Time for a Heart Healthy Change
Maybe your doctor told you it’s time to start lowering cholesterol. Or maybe you have a family history of heart disease. No matter what your motivation is, eating in a way that helps keep your cholesterol levels healthy is a great way to feel good—and can be surprisingly delicious. Here are a few hints to get you started.
Eat Smart When Eating Out
Many restaurants offer tasty options that are low in saturated fat and trans fat. Diets high in saturated or trans fat raise blood cholesterol, so you want to avoid it whenever possible. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to maintain a heart healthy diet, including:
- Asking the waiter at restaurants for special requests, like less salt and lower-fat ingredients.
- Choosing food that’s been steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted. Avoid food that’s fried, au gratin, crispy escalloped, pan-fried, sautéed, or stuffed because it is likely to have more fat and calories.
- Steering clear of high-sodium foods and sauces. Some things to avoid are soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, pickled foods, creamy soups and sauces, smoked foods, and anything au jus.
- Requesting that gravy, sauces, and dressings are served on the side. This way you can decide how much of them you’d like to eat—or skip them altogether.
- Passing on dessert like ice cream or high-fat pastries, and ask if they have fruit or sherbet instead.
- Ordering smaller portions; share meals with a friend, family member, or partner; and take some of your meal home so you can enjoy it later. 1G
The Right Fat and the Right Amount
Not all fats are the same. Some are helpful while others may be harmful to your health. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you:
- Avoid trans fat
- Limit saturated fat to less than 10% of daily calories
- Replace saturated fat with healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
But eating like this can seem complicated. How do you know you’re doing it correctly? Here are some tips to help you get going:
- Use oil instead of solid fats. For example, swap out butter with olive oil, and use canola oil when baking.
- Get your healthy omega-3 fatty acids with fish like salmon and mackerel.
- Go for lean meat and skinless poultry. You can even trim the visible fat from them, or remove the skin when possible.
- Snack smart by skipping processed snack foods, which are often high in solid fats, and grab a healthy fruit or veggie instead.
If you want to get more specific about how much of each type of nutrient you should eat throughout the day for a heart healthy diet, the diet component of the CDC's Therapeutic Lifestyle Change ("TLC") is designed to maximize LDL reduction and [help] reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, suggesting:
|Total fat ||25-35% of total calories|
|Saturated fat||Less than 7% total calories|
|Polyunsaturated fat||Up to 10% of total calories|
|Monounsaturated fat||Up to 20% of total calories|
|Trans fat||Lower intake|
|Carbohydrate||50-60% of total calories|
|Dietary fiber||20-30 grams per day|
|Protein||15-25% of total calories|
|Cholesterol||Less than 200 mg/day|
|Sodium ||Less than 2,300 mg/day|
Speaking of fiber, there are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both have heart-health benefits, but soluble fiber also helps lower cholesterol.† You can add soluble fiber to your diet by eating oats and oat bran, fruits, beans, lentils, vegetables, and taking proven high-quality supplements such as Meta Daily Heart Health.
Know What the Label Is Really Saying
Food labels can be confusing. We all know the definition of words like “light”, “reduced”, and “less”, but do we know what they mean when they’re on a package? Some terms are used interchangeably, for example, “little,” “few,” and “low source of” are used to mean “low.”
The more you know what these terms officially mean on food packaging, the better prepared you are to make heart healthy diet decisions in the supermarket. Here is a translation of some common terms:
- Can be seen as “fat-free”, “sugar-free”, or “calorie-free”. It means the product does not have any of that nutrient, or so little of it that it is not likely to make any difference to the body.
- Can be seen as “low-fat”, “low-sodium”, “low-cholesterol”, or “low-calorie”. It means you can eat this food often and you still won’t get the recommended amount of that nutrient.
- Can be seen as “lean beef” or “extra-lean beef”. Lean means less than 10 grams (g) of total fat; less than 4.5 g of saturated fat; and less than 95 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per serving. Extra-lean means less than 5 g of total fat; less than 2 g of saturated fat, and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per serving.
- Can be seen as “reduced fat”, “reduced calorie”, or “reduced sodium”. It means the food has been altered to take out at least 25% of a certain component, like fat, salt, or calories.
- Can be seen as “less sodium”, or “less fat”. It means that a food, whether altered or not, has 25% or less of a nutrient or calories than another food, like the “regular” version of the same food, or a similar type of food.
- Light or lite
- Can be seen as “light or lite cream cheese” for example. It means lower calories, fat or sodium.
- If less than half the calories are from fat, it can mean the food has been changed so it contains either one-third fewer calories or no more than half the fat of the regular version of this food.
- If more than half the calories come from fat, then the food must have half the fat of the regular version to use “light”.
- The term “light” can be used when the salt content of a low-calorie, low-fat food has been reduced by half.
Toward a Heart Healthy Future
The more you know, the better equipped you are to follow a low cholesterol diet and support a heart-healthy lifestyle. Lowering cholesterol may take some extra work and vigilance, but when you get those great results from your doctor, it will have been well worth it!