What You Can Change in Your Eating To Reduce Your Cholesterol: Part 1
By: Samantha McCarthy MS, RD/LDN
Each year, the American Heart Association celebrates a healthy heart in the month of February. It is one month dedicated to bringing awareness to our cardiovascular health. Globally, heart disease is blamed for about 17.9 million deaths per year. By 2030, it is estimated that that will jump to 23.6 million deaths per year. But your heart doesn’t stay healthy by having just one good month. Keeping a healthy heart and cutting your risk of developing heart disease, is a year long battle. For the next few weeks of February, I’d like to provide you with some basic nutrition tips on how to keep your heart strong.
The first tip I’d like to discuss is how to lower your blood cholesterol levels. Nutritionally, there are several components to lowering your cholesterol levels. I’d like to start by talking about one of the most important ones: saturated and trans fats. These are the fats typically nicknamed “the bad fats.” They are bad because they can increase your blood cholesterol levels leaving you with high total cholesterol, high LDL, and potentially low HDL. Cutting back on these saturated and trans fats can lower total cholesterol and LDL.
Thankfully, trans fats are slowly moving out of our food supply. Trans fats can still lurk in many of our processed foods like: microwave popcorn, margarine, frosting, shortening, baked goodies, and crackers. On food labels, you want to look for “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients list. If you see that ingredient, there are trans fats in that product, regardless of whether the label says zero grams or not.
Saturated fats can also be in a number of our foods. It’s largely in animal-based products. Foods like: butter, dairy, red meat, processed meats, fried foods, cheese, and rich baked goods. To cut back on your saturated fat intake, minimize these foods as much as possible and replace them with the “good fats.” When in doubt, always read your labels. Saturated fats are mandatory on nutrition facts labels.
Next week, we will talk about what those healthy fats look like and how to incorporate them into your daily intake. Happy Heart Month!
*Source: American Heart Association. http://newsroom.heart.org/events/february-is-american-heart-month-6669831