• Use olive, canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean or corn oil.
• Avoid palm and coconut oil.
• Use egg whites or egg substitutes.
• Use non-fat or low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt.
• Avoid fatty desserts.
• Limit fried foods.
• Eat more fiber.
Since eating a fatty, high-calorie meal would not be a good way to observe National Cholesterol Education Month, Gloria Siefkes has a better suggestion — check out the website ChooseMyPlate.gov. Siefkes is a registered nurse and diabetes educator at St. Rose Ambulatory & Surgery Center.
"I have reviewed a lot of online sites about cholesterol and other nutrition-related topics, and this is one of the best," Siefkes said. "It is written in layman’s terms, and has good links and fun videos. All of us could benefit from this good information."
The food pyramid of the past is now a plate with five sections – fruits, vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates and dairy. The choosemyplate.gov website explains how real dinner plates should look.
Since September is the nationally recognized month to spread awareness about cholesterol, Siefkes is using the opportunity to share information with anyone who wants to learn more.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in many animal products and everyone needs a small amount of it to make hormones and build cells.
"However," Siefkes commented, "if you have too much cholesterol, fat deposits called ‘plaque’ form inside arteries, causing their walls to thicken. This makes it harder for blood to flow, which increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke."
In addition, plaque can break off and cause a blockage. This means the blood cannot flow through the artery.
"We consume cholesterol by eating animal products such as meat, eggs and high-fat dairy products such as whole milk, cream and real butter," Siefkes explained. "So, cutting back on these foods will help lower cholesterol."
When physicians check cholesterol, they also may determine the amount of LDL or bad cholesterol, and HDL or good cholesterol. The level of the bad kind that is acceptable depends on risk factors for heart disease, and the good kind protects against heart problems.
Other cholesterol-lowering suggestions are exercising, losing excess weight and not smoking. For those who have a high risk of heart disease, a doctor may prescribe medicine in addition to the lifestyle changes, Siekfes added, noting family history is many times a factor.
While fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat and fish are recommended for a low-cholesterol diet, Siefkes understands that frozen meals and packaged foods are part of the average diet. But most of those packages contain basic information about how much cholesterol may be consumed each day.
For example, many nutrition labels note that those who eat about 2,000 calories a day should limit their cholesterol to fewer than 300 milligrams.
"Today’s food labels are clear and pretty easy to understand," Siefkes noted. "With the guidance of a doctor and/or nutritionist, each person can read these labels and learn what is best for their individual circumstances."