We’re talking about LDL Cholesterol and how to tame that dragon because really, it’s gotten out of hand.
That piece of paper your Doctor is holding has your lab results, and it looks as if you’ve eaten your way to a seriously high level of Low-Density Lipoprotein.
Take heart, however. I can teach you about LDL Cholesterol and how to tame that dragon for good. After all, I know that if your diet gave you high cholesterol, it can lower it, too.
It’s pretty easy to eat your way to a seriously high level of LDL cholesterol level, but the opposite is also true.
Having Diabetes, being overweight and eating foods high in fats is a serious challenge to a body that depends on insulin, and to your heart.
Here’s the truth about LDL Cholesterol and how to tame that dragon.
Diabetes tends to lower the levels of HDL (High-Density Lipoproteins), the type that is good for you, while raising your triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood) and the levels of LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins).
That increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Studies show a link between insulin resistance (pre-diabetes), which is the predecessor to Type 2 Diabetes, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and peripheral vascular disease.
It’s a two-step solution:
1. In With The Good
Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways.
- Some foods contain soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol (and the fats that preceded it) in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation.
➡ Great for people working to lose weight and/or manage their diabetes.
- Some provide polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL.
- And some foods contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.
The “good-for-you” foods to add to your diet:
- Oats: An easy first step to improving your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal (like unsweetened Cheerios) for breakfast.
➡ It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add half a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram.
Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber. (The average American gets about half that amount.)
- Barley and other whole grains:
➡ Like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease and stabilize your blood sugar, mainly because of the soluble fiber they deliver.
➡ Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take awhile for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal.
That’s one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight.
➡ They’re high on the list of low glycemic foods which are the mainstay of a healthy diabetic diet.
There are so many to choose from:
➡ Navy and kidney beans
➡ Lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond — and there are tons of ways to prepare them. Beans are a very versatile food.
➡ Eggplant and okra: These two low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber.
➡ Multiple studies have shown that almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts are good for the heart and for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
➡ Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day can lower LDL, by about 5%. Plus, nuts have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways.
➡ Using liquid vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, and others in place of butter, lard, or shortening when cooking or at the table helps lower LDL.
➡ Apples, grapes, strawberries and citrus fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL cholesterol.
➡ Sterols and stanols, extracted from plants, gum up the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol from food.
➡ Companies are adding them to foods ranging from margarine and granola bars to orange juice and chocolate. They’re also available as supplements.
➡ Getting 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols a day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10%.
➡ Eating soybeans and foods made from them, like tofu and soy milk, was once touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol.
➡ Analyses show a more “modest” effect, but consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day (10 ounces of tofu or 2 1/2 cups of soy milk) can lower LDL by 5% to 6%.
- Fatty fish:
Eating fish two or three times a week can lower LDL in two ways:
➡ By replacing meat, you can avoid the dreaded saturated fats, famous for raising LDL levels and obesity. In addition, fish delivers Omega 3 fats, proven to lower LDL cholesterol.
➡ Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms.
- Fiber supplements:
Supplements are probably the “least appealing” way to get soluble fiber, but…
➡ Just two teaspoons a day of psyllium, which is found in Metamucil and other bulk-forming laxatives, provides about 4 grams of soluble fiber.
2. Out With The Bad
- Add foods that lower LDL, the harmful cholesterol.
- Cut back on foods that increase it.
If you miss this second step, you’ll be at a standstill, instead of making progress at a slow and steady pace.
➡ Harmful LDL climbs upward and the good, protective HDL falls, and the pounds pile on, largely because of diet and other lifestyle choices.
Genes play a role, too — some people are genetically programmed to respond more readily to what they eat — but genes aren’t something you can change.
Here are four things you can:
Typical sources of artery-clogging saturated fat include:
➡ Animal products, such as red meat, whole-fat dairy products, and eggs, plus a few vegetable oils, such as palm oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter.
Saturated fat can increase your levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
In the interest of fairness, however, it does have some benefits also: It lowers triglycerides and raises the levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
➡ However, saturated fats are a hotly debated issue right now, and my personal recommendation would be that you cut out as many of them as possible from your diet.
- Trans fats are a byproduct of the chemical reaction that turns liquid vegetable oil into solid margarine or shortening preventing them from turning rancid.
These fats have no nutritional value — and we know for certain they cause weight gain and are bad for heart health.
- Trans fats raise the level of LDL cholesterol (the bad guy) and triglycerides while reducing levels of HDL cholesterol (the good guy).
The FDA (Food And Drug Administration) has banned trans fats from the U.S. food supply. The phasing-out process is expected to take three years.
The encouraging news is that many major food suppliers and restaurants have already substituted healthier fats for trans fats.
Weight and exercise: There’s no way to get around this part…
➡ Excess weight raises the level of harmful LDL cholesterol, and inactivity lowers the level of the protective cholesterol, HDL.
Losing weight if needed, and exercising more reverses these trends.
Putting it all together
You know, when it comes to investing money, experts recommend creating a portfolio of diverse investments instead of putting all your eggs in one basket.
The same holds true for eating your way to lower cholesterol and good diabetes management.
➡ Adding several or all of the eleven foods that will lower your cholesterol in different ways works better than focusing on just one or two.
➡ A largely vegetarian “dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods” substantially lowers LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
The key dietary components are plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of highly refined ones, and protein mostly from plants.
➡ Add margarine enriched with plant sterols; oats, barley, psyllium, okra, and eggplant (all rich in soluble fiber), soy protein and whole almonds to your menu.
Of course, shifting to a cholesterol-lowering diet takes more time and attention than popping a daily Statin medication. It means expanding the variety of foods you usually put in your shopping cart and getting used to new textures and flavors.
But it’s a “natural” way to lower cholesterol, and it avoids the risk of muscle problems and other side effects that plague some people who take statins.
Just as important, a diet that is heavy on fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts is good for the body in ways beyond lowering cholesterol.
- It keeps blood pressure in check
- It helps arteries stay flexible and responsive
- It’s good for bones and digestive health
- It’s good for vision and mental health
And every one of the things listed above can prevent diabetes-related complications and keep your blood sugar stable.
If you really want to manage your Type 2 Diabetes, stay informed about LDL Cholesterol And How To Tame That Dragon
Changing your menu to include these eleven foods will lower the amount of trouble-making fats floating through your bloodstream.
Simple addition and subtraction, really…So, do the math. Take care of your heart, please.