12 Easy Eating Habit Changes to Reduce Your Cholesterol and Risk of Heart Disease
Did you know that coronary heart disease is the leading cause of premature death in the United States? And what might be even more shocking for you to learn is that the problem is mostly self-inflicted. Fortunately, by making some simple changes to your eating habits, you can cut your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
What is Cholesterol and Why Does It Matter to Your Heart?
Your body needs cholesterol to make cell walls, vitamin D, some hormones, and bile, which helps your body digest fat. Cholesterol also gives structure to protective nerve fiber coverings. It’s a fatty substance that serves an important purpose when it occurs naturally in your body. However, if it’s too high (specifically, if bad LDL cholesterol is too high), the arteries leading to your heart can become clogged with fatty deposits of cholesterol called plaque, and the blockage can lead to a heart attack.
According to the CDC, more than 102 million American adults (age 20 and older) have total cholesterol levels which exceed what is considered to be a healthy level (200 mg/dL), and more than 35 million have dangerously high cholesterol levels (240 mg/dL or higher). Since a cholesterol problem has no symptoms, many people are unaware that their elevated cholesterol levels put them at a higher risk for heart disease and heart attacks.
The first step to keep yourself healthy is to have your cholesterol checked as often as your doctor recommends. The American Heart Association says adults above the age of 20 should have their cholesterol checked via a lipoprotein profile blood test every four to six years, but depending on your health, risk factors, and family history, your doctor might want your cholesterol to be checked more often.
12 Simple Eating Habit Changes You Can Use Now to Reduce Your Risk
Depending on your situation, your doctor may prescribe medication to help reduce and control your cholesterol in addition to recommending that you make critical lifestyle changes to reduce your cholesterol. If your cholesterol level isn’t at a dangerous level yet, your doctor may not prescribe medication but will likely advise that you make those lifestyle changes.
One of the most important lifestyle changes you can make is eating healthier. To help you get started, here are 12 easy changes that you can make to your eating habits right now that can make a significant difference in the amount of unhealthy fats you consume and your cholesterol level.
1. Dairy Change
Substitute skim or 1/2% milk for 2% milk or whole milk.
2. Meat and Egg Consumption Change
Eat less meat and fewer eggs. Follow this rule of thumb – eat no more than three to five ounces of meat per serving and no more than five to seven servings per week. Also, eat no more than three egg yolks per week. Of course, if your doctor advises you differently, always follow your doctor’s recommendations.
3. Egg Change
Substitute two whole eggs in recipes with one egg yolk and two egg whites.
4. Meat Pre-Cooking Change
Always trim all visible fat from meat before you cook it, and remove skin from poultry.
5. Meat Cooking Change
Don’t fry your meat, fish, and poultry. Instead, bake, broil, or roast it.
6. Soup Change
Before you eat soup made from meat or poultry, chill it and skim the fat off prior to reheating and serving it.
7. Cooking Change
Rather than sautéing foods like fish or eggs, poach them. Here’s my delicious recipe for poached pears and cloves.
8. Vegetable Change
Deep fried vegetables and vegetables that are drenched in lots of butter are delicious, but they’re not good for your cholesterol level. Instead, bake, stir-fry, or steam your vegetables.
9. Salad Change
Read the labels on your salad dressing and limit how much oil-based or creamy dressings you use. Instead, try oil-free salad dressing, flavored vinegar, or lemon juice.
10. Shortening and Butter Change
Substitute solid shortening with liquid vegetable oil, and replace butter with oil, soft margarine, or spreads made with plant sterols and stanols, which help your body block cholesterol.
11. Oil Reduction Change
Make an effort to use less oil when cooking, and when you do use it, reduce the amount of oil you need by using a vegetable cooking spray and/or pans with a nonstick surface.
12. Oil Substitution Change
When you need to use an oil in a recipe, choose olive oil or canola oil. Both are monounsaturated oils, and research shows they may protect against heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) without lowering good cholesterol (HDL).