Foods to lower your cholesterol

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 Permalink

HeartActive is a delicious, 99% fat free milk enriched with plant sterols, which are proven to help reduce cholesterol. Research shows that consuming plant sterols everyday in milk can reduce cholesterol by an average of 10% in three weeks. HeartActive is currently available in a 1L carton with an extended shelf life (45 days from production) compared to regular white milks with a shelf life of 14 days.

You may recall that last month I decided to start researching foods to lower my cholesterol. My cholesterol isn’t incredibly high, but it’s on the high side AND I have a range of heart attack / stroke risk factors. So, I decided to do the grown-up thing and make some changes (I am a 25 year old woman after all. Okay, okay… so I may in fact be 45!).

After extensive research (googling sites such as: The Heart Foundation, Harvard Health publications, the Oz Government’s Health Department and a myriad of media articles) I am now armed with quite a bit of information and *ahem* knowledge.

It seems pretty universally agreed, for example, that high cholesterol foods include:

  • Egg yolks
  • Caviar, liver / pate and processed meats
  • Cheese
  • Oil-packed fish and shellfish
  • Butter
  • Fast food.

It’s an interesting list. And fortunately for me (and something you may recall from my recent food foibles post) I don’t actually eat seafood or shellfish; cheese and pate only appear on my menu when I’m entertaining; and I’m not a big lover of butter (or margarine).

Which leaves eggs and fast food (or fatty food) as my ‘problem’ foods. The latter, of course, is a no-brainer and fast/fatty food is problematic for many reasons and something I’ve long been attempting to address.

Interestingly, I was allergic to eggs as a kid and didn’t start eating them until I was in my mid-late 20s. And now… I eat AT LEAST ONE every day for breakfast.

In fact, when I’ve ‘dieted’ in recent times I’ve often increased my egg consumption sometimes having up to three a day as scrambled eggs is something I view as a ‘healthy’ lunch or dinner.

Apparently however, a single egg yolk can provide 70% of your daily cholesterol requirement.

Umm…. #eek!

So… to balance the scale I had to harness my investigative research abilities to identify what I need to be including in a low cholesterol diet.

Although I’m now far from an expert, it seems that reducing your cholesterol is pretty straight forward and seems to really be about making sensible decisions.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends a variety of foods every day including:

  • Plenty of vegetables, fruits and legumes
  • Plenty of grain based foods, preferably wholegrain
  • Moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry and fish
  • Reduced or low fat milk, yoghurt and cheese
  • Moderate amounts of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils and fats
  • Plenty of water.

AGHE-20132

Of course there are a few ‘wonder’ foods recommended and fortunately some (legumes, onion and garlic) are foods I love!

Very specifically however, in addition to high fibre food, nuts and good oils, foods with added plant sterols help lower cholesterol.

Apparently, sterols are substances found in plants which assist in blocking the absorption of cholesterol. And… fortunately for us, plant sterol-fortified foods are becoming increasingly available.

IMG_0728-229x300So… I’ve already started making some changes to my ‘diet’ in order to lower my cholesterol. I was already using olive oil and I try to eat high fibre food when possible. I’m eating fish more often (indeed, twice in the last week) and I have some roasted almonds for snacking purposes.

I’ve just made the switch from butter and…  as winter is now upon us and I LOVE a warm milk drink before bed (diet hot chocolate is my usual tipple) I’m using Dairy Farmers HeartActive for my nightly comfort drink. (Of course I’m also using it when making sauces and so forth… but it’s my pre-bed cup each night that I’m counting on to be of benefit).

As for the oft-discussed eggs, most experts seem to suggest that (up to) six a week is okay as long as your cholesterol isn’t problematic. My take-away from this (and no, I’m not talking the hot chips or Chinese kind) is that I need to mix my breakfasts up a bit more and refrain from starting every single day with an egg.

How does your diet fare against the healthy eating guide?
Do you make the switch to use foods with added plant sterols where possible?
Any breakfast suggestions for a non fruit-eating coeliac?

