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cholesterol diet

I just found out I have astronomical cholesterol levels. You know your obese Uncle Tiny who's 6 feet tall and 400 pounds and eats nothing but McDonald's hamburgers? Yeah, my cholesterol is probably worse than his. My doctor said she had never seen it so high. Awesome.

Obviously this means I need to change my diet. I'm planning to cut out cheese in a major way (because cheese is a MAJOR component for me), but other than using less butter and whole milk when I cook I am not sure what to do. I really wasn't eating hardly any fried foods.

I'm also not sure what to look for on labels. Do I check the cholesterol of a product or the saturated fat? Or both? If so, how much saturated fat is too much?

Does anyone have any experience working on a low-cholesterol diet? I've researched this on the web, so I'm not looking for maxims like "eat less saturated fat"; I'm looking for specific recipes, strategies, menus, etc.

Any help is greatly appreciated!


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 19th, 2010 04:44 pm (UTC)
Do not use butter to cook...period. I never use butter for anything. Olive oil or Canola oil are best. Also, add fish oil pills to your diet. They really help with cholesterol. My dad has high cholesterol (genetic issues) and his meds weren't doing the trick so his doctor added fish oil...they have now been able to cut his cholesterol meds in half! You also want to start eating more fish - salmon especially.

One way that I love to make salmon - and I just kind of made this up so there are no real measurements:

I saute (in canola oil) an onion, pressed garlic and mushrooms. Saute until onions are translucent. Add salmon. I use either the frozen individually packed ones from Wal-mart or Sam's or the packages of salmon you get by the tuna at the store. Amount of salmon depends on if just Devin and I are eating it or if any of the girls want some. I then add capers and saute until the salmon is warmed through. While this is cooking I will boil some whole wheat pasta, usually penne. Put the penne in a bowl and add some pesto to coat the pasta, top with salmon mixture and feta cheese and enjoy!

It is soooo yummy!!
Nov. 19th, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC)
sounds awesome! you should make a post for that so I can tag it.

I will add fish oil - that sounds doable. I used to try to take it when I was pregnant but hated burping fish all day - lol.

A LOT of my problem is genetic. But I know my recent diet has not helped.
Nov. 19th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
on fish oil...
Nordic Naturals makes a fish oil that has no fish taste and causes no fish burping. Fish oil is also recommended for mood balance. I can recommend Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega(not 3-6-9).
Nov. 20th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
Re: on fish oil...
thanks! I'll look for it.
Nov. 19th, 2010 05:23 pm (UTC)
I don't have any experience treating cholesterol, but as a health food and nutritional healing freak I have experience with using two of the typical recommendations (that you have already heard) for lowering cholesterol and improving health altogether. Here are some things you could consider...

On adding soluable fiber to your diet:
oatmeal is the ususal recommendation because it's already in the average diet, but you can do better than that.)
2 Tbs. of flaxmeal per day sprinkled on hot/cold cereal, salads, or just about anything you can learn to like it in (I love it, btw). The flax meal contains some good oils for counteracting bad LDL. Or you can do psyllium husk or chia supplements (stir the fiber in a glass of water and drink). Doesn't have the nutty flavor of good oils of flax, but supposed to be effective and it's not too obnoxious.

On choosing better fats:
The "poly/un/mega/saturated" labels are too confusing for anyone who isn't accustomed to scientifically analyzing food. To make choosing fats simple, it would be best to avoid processed foods altogether and avoid hydrogenated oils, like shortening. When preparing food, there are only two widely used oils that are helpful for lowering LDL. Extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil (suitable for low temp and light sautee) and extra virgin unrefined coconut oil (suitable for all temps - it's nutrition stable at high temps). Safflower, sunflower, corn, and other oils may be better than, say, LARD?, but they are supposedly unhelpful for lowering LDL cholesterol. Make sure you are getting your good oils from fresh foods like avocado, olives, nuts, and fish. The good stuff lowers the bad.

