands that are loaded with sugar and chemicals. Switch to oatmeal instead. Looking for a snack? Forget the potato chips and switch to healthy nuts, like walnuts or almonds. Just eat a few, though!
- Change your ways. Gone are the days that you can eat an entire bag of potato chips or a pint of chocolate chip ice cream without feeling guilty. High cholesterol is serious business and should be treated as such. Change your eating habits now so that you can enjoy good health for many years to come.
This list of foods should help you get started. Remember, exercise can also help you reduce cholesterol.