Sponsored Series by Nuffnang Australia

HeartActive is a delicious, 99% fat free milk enriched with plant sterols, which are proven to help reduce cholesterol. Research shows that consuming plant sterols everyday in milk can reduce cholesterol by an average of 10% in three weeks. HeartActive is currently available in a 1L carton with an extended shelf life (45 days from production) compared to regular white milks with a shelf life of 14 days.

* I’m linking up with Essentially Jess and her IBOT team today.

23 Comments
  • Char
    June 11, 2013

    Eggs are probably the worst offenders on my list (although butter does have a big role in my baking but surely just checking for flavour doesn’t count?). I have them for breakfast when I eat out and that’s three times a week. But when I’m eating at home I opt for cereal with yoghurt. Oat-based cereals are good for cholesterol levels and the low fat yoghurt is there to increase protein levels and keep me fuller for longer.

    • Debbish
      June 11, 2013

      I actually had a bit in the post Char about breakfast options, but might pursue that one next month. As I’m coeliac I can’t eat oats (something much-debated in coeliac world… “Oats: GF or not?!”)

      Although I did also have cereal and yoghurt today!!!

  • iSophie
    June 11, 2013

    Interesting stuff here. I am glad I do not eat much on that bad list, eggs occasionally but certainly not even 6 a week. We use butter though.. hmm… food for thought. I use butter because I hate the plasticness of marg. #teamIBOT

    • Debbish
      June 11, 2013

      Hi Soph and thanks for dropping by. Fortunately I’ve never liked butter or margarine. I only have it now on the GF bread rolls I buy from a local bakery and that’s because they’re a bit dry without ‘something’. In fact (to me) butter and margarine taste the same… so it was easy for me to switch but I know there are others who disagree! (And who would consider me blasphemous for even thinking that!) 😉

      Deb

  • Mandy
    June 11, 2013

    I’m so glad I stumbled across this post. It’s my first time visiting here, but just two weeks ago I found out one of the reasons for my feeling blah is high cholesterol, I’m taking 6.5. So I definitely have some work to do.
    I too have eaten loads of eggs over the last year. Probably ridiculous amounts. Anyway, try when you’re having eggs only having one yolk and having 3 whites. I find I can’t handle just egg white but one yolk does the trick flavour wise.
    This was an informative post to read. I think take out has been my weakness but I’m trying really hard now. I’ve got 8 weeks to bring it down before retesting.

    • Debbish
      June 12, 2013

      Hi Mandy and thanks for dropping by. Fortunately I rarely have more than one egg in a sitting – it’s generally my breakfast that’s the problem (and I have a microwaved midrasher of bacon and egg almost every day!!!). I was at a ‘fat camp’ a few years ago when I discovered that containers of egg white existed and love the idea of not having to do the separating yourself!

      And re the take-out, I definitely know where you’re coming from. My only saving grace is that since my coeliac diagnosis I can’t eat many of my old favourites (KFC, hot chips, Chinese, Thai etc)!

      Deb

  • Jess
    June 11, 2013

    I eat everything on that list, but nothing excessively. Interesting about the plant sterols. Your hot chocolate before bed sounds so good!

    • Debbish
      June 12, 2013

      Re the plant sterols… I like that you can eat something that actually works away in the background without you having to do anything!

      And yes… there’s nothing like a hot chocolate before bed. I make it entirely on milk. I don’t eat a lot of calcium (milk in sauces, sour cream, v.rarely cheese) so the nightly drink is probably a good thing!

  • Emily @ Have a laugh on me
    June 11, 2013

    I have just printed this off and am going to put on my fridge so my kids can learn from it! Great post!

    • Debbish
      June 12, 2013

      Thanks Emily – glad it can be of use!

      Deb

  • Thehungryma
    June 12, 2013

    I don’t have a lot of eggs a week. Maybe one or two tops but there are also a lot of hidden eggs in the food we eat. My SIL is a vegan so when shopping for her I had to check the ingredients. Very hard to find something not made with eggs.

