According to the American Heart Association, Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is the number one killer in the United States. Although the death rate over the last 20 years has decreased, the prevalence has increased. A major risk factor for developing CAD is unhealthy lipid levels, more commonly known as cholesterol. If you have high blood cholesterol, lowering it will help protect you from heart disease caused by cholesterol deposits in the coronary arteries. Here’s what you need to know to help lower your cholesterol by changing the way you eat:
High Fat Equals High Cholesterol
Most foods that are high in cholesterol also are high in saturated fats. This is particularly true of red meats, fatty cuts like bacon and organ meats such as liver. It’s wise to avoid these meats altogether and limit other meats to three to six ounces per day or less. Other sources of saturated fat are eggs and dairy fats such as butter and cream. Since even unsaturated fats can raise cholesterol levels, you should restrict your intake of fat whenever possible.
Choose Low-Fat Protein
Protein is important in a well-balanced diet, but most animal protein comes laced with fat. Why not make vegetable protein an important part of your diet? Excellent quality protein can be found in dried beans, peas, whole grains and pastas. Your best bet for low-fat animal protein is skinless poultry white meat and fish (try to limit shellfish, as they are typically high in cholesterol). The best dairy choices are one percent or nonfat milk and yogurt, low-fat cheeses such as farmers cheese, pot cheese, low-fat cottage cheese and part-skim ricotta.
Researchers aren’t sure about the role of fiber in reducing cholesterol, but some evidence indicates soluble fiber such as the kind found in oatmeal can help reduce cholesterol. To avoid digestive upsets, add fiber gradually to your diet and include fluids in meals that contain fiber.
Cook It Right
When cooking food, choose the low-fat alternative. Bake, broil, steam or poach your food. Use vegetable spray for pan-frying. If you must use fat to cook, use a low-saturated fat oil such as olive oil rather than butter.
Look for Hidden Fats
We think of saturated fats as animal fats. But two of the most highly saturated fats –coconut oil and palm oil – are widely used in packaged cookies, cakes and other baked goods as well as potato chips. Reading the label can help you steer clear of foods that contain these oils or any hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Vegetables – Front and Center
Studies show that heart disease is rare in countries where little animal food is eaten. Do your heart a favor and make vegetables, grains, beans, peas and whole-wheat pastas a big part of your diet. FBN
Kenneth Bescak, M.D., diagnostic cardiologist, is a physician at the Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona. Dr. Bescak specializes in lipid management, widely considered the leading indicator of heart disease.
The Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona (HVCNA) is a partnership between Flagstaff Medical Center and Verde Valley Medical Center. It combines physician office practices with extensive hospital-based services including diagnostic and interventional cardiology procedures and open heart surgery. HVCNA offices are located in Flagstaff, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Sedona and Winslow.
For more information on the Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona, visit NAHeartCare.com. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bescak or one of the world-class physicians at the Heart & Vascular Center, call 877-928-WELL.