You’ve seen the ads all over the place about foods that lower your cholesterol. You know…”this is the only cereal that has been proven to lower cholesterol”…and “In studies, people who ate xxxx lowered their cholesterol an average of five per cent.” All of which are true, but not completely helpful. They always add the caveat, “if used as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet,” don’t they? And that’s what you need. The entire cholesterol-lowering diet. Not just one magic food.
Low Carb Diets
There is quite a bit of controversy about whether low carb diets lower cholesterol. Most of the concern about low carb diets is that they tend to be high in fat. Some people say the amount of fat doesn’t matter, and some people get hives when they think about anybody eating that much fatty red meat. Here are some nutritional facts to help you sort it out:
– You need enough carbohydrates to get adequate amounts of fiber and phytonutrients (antioxidants and other protective micronutrients that come from plants). This is best accomplished by eating whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. You sure don’t need sugar or processed white flour.
– Red meat is a problem. It is high in saturated fat, which increases cholesterol. You probably should limit how much red meat you eat.
– “White” meat–lean pork, poultry and wild game–has less saturated fat, and is a better choice.
– Fish is an even better choice because it is rich in omega-3 oils, which fight cholesterol.
– Egg yolks have lots and lots and lots of saturated fat, and you probably should limit yourself to three or four a week. Egg whites, however (or egg substitute, which is just colored egg whites) don’t have any fat and you can eat all of them you want to.
The kind of fat you eat is more important than how much fat you eat. Monosaturated oils, like olive oil, are best and even help lower your cholesterol.
Low Fat Diets
The more traditional cholesterol-lowering diet is a low fat diet. To be honest, it doesn’t look all that different from a low carb diet in a lot of ways. A low fat diet depends more on complex carbohydrates and less on meat. Here are the guidelines:
– Eat lots of complex carbs, especially those good-for-you whole grains, legumes, fruits and veggies.
– Avoid red meat as much as possible.
– Eat small amounts of white meats.
– Eat fish two or three times a week.
– Limit eggs to 2 per week. Once again, you can eat all the egg whites you want to.
– Limit all fats. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats.
If you follow those guidelines, either one is a good diet to lower cholesterol. Either one will work for you if you also exercise and lose any excess weight.
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