Help lower your cholesterol with these easy tips
by Ashleigh Feltham
Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist
If you are one of the 1.6 million people in Australia who have been told you have high cholesterol you may think that cholesterol is always bad. What you may not know is that you need cholesterol for a healthy body. Cholesterol forms the main structure of your cell membranes and also plays an important role in creating vitamin D, and bile acids which you need to absorb fat and to make sex hormones.
Cholesterol only becomes bad when you have too much of it and too much of the LDL cholesterol triglycerides, and not enough HDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol can lead to plaques of cholesterol forming on your artery walls, ultimately leading to a heart attack or stroke. Having too many triglycerides is similar to LDL cholesterol, too much can be a bad thing. HDL cholesterol helps to remove the LDL cholesterol from your artery wall, carrying it back to your liver where it can be broken down and removed from your body as waste.
Here are some easy swaps to improve your cholesterol without losing out on the enjoyment of eating.
Swap your steak for seafood
You do not need to give up red meat but aim for no more than 350g a week with 65g per serve. Meat contains saturated fat, unlike Safcol Seafood which is full of heart-healthy omega-3 fat. There is strong evidence that omega-3 fat helps to increase your HDL cholesterol and lower your triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. It is a star performer to help create your optimal cholesterol levels. Aim for 2-3 serves of seafood a week with a serve being 100g.
Swap coconut oil for extra virgin olive oil
Fat is still important for your health and to promote healthy cholesterol levels. The type of fat you choose matters for a healthy heart and cholesterol levels. Coconut oil is nearly all saturated fat, the type which promotes your ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and triglycerides extra virgin olive oil does the complete opposite. As a predominantly monounsaturated fat, it helps improve your ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and promotes heart health.
Swap refined breakfast cereals for oats
Did you know that refined carbohydrates can also have a negative effect on your cholesterol? They can raise your triglycerides which can put you at risk of heart disease. By swapping to oats you will help lower your total cholesterol levels! Oats have a type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan which helps to drag the cholesterol out of your body, preventing it from being reabsorbed and as an overall result helps to lower your total cholesterol.
Swap butter for plant sterol margarine or avocado
Butter is a source of saturated fat which raises your LDL cholesterol. Avocado does the opposite and helps to lower your levels of LDL cholesterol. 1 serve of avocado is 50g and counts as a serve of fruit. If you are not a fan of avocado, try using plant sterol margarine as the next best alternative. As with all fat, moderation is the key as fat is still energy-dense and overconsumption can promote weight gain.
Swap a doughnut for a handful of nuts
Unlike refined sugar and trans-fat in a doughnut which increases your LDL and decreases your HDL cholesterol, nuts are mostly healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Many studies have shown how nuts not only help your heart health but also promote a healthy weight.
Take home message:
You do not need to give up eating and enjoying food if you have high cholesterol. Make these easy swaps to optimise your cholesterol levels to support a healthy heart. If you are stuck for recipe ideas the Safcol Seafood website has an extensive selection to keep your taste buds satisfied.