Starting at age 20, you should have your blood cholesterol levels tested at least once every five years. If your cholesterol levels are high, implementing a healthy eating plan may be the first line of defense to lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of complications. Tackling a new diet can be overwhelming, but small changes here and there will be highly beneficial to you and your family.
Eat Fiber-Rich Foods
Soluble fiber can help lower high cholesterol levels by removing some of the substance from your body. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol during digestion and carries it out of the body in your stool. You get soluble fiber by adding kidney beans, apples, oatmeal, oat bran, barley and prunes to your daily meal plan.
Include Fatty Acids
Two servings of fatty fish, like salmon, sardines or herring, per week can help lower your bad cholesterol levels and increase your good cholesterol levels. If you don't eat fish, you can get fatty acids from nuts which are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, a fatty acid that your body turns into omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts also contain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can help reduce blood cholesterol levels. Snack on a handful of nuts every day.
Opt for Olive Oil
Like nuts, olive oil is rich in unsaturated fats, but it also contains antioxidants that help lower bad cholesterol levels. MayoClinic.com notes that the cholesterol-lowering effects of olive oil are even higher when you choose extra-virgin olive oil, which is less processed and higher in antioxidant content. Swap out vegetable oil and canola oil for olive oil whenever possible. Instead of topping your salads with store-bought dressing, choose fresh olive oil and vinegar instead.
Avoid Bad Fats and Cholesterol
Saturated fats, trans fats and dietary cholesterol raise your LDL cholesterol levels. The higher your intake of these nutrients, the higher your blood cholesterol levels will be. Unfortunately, the convenience foods that tend to make life a little easier at times are the major contributors of these nutrients. Keep saturated fat intake at less than 10 percent of calories by avoiding red meats and full-fat dairy products. Keep trans fat intake at less than 1 percent of calories by avoiding processed foods, like cookies and crackers. Dietary cholesterol also increases blood cholesterol levels, although to a lesser extent than fats. Keep cholesterol intake below 200 milligrams per day by reducing your intake of red meat, full-fat dairy products and shellfish.
Lindsay Boyers has a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from Framingham State College and a certificate in holistic nutrition from the American College of Healthcare Sciences. She is also a licensed aesthetician with advanced training in skincare and makeup. She plans to continue on with her education, complete a master's degree program in nutrition and, ultimately, become a registered dietitian.