Diet and Nutrition Q&A by Betty Kovacs
It's great that you tried to change your diet to help lower your cholesterol. While cutting back on red meat can help, there are many other foods that you can cut back on or remove from your diet that will have an even greater impact on your cholesterol.
For anyone with high cholesterol, or more importantly a high LDL, the three things to limit are trans fats, saturated fats and cholesterol. Of these three the most important one to limit, or completely omit, is the trans fats. The sources of trans fats are: commercial baked goods (cake, cookies, crackers, donuts), vegetable shortening, fried foods, some margarines, and anything made with partially hydrogenated oil. The label will tell you if there are any grams of trans fat in the product, but the best thing to do is read the list of ingredients and look for any oil that is hydrogenated. The next thing to cut back on would be foods with high amounts of saturated fat. The sources of saturated fats are: whole milk, cheese, ice cream, butter, lard, meats, creams, palm, palm kernel and coconut oils. The final thing to limit is your intake of foods with cholesterol in them. Cholesterol is found only in animal products so if anything that you eat or drink that comes from something that walks, swims or flies will have cholesterol in it. This means that you find cholesterol in meats, fish, poultry, egg yolks, organ meats and dairy foods, not in chips and cookies. It's important to remember that the cholesterol in food is not the biggest problem for elevated blood cholesterol in humans. The trans fats and saturated fats have a greater impact on raising our blood cholesterol level than cholesterol from food does so be sure to read your food labels carefully to check for the trans and saturated fat.
The most well known nutrient that has been show to help lower blood cholesterol is soluble fiber. Foods that are high in soluble fiber are: oats, oatmeal, barley, beans, peas, barley, strawberries, apple pulp, rice bran and citrus fruits. You can also add walnuts and almonds to your diet to help lower your cholesterol but remember that they have a lot of calories in a small amount so be sure to set limits on how many you have. There is also some evidence that plant sterols and stanols are also able to assist with lowering cholesterol. You can find them in most grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and in foods that have had them added to them (cereals, orange juice, and margarines like Benecol). There are some people who may not be able to lower their cholesterol through diet and activity alone so it's important to work with your physician as you make the changes to your diet to determine if medication is necessary.
Thank you for your question.
Last Editorial Review: 12/28/2006