Of course, I'm not a doctor, and more importantly, I'm not your doctor, but I hope these considerations are helpful to you. xo
Nov. 20th, 2010 02:51 pm (UTC)
all very helpful - thank you. Looks like I'm going to have to make a list!
Nov. 28th, 2010 05:46 pm (UTC)
The green cans of shortening are free of partially hydrogenated oil, so they can be used without worrying about transfats.
Nov. 19th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC)
I agree with az2tx, no more butter, although, if you need to put a little something on your toast, a smidge of butter is better for you than margarine. Use olive oil to cook.

Cut down drastically on cheese like you say. In fact, you might really benefit from trying to go dairy-less for a little while. If you drink cow's milk, make it skim. (whole milk is like poison for anyone over the age of 2, so treat miss Zoe accordingly, meaning she should not drink skim)

Don't eat meat for a while, take the skin off everything fleshy.

Add lots of fiber with beans, grains, nuts and fruits/veggies. If you aren't allergic, use psyllium added to foods and drinks.

Whole flax seeds sprinkled over oatmeal is outrageously healthy, especially if it's steel-cut oatmeal. Ad a small amount of walnuts and/or almonds, which are good fats. Some cranberry raisins add some sweet/tart.

Get a juicer (one of those things that separates vegetable and fruit fiber from its juice, not a citrus squeezie thing). My favorite juice combos are a bunch of carrots with a half a cucumber and a handful of cranberries. Fresh ginger would be good in place of the cranberries.

Try to eat local seafood (as close as you can get, anyway) and wild-caught salmon.

Walk and excercise, and make time for a stress-release hobby like knitting or sudoku, something that isn't earth-shattering to you if the results aren't great. I like sudoku because all the numbers are there, I just have to locate them. It puts things in order in a satisfying (and addictive) way.

Drink water and tea, and get most of your calories from eating, not from drinking. Have a glass of wine on occasion, it's good for you, but alcohol is a big potential saboteur. (I should take my own advice on this one)

Play with your kid, and your husband!
Nov. 19th, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC)
BTW, with regard to psyllium, I am allergic, so I can't use the Metamucil stuff. I use Citrucel (methylcellulose) when I feel I need extra fiber.

Tell your doc if you use psyllium every day, and if you start taking an omega-3 supplement.

And I almost forgot: don't neglect calcium with vitamin D. Did they test for your blood level of D? A high level of D can help you fight the bad cholesterol, too.
Nov. 20th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
I don't know if they tested me for D or not. I can call and ask.
Nov. 20th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
I love butter, and cheese. Boo. :(

We already eat a ton of beans, so there's that. I bought some salmon the other day but Jack doesn't like it so I might have to make that for my lunches or something instead of dinner.

Alcohol will be tough to give up - at the moment it's the only thing that gets rid of my anxiety (including the meds), but I will cut down.
Nov. 22nd, 2010 03:06 am (UTC)
It has been my understanding that whole flaxseeds cannot be digested and it's better to grind them into meal with a coffee grinder. Keep refrigerated.

I've been putting it on my hot cereals and salads for almost eight years now.
Nov. 22nd, 2010 01:01 pm (UTC)
Yes, you're correct, you have to be careful to chew each little seed, or put them through a grinder before adding to food. Otherwise, the little buggers will sail right on through.

I sprinkle some over my cold cereal and chew carefully. Another advantage to this is that I eat more slowly.
Nov. 22nd, 2010 01:59 pm (UTC)
Ah, another SLOW eater. :-)
Nov. 23rd, 2010 12:41 am (UTC)
Whuh, isZat bayaud?
Nov. 23rd, 2010 02:15 am (UTC)
Re: slooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
Digestively speaking, no. But I also seem to be a slow eater, in that I am nearly always the last one finished (and this was a phenomenon before the baby, even).
Nov. 24th, 2010 02:35 am (UTC)
Re: slooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
It's another tool for weight control. Hopefully you notice when you get full and stop eating.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 20th, 2010 02:55 pm (UTC)
I don't mind answering you - I could stand to lose ten pounds I think, but I am not fat by any means. This is part of why the doctor was surprised. However, I will make an effort to exercise more - dropping a few pounds certainly couldn't hurt, and most of the extra is around my middle section which is bad for a lot of health reasons.

