A low cholesterol diet plan is designed to reduce your body cholesterol and fat levels to levels that are recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP). Since studies have directly linked a high intake of carbohydrates to low HDL (good cholesterol), weight gain, and high triglycerides, a key part of a successful low cholesterol diet includes consuming the right kinds and amounts of carbohydrates.
How Cholesterol Impacts the Body
Your liver makes just about all of the cholesterol your body will need, with the help of the saturated fats and other foods you eat each day.
In addtion, all of the animals we use as sources of food also make their own cholesterol, so we get some additional cholesterol from eating animal products like whole milk products, egg yolks, red meats, and organ meats. The additional cholesterol is absorbed through your intestines and added to what your liver already makes.
So if your diet is high in saturated fat, you probably will produce more cholesterol than you need (and more than is healthy). Reducing dietary cholesterol and fats will help you keep blood cholesterol levels within a healthy range, preventing heart disease, stroke, and obesity.
Why to Choose Healthy Carb Options
Carbohydrates provide healthy, essential nutrients and fiber to our diets. However, many of us eat more carbohydrates than is recommended, and we don’t always choose the healthy ones. Since the NCEP recommends that you don’t eat more than 60% of your daily calories in carbohydrates (that includes fruits), it’s important that you make healthy, low-cholesterol choices.
Avoid refined, processed grains (white bread, pastries, muffins and crackers). Look for whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals. Choose whole fruits high in vitamins and minerals, instead of fruit juices that are loaded with sugars and missing important fiber.
How to Select Whole Grain and Low Cholesterol Carbs
The following tips will help you make healthy carb decisions:
- Replace your regular pasta with whole wheat choices that are higher in nutritional value and fiber, especially soluble fiber that helps lower your cholesterol.
- Avoid adding high-fat butters, creams, and margarine spreads that will add saturated fat and calories to your carbohydrates. Opt for healthier seasonings and herbs instead, to give your food the flavor you crave.
- Replace your white sandwich bread, hamburger buns, and hot dog buns with a whole grain choice that’s high in fiber and can lower cholesterol.
- Look for additional healthy carb options like whole grain rice, legumes, and couscous to add to your diet. They are low in fat, high in fiber, and full of nutrients.
- Cut out high sugar fruit juices and replace with a rainbow of fruits that will give you a wide variety of the nutrients your body needs.
Choosing Low Cholesterol Fats
Saturated fat is especially bad for the circulatory system since it raises blood cholesterol levels that can contribute to heart attack or stroke. However, that doesn’t mean that your body receives no benefits from healthy fats. Unsaturated fats, including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, are less likely to raise blood cholesterol levels. In fact, studies show that monounsaturated fats (peanut, olive, and canola oils) may even help to lower blood cholesterol.