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17 Aug 2016
High blood cholesterol affects one in three Australians and is considered a significant risk factor for heart disease which is the largest cause of death in Australia. When thinking about cholesterol lowering diets, many people often consider a low fat diet as the only dietary approach to lowering their cholesterol. But did you know that there are many things you can ADD to your diet to help lower your cholesterol and protect your heart, including several types of healthy fats.
Bump up the fibre:
Think of dietary fibre like the ‘bottle brush’ for your digestive system. Dietary fibre binds to cholesterol in your digestive system and reduces its absorption back into the blood stream, resulting in lower blood cholesterol levels, which is good for your heart. It’s best to get your dietary fibre from real foods rather than supplements, and in parts of the world where fibre intake is very high, there is a very low rate of heart disease. The simplest way to boost your daily fibre intake is to eat more plant based foods. Try to make at least 50% of your meal based on vegetables and legumes and leave the skins on your fruit and veg whenever possible. Opt for wholegrain rather than white or processed products such as wholegrain bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta.
Learn to love Legumes:
You’ve probably walked past the canned and dried legumes in the grocery isle a thousand times and never thought twice about them. However legumes and lentils really are the unsung super foods that not too many people are familiar with. Legumes such as chickpeas, borlotti beans, red kidney beans and lentils make an excellent meat substitute in many dishes and have incredible health benefits. Not only do these little nutrient power houses support your good gastro intestinal bacteria, but they also have a cholesterol lowering effect. Aim to include legumes in your diet at least 2-3 times per week. This can be incorporated by adding into curries, stir fries and salads or by mixing with spices and tomatoes for a great breakfast option.
Forget about fat free, but concentrate on healthy oils:
No - this statement isn’t a license for you to start featuring croissants butter and bacon regularly in your diet. This is about making sure that you include heart protective healthy fats whilst minimising the high risk ones. The trick here is to minimise saturated fats which raise your ‘bad’ cholesterol, whilst regularly including healthy oils which can lower your ‘bad’ cholesterol. Foods to avoid or limit include butter and cream or any foods made with these ingredients including cakes, pastries, biscuits and sauces. Go easy on fatty cuts of meat and really try to limit your processed meats such as bacon, ham, and other cold cuts including salami. Instead, make sure your diet contains protective fats from nuts, seeds, avocado and oily fish. Swap your fat free salad dressing for some good quality extra virgin olive oil and pair it with a little vinegar or lemon juice. The powerful antioxidants in good quality extra virgin olive oil are not found in many other oils and have been shown to lower cholesterol levels.