LloydsPharmacy Pharmacist and Heart Health expert recommends a healthy diet to help achieve healthy cholesterol levels:
- Cut down on saturated fat. It’s important to know that the cholesterol we get from food (found in prawns, eggs, liver and kidneys) has very little influence on cholesterol levels in the blood. In fact, it’s eating too much saturated fat that has a much bigger impact. Saturated fat which is found in fatty meats and meat products such as sausages and pies, high fat dairy foods like cheese, cream, butter, cakes, biscuits and pastries. Even worse are trans fats (in hydrogenated vegetable oils) which are usually found in biscuits, cakes, fast food and pastries. Choose poly and monounsaturated oils for cooking such as olive, rapeseed and sunflower, and snack on nuts seeds and avocados instead of biscuits and chocolate.
- Increase fruit and veg portions. At least five a day (400g) of a mixture of different coloured fruits and vegetables. A high intake of fruit and veg has been associated with a lower incidence of heart disease, elevated cholesterol levels, blood pressure and obesity. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, rich in soluble fibre, antioxidants and potassium which actively lower blood pressure – another risk factor for heart disease.
- Oily fish at least once a week. Oil-rich fish, such as salmon, trout, fresh tuna, sardines, herring and mackerel, are the best dietary source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. They lower blood pressure, reduce clotting tendency and lower triglycerides. Aim for at least one 140g portion a week.
- Go nuts. Nuts are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, soluble fibre and plant sterols. They’re a good source of nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin E and potassium, which helps to blunt the effects of salt on blood pressure. Including just a small handful (around 30g) of nuts in your daily diet can help to reduce both total and LDL cholesterol.
- Reduce alcohol. Alcohol may raise HDL ‘good cholesterol’ levels in those who drink moderately but remember that alcohol is full of empty calories. Alcohol is also a common contributor to weight gain, one of the biggest risk factors for high total and LDL cholesterol. It is best to stick within the Department of Health guidelines of no more than two to three units of alcohol a day for women and three to four for men with at least two alcohol-free days a week.