    • Debbish
      June 12, 2013

      Oh… I can imagine. I’m sure they’re in things you really wouldn’t expect. I’m coeliac so used to reading labels but a friend’s son can’t eat milk solids and I’m often surprised where I find them!

      Deb

  • EssentiallyJess
    June 12, 2013

    I remember watching a documentary a few years ago, about how eggs actually have good cholesterol, that can help your body fight the bad cholesterol. Might be worth googling?

    • Debbish
      June 13, 2013

      I hadn’t heard that Jess, about the good cholesterol in eggs. Mostly the stuff I’ve read have listed them as v.high in cholesterol but noted they’re okay in moderation. (Guess one can say that about everything can’t one!)

      Deb

  • Neen
    June 16, 2013

    So many diets, so much info. I find it all so confusing. Sometimes things are good to eat, then someone else crops up and says they’re bad. I guess if this is government guidelines though it’s probably based on actual evidence!

    • Debbish
      June 17, 2013

      Yes… the newly released guidelines are fairly straight forward and I guess the basics haven’t changed a lot. It’s more the PTs and celebs etc promoting the no-sugar, paleo, no-carbs etc…

  • Tamra Holcomb
    June 21, 2013

    Even if you eat no cholesterol at all (say if you were a vegan), your body still produces its own cholesterol – known as endogenous cholesterol – for use in many bodily functions. Endogenous cholesterol enters the digestive tract via bile and would normally be reabsorbed and then transported to the liver where it could be recycled. Once you start eating sterols, they reduce the absorption of all cholesterol in the digestive tract, which will include that from bile. This means that in addition to a low cholesterol diet, plant sterols have the potential to reduce your cholesterol further, by limiting the absorption of your body’s own cholesterol.

    • Debbish
      June 23, 2013

      Oh, that’s good to hear Tamra as I’ve started using products with plant sterols!

      Deb

  • Don I. Peterson
    June 25, 2013

    The most effective way to reduce cholesterol levels is to eat less saturated fat which means avoiding butter, pastries, pies, full-fat dairy foods, fatty meat, salamis, sausages, and chicken skin. Including plant sterols in your diet may help reduce it even further when added to a low-saturated fat diet. Plant sterols are naturally found in foods rich in vegetable oil such as nuts and seeds, and vegetable oils. The more plant foods you eat, the more plant sterols you get. Plant sterols compete with cholesterol in the gut and reduce its absorption so when using a plant sterol spread it’s best to include it in a couple of meals each day.

  • men lose weight fast
    June 25, 2013

    Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I loved this blog post.

    It was funny. Keep on posting!

  • Shirley Q. Sawyer
    June 25, 2013

    A plant-based diet may provide up to 600 mg of phytosterols daily. Consider incorporating functional foods into your diet that have added phytosterols to help lower both total cholesterol and LDL (the bad cholesterol). Clinical evidence has demonstrated that taking up to 2 gm of phytosterols daily can inhibit the intestinal absorption of cholesterol, thus decreasing LDL by 8-15%. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the following claim: Foods containing at least .4 grams per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least .8 gram, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

  • Wilfred Mccoy
    July 8, 2013

    The trick is to get enough of them so they can get to work to block cholesterol absorption which in turn lowers the ‘bad’, LDL-cholesterol. Research shows that sterol enriched foods can lower cholesterol by an average of 10 per cent. Good news – it also works in conjunction with most cholesterol-lowering medication . Just saying. But it’s always best to speak to your GP about how to incorporate plant sterols into your cholesterol management plan. Read my explanation of plant sterols here .

  • Yolanda Cline
    July 9, 2013

    Modified Milk can be protein or calcium enriched, iron fortified, low in lactose or contain plant sterols which lower cholesterol. Modified milk is made to specially cater for certain dietary requirements. Modified milks specifies who it is targeted to and explains the benefits on its packaging. Modified milk with extra calcium is great for menopausal women, elderly people and those who need extra calcium, especially those at risk of developing osteoporosis.

I'd love to hear your thoughts