I love salmon, but my husband hates it, so we rarely have it. I need to find a way to have more though. maybe for my lunch?

I LOVE red meat. I probably have been eating more than I should lately.

Edited at 2010-11-20 02:55 pm (UTC)
Nov. 22nd, 2010 03:12 am (UTC)
My good friend had a heart attack at age 47 and very nearly died. They found her cholesterol to be sky-high even though she was at a healthy weight.

She's 72 now and hasn't had red meat (and she includes pork as red) since the heart attack. She lives on chicken and fish. She has ice cream once a year.

Her cholesterol is still high and she has been on every drug and participated in trials but she is happy to be alive.
Nov. 22nd, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC)
I'm 37 and heart disease runs in the family. I haven't been taking precautions but I am now. Thanks for the success story! My dad is another one - he has lived with heart disease since his 40s and had quadruple bypass surgery when he was 48. He's 70 and still going strong, though admittedly he is not eating as carefully now as he was the last 20 years. He takes Lipitor, I believe.
Nov. 28th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
Have you considered a more moderate approach to eating red meat? As in, the meat is not the primary ingredient, but you still have some for flavour? A serving of meat is 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards), so if you did 6 ounces of meat integrated into lots of veggies, pasta, rice, what-have you (oh yeah; eat brown rice, black rice, or red rice instead of white rices), you could serve two people a meal that has meat but not as the primary focus.

The other benefit of this is that it's so much cheaper. If you're used to making a pound of meat for 2 people, you save more than half the money by using only 6 ounces.
Nov. 28th, 2010 05:35 pm (UTC)
I still use butter in my cooking, but I use less and tend to use equal amounts of butter and olive oil (that way I still get some butter flavour but without as much saturated fat/cholesterol, plus the addition of the good fats from olive oil). In your salad dressings, you can also (whenever you can afford it) incorporate avocado oils, walnut oils, etc.

Eat more avocados and nuts - those have the good fats. If it helps, you can stock up on various nuts now while they're inexpensive and store them in the freezer. Usually I buy a year's worth of nuts at a time.

Are you eating a bowl of oatmeal daily? This is really hard for me to do, but it does help. To make it more fun, I use steel-cut oats (which have a better texture, IMO), since they lend themselves well to sweet, breakfast-y type oatmeal as well as savoury, lunch type oatmeal (I make it like risotto sometimes when I want it to be savoury, other times you can just cook it and put in some soy sauce or other flavourings).

Another thing you can do is cut down on your meat intake (and/or increase your fish intake). It was kind of an awkward transition for me to start with nearly daily meat and go down to eating meat only 1-2x/week, but now that I'm used to it I actually feel "heavy" if I'm eating meat a lot.

I don't know your food tastes well enough at this point to just pick out recipes from the assortment I have, but here're the tags on my blog for vegan, vegetarian and seafood recipes (and of course, in any that have more oil than you like, you can easily reduce the fat content).

http://seidhr.blogspot.com/search/label/Vegan (86 recipes here)
http://seidhr.blogspot.com/search/label/Vegetarian (88 recipes here)
http://seidhr.blogspot.com/search/label/Seafood (29 recipes)

Another strategy is to incorporate ingredients that have a LOT of flavour, which helps overcome the lack of fats. For example, you can use preserved lemons in soups, salads, pastas, etc. They have a lot of punch so that's helpful. I also save the collagen (which is a low-grade protein) from when I make chicken/turkey stock and use it as a fat replacement in cooking. I just freeze it in ice cube trays and toss a couple cubes in the fry pan to melt. You can also use mushrooms in place of meats. Or you can make beans and mix equal parts beans and meats into things to cut down on the meat and increase the fibre while still keeping the the food filling, nutritious, and lower in the saturated fats.

I have some blogs on my blogroll that specialise in vegan, vegetarian and/or generally healthful meals I can post if you'd like.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )