Living with high cholesterol or familial hypercholesterolemia may cause you to be on alert for nutrition/health related topics and rightly so. For those with FH, cholesterol lowering medication(s) is required to lower your cholesterol and LDL-C levels. You can’t eat your way to those high levels of cholesterol and LDL-C. FH is a genetic disorder that is inherited. No dietary or lifestyle interventions will normalize your elevated LDL-C level.
Even so, we are bombarded on a regular basis with the latest nutrition soundbites. What message should you believe or follow? Ask yourself, is the guidance too good to be true? If it is, don’t believe it! Consider the source of the information- is it a credible source.
With that said, diet and your food choices can make a difference in your LDL-C. A low saturated fat diet has been shown to lower LDL-C by approximately 10% in individuals with FH. This may allow you to use a smaller dose of cholesterol lowering medication(s) to manage your LDL-C. Also eating in a healthy way may help to reduce your risk for other health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers.
What should you be eating for Good Health?
- Choose more vegetables and fruits. 6-11 servings per day
- Buy local produce if you can and chose varieties in season
- Frozen varieties without added salt, sauce or sugar are a convenient alternative
- Include a variety of fruits and vegetables every day
- Increase high fiber foods- aim for 20-30 grams fiber/day
- Incorporate beans, lentils and legumes in your meals more often, reduce animal protein in main meals and replace with beans
- Choose whole grain breads and pasta
- Introduce more whole grains- oats, oat bran, barley, brown rice, quinoa, farro
- Avoid foods high in saturated fat
- This includes butter, high fat dairy foods, creamy salad dressing, coconut, palm oil, baked goods, fried foods, red meats, processed meats (sausage, hot dogs, bologna, salami, pepperoni)
- Keep saturated fat intake between 8-12 grams per day
- Use Unsaturated fats when you do include fat
- Olive oil, canola oil, avocado, nuts, olives, flaxseed, chia
- These foods are high in calories, be careful not to over-indulge
- Choose lean Protein- skinless chicken, fish, lean red meat (fat trimmed)
- Try meat alternatives made with soy protein
- Broil, bake or grill protein sources, deep fat frying of foods should be avoided
- A serving size is 3 ounces- the size of a deck of cards
- Choose fish 2-3 times per week
- Alert on the popular plant -based burgers – these may contain coconut and/or palm oils- check the ingredient list and nutrition label for fat content
- Reduce your intake of highly processed and high sugar foods
- Avoid frozen dinners, baked goods
- Use foods in their natural state more often than not
- Work to reduce Sodium intake
- Reduce your intake of processed foods and restaurant foods
- If you salt your foods work to reduce this added source of sodium
- Rinse canned vegetables/beans prior to using to help reduce the amount of sodium added in
- If you are carrying extra weight, make small changes to reduce your daily calorie intake. For example:
- Use milk in coffee in place of cream, less sugar added to coffee
- Less dressing on a salad
- Switch to low fat dairy products in place of whole fat products
- Skip dessert more often or if having a dessert take a smaller serving
- Eliminate a glass of fruit juice and replace with a serving of fresh fruit
- Have fewer alcoholic beverages
- Read nutrition labels to determine what is a portion and what exactly are you consuming for calories, fat, sodium and added sugar
- For added cholesterol lowering consider using:
- Plant Sterol and Plant Stanols known to reduce cholesterol and LDL by as much as 15% and 10% respectively. You need to consume 2000mg/day of these compounds to achieve these results. The average individual consumes approximately 500 mg sterols/stanols in their daily diet. Products available on the market include margarine (Benecol), gummies (Piper), supplements (Nature Made Cholest-off) to name a few.
This is an extensive list of suggested changes to make. Work on one section at a time. Make the change, stick with it and it will turn into a habit!
Also, I have found taking 15-20 minutes a week to plan meals saves a ton of time. It helps to develop your grocery list and to avoid impulse buying. Another benefit of this habit is it cuts down on trips to the grocery store during the week and may result in savings in your food budget. A little planning goes a long way!
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