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Fat is an essential nutrient needed to help our bodies function properly. The key is to maintain a level of fat intake that our body needs without going overboard. It is important to remember that there is a difference between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Saturated and trans fats are linked to elevated LDL, or bad, cholesterol and lower HDL, or good, cholesterol.
Saturated fat is usually solid at room temperature; major food sources include meat such as beef, lamb, pork, chicken skin, and hot dogs, dairy fats from whole milk, hard cheese, ice cream, butter and sour cream and oils such as coconut oil, chocolate, and palm oil.
To lower your low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C), try to follow a diet that is low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars and salt. You don’t have to eliminate these foods from your diet entirely, just have a little less of them. Make reading food labels a habit. You’d be surprised by what’s in some of the food you eat! Here are a few tips:
- Limit foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet. Instead, try olive oil. If you can keep your saturated fats to a minimum (about seven percent of your diet), studies have shown you can decrease LDL-C by as much as 10 percent.
- Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol like whole milk, shellfish, or “organ” meats, like liver. Replace them with skim milk and salmon. Some studies show this may lower your LDL-C by five percent.
- Cut back on added sugars, like sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Try natural sugars like those found in fruits.
- Finally, you should try to eat less than 2,300 mg (just over one teaspoon) of salt or sodium per day. People with high blood pressure should have less than 1,500 mg per day.
If you have high cholesterol, it is best to eat a reduced fat diet. Dietary fat should be limited to 25-30% of daily caloric intake. It is especially important to reduce saturated fat from red meat and high fat dairy products (butter, cheese, milk) to less than 10%. Also, so called "trans fats"or "partially hydrogenated" oils present in many packaged snack foods, bakery products,margarines and fried foods are particularly likely to lead to problems with high cholesterol. These trans fats not only raise LDL cholesterol they actually lower HDL cholesterol and further increase the risk of heart disease. You need to specifically read food labels for "trans fats" or"partially hydrogenated" oils to avoid them. It is best to avoid using oils for cooking other than cold-pressed virgin olive oil or sesame oil.
Many people think that eggs should be avoided to lower cholesterol. Eggs are an excellent protein source so rather than avoid eggs altogether, limit them to 5-7/week. Use organic eggs from free-range chickens. The cholesterol in the yolk is far more dangerous if it is oxidized which occurs when the yolk is broken. So either poached or hard-boiled eggs are best or use egg whites only.
Also, remember that high triglycerides are associated with obesity and heart disease. Diets high in refined carbohydrates (bakery products, foods rich in sugar or high fructose corn syrup) and sweetened drinks (sodas) will raise triglycerides and should be eaten sparingly if at all.
Many fried foods and commercial baked goods contain cholesterol-raising trans fats that are main culprits of high cholesterol. It is important to cut back on the cholesterol and total fat, especially saturated and trans fats.
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