The typical American diet is high in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. This diet has been found to increase blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. Researchers have found that by reducing the amount of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol in your diet, you can reduce you cholesterol levels and your risk of heart disease. Here are some other suggestions to lower your risk of heart disease.
1. Limit your daily cholesterol intake to no more than 200 mg.
2. Limit the amount of saturated fat you consume from dairy products, red meat, and tropical oils. Ideally, you should consume no more than 7% of your daily calories from saturated fat (around 10-15 g for most people). Base most of your meals on beans, vegetables, fruits and whole grains, with a minimum of low-saturated fat animal protein foods like nonfat dairy, fish, and egg whites.
3. Use only nonfat dairy products. Regular dairy products like whole milk, butter, cheese, cream cheese and ricotta cheese are very high in saturated fat.
4. Eat 6 to 8 small meals daily instead of 1 or 2 large ones.
5. Accumulate 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days so the week, to help raise HDL. Alternately, try to walk at least 2-3 miles per day at least 5-6 days per week.
6. Consume foods that are naturally high in fiber, especially soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is found in legumes, fruits and root vegetables, as well as oats, barley, and flax. For every 1-2 grams of soluble fiber you consume daily, you will lower the LDL by 1%. Try to consume 25-35 g total fiber per day.
7. Avoid foods with added trans-fat. This fat comes from partially hydrogenated vegetables oils often found in fried foods and processed foods like crackers, baked good and desserts. Generally, the more solid the fat is, the higher the trans-fatty acid content.
8. If you are overweight, lose weight. This will help lower your total cholesterol and raise your HDL. The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to exercise and eat a diet that is high in fiber and low in calorie density.
9. Try to include soy protein in your diet, especially in place of animal protein. Studies show that 25 g soy protein per day can help lower cholesterol when part of a healthy diet.
10. Limit your intake of sugar and fructose. This should lower triglycerides, aid weight loss and will help lower LDL.
11. Consider using sterol- and stanol-rich margarines and salad dressings – such as Promise or Benecol – up to 2 grams per day.