Dietary patterns are the modern way of looking at a healthy diet. Take our tips for a cholesterol-lowering diet!
We eat foods, not single nutrients
Modern nutritional science looks at the effects of foods and dietary patterns, not only the effects of single nutrients. Research has shown that certain dietary patterns can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, other cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. For example, a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and fish is associated with a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease than a “Western-type” diet rich in processed meats, red meat, butter, high-fat dairy products, eggs, and refined grains.
A cholesterol-lowering diet
Elevated blood cholesterol is one of the main risk factors of coronary heart disease. The good news is that you can effectively reduce your cholesterol with your diet. Following a healthy cholesterol-lowering diet is not rocket science. It all boils down to the quality of fat and ensuring high fiber intake, choosing a varied and balanced diet, and eating with moderation making sure you use up all the calories you consume. A cholesterol-lowering dietary pattern includes foods high in healthy, unsaturated fats and dietary fiber, as well as functional foods with Plant stanol ester. Plant stanol ester will help to lower your cholesterol, so including Benecol in your daily dietary pattern pays off.
Energy sources – making a choice
Fats, carbohydrates, protein, and alcohol are all sources of energy (calories) in our diet. How much energy you need per day depends on your age, gender, occupation and how active you are in your leisure time. Choosing the right types of energy sources within each energy nutrient category ensures a high quality diet.
Dietary fat – choose the unsaturated ones
When your goal is to reduce your blood cholesterol levels it is the quality of the fat, not the quantity that matters. Try to limit your intake of saturated fat and remember to use healthy unsaturated fats instead. Full-fat dairy products like butter, cheese and cream, as well as fatty meat and meat products like sausages are the main sources of saturated fat for many people. However, even some plant based foods, such as palm oil and coconut oil, are high in saturated fat. That is why it is wise to limit the intake of these foods as well as foods prepared with butter, palm oil or coconut oil.
You can effectively reduce your cholesterol with your diet
Healthy unsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils like oils of rapeseed, soy, sunflower and olive. Vegetable oil based soft margarines and spreads are also rich in unsaturated fats. Nuts and seeds as well as fatty fish are also good sources of unsaturated fats. However, do remember to cook your fish without butter or cream.
It is the quality of fat, not the quantity that matters
But why should you pick your dairy products fat free? We often think that fat-free dairy products are recommended just to avoid the extra calories. However, the real reason is that dairy fat is highly saturated, and by choosing fat-free dairy products you get the good nutrients of the dairy products but not the unnecessary saturated fats.
How about the cholesterol in your food? Should you limit your daily intake of dietary cholesterol? The latest evidence suggests that you may not have to pay attention to it. Only about one fifth of the cholesterol in our blood is originally from the food we eat. Most cholesterol is synthetized in our own bodies. Eating excess saturated fat disturbs your normal cholesterol metabolism and raises blood cholesterol, so even if your diet has no cholesterol, you may have elevated blood cholesterol. Avoiding unnecessary saturated fat is thus more important than avoiding dietary cholesterol.
Carbohydrates – pick the complex ones which are also rich in fiber
Carbohydrates are our most important source of daily energy. The food we eat contains three types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches and fiber. Sugars are simple carbohydrates which are digested and absorbed quickly. Starches and fiber are complex carbohydrates, the digestion and absorption of which is slower.
The type of carbohydrates that you eat makes a difference. Foods that contain high amounts of simple sugars, especially fructose, raise your triglyceride level. Triglycerides (or blood fats) are an important barometer of metabolic health; high levels may be associated with coronary heart disease, diabetes and fatty liver.
By choosing high-fiber options like whole grain bread and cereals, brown rice and whole wheat pasta, you ensure you get as much fiber and important nutrients with the energy as possible. Vegetables, (both cooked and uncooked), whole fruits and berries should form the basis of your diet every day.
Vegetables, whole fruits and berries should form the basis of your diet every day
Fruits and vegetables as well as grains, such as oat and barley, are high in a specific type of fiber called soluble fiber. Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol levels so it’s smart to eat your five-a-day and maybe a bowl of oatmeal on top.
Protein – choose it lean
The type of protein as such doesn’t have an effect on your cholesterol. It’s the other things that come with the protein that count, namely the type of fat. Fish is high in healthy fats so that’s a great option, as are all lean meats, seafood, soy-based products like tofu, and legumes.