High cholesterol levels are common, but simple diet changes can often improve your health. At Encino Park Family Health & Wellness Clinic in San Antonio, Texas, John Leal, DNP, and aesthetician and registered nurse Tori Leal, BNP, are dedicated to helping you lead a healthy and balanced life.
Here are some of our favorite cholesterol-lowering diet hacks that can significantly improve your heart health and overall well-being:
1. Embrace the power of fiber
Fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts can help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) levels while promoting good cholesterol (HDL).
You can increase your fiber consumption by replacing refined grains with whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats, and snack on fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
2. Choose heart-healthy fats
Not all fats are created equal! Some fats are considered healthier for the heart than others, so replace unhealthy saturated and trans fats with heart-healthy unsaturated fats to lessen LDL cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of heart disease.
That means cutting down on processed foods and red meat, and perhaps adding avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Remember, moderation is key, as fats are calorie-dense, so be mindful of portion sizes.
3. Increase consumption of fatty fish
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and trout, are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to improve heart health by lowering triglycerides and reducing inflammation.
You should aim to include two servings of fish per week to reap the benefits of these heart-friendly nutrients.
4. Indulge in dark chocolate
Yes, you read that right: Dark chocolate can be part of a cholesterol-lowering diet! Dark chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonoids that may enhance heart health by improving blood flow and reducing LDL cholesterol oxidation.
Look for chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content, and enjoy it in moderation as an occasional treat.
5. Add some spice
Add flavor to your dishes with cholesterol-reducing spices like turmeric, cinnamon, and garlic. Turmeric's active compound, curcumin, has been linked to lower cholesterol levels and reduced inflammation, while garlic may help lower LDL cholesterol. Cinnamon is also known for its heart-healthy properties, such as reducing triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
6. Incorporate plant sterols and stanols
Plant sterols and stanols are natural compounds found in plants that can help block cholesterol absorption. They’re often added to fortified foods like margarine and orange juice. Consuming 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols per day can lower LDL cholesterol levels by up to 10%.
7. Avoid added sugars and salt
Excessive sugar and salt can contribute to high cholesterol levels and heart disease. Limit your sugary beverages, processed snacks, and foods that are high in sodium. Instead, satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruits and reduce salt intake by flavoring your meals with herbs and spices.
Take control of your heart health in part through these cholesterol-lowering diet hacks. Simple adjustments to your eating habits can improve your cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, and enhance your overall well-being.
If you have any specific health concerns or questions, call Encino Park Family Health & Wellness Clinic or request an appointment online.