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Simple ways to lower cholesterol

When it comes to cholesterol, Americans clearly have a problem on their hands (and hearts).

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), nearly 48 percent of non-Hispanic white men over the age of 20 are considered borderline high-risk for heart disease thanks to their cholesterol levels.

Perhaps most surprising is that more women in that same category are borderline high risk for heart disease, as just under 50 percent of females have cholesterol levels that could lead to serious problems.

Fortunately, while the consequences of high cholesterol can be drastic, controlling cholesterol and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is not very difficult. And doing so can be done in all facets of one’s daily diet.

Meat and protein

Many people love eating meat and lowering cholesterol doesn’t mean one has to cut meat out of one’s diet entirely.

Instead, limit how much fatty ground meat one eats and reduce the servings of heavily marbled cuts of meat. Choose lean, well-trimmed beef, veal, lamb or pork and avoid eating bacon or sausage and even high-fat deli meats.

When removing or reducing one’s meat intake, it’s understandable to be concerned about how that will impact one’s protein intake as well. But one can maintain protein intake by making meatless protein like dried beans, lentils, split peas and even peanut butter a part of one’s daily diet.

While meat is a great source of protein, it’s not the only means to include protein in one’s diet.

Dairy products

Dairy can also be detrimental to an individual’s cholesterol levels, even though it doesn’t have to be.

Dairy that typically has a negative impact on cholesterol levels includes milk with a high fat percentage (whole milk), cream, half and half, nondairy creamer, ice cream, whipped cream and nondairy whipped toppings.

Whole-milk products, such as whole-milk yogurt or whole-milk cheeses, can also be bad for cholesterol levels.

However, choosing dairy that is heart-friendly is very easy. In lieu of whole-milk products, choose skim milk or one percent milk products. Instead of ice cream at dessert, serve frozen yogurt, ice milk, sherbet or sorbet.

Low-fat cheeses, such as one percent cottage cheese or skim-milk mozzarella, and low-fat yogurts are also more heart-friendly dairy products.

Fruits and vegetables

While it’s hard to imagine fruits or vegetables not being healthy, sometimes what one might think is healthy is anything but.

Coconut, for instance, is a fruit that is high in saturated fat. Also, avoid deep-frying vegetables and don’t negate the positives of vegetables with cream sauce, cheese sauce or cooking vegetables in butter.

When cooking vegetables, be sure to include daily servings of steamed, boiled or baked vegetables. Instead of seasoning vegetables with butter or cheese sauces, utilize herbs, lemon juice or minimal amounts of low-fat margarine to add some flavor to veggies.

Breads and cereals

Some breads and cereals can also have a negative impact on cholesterol levels.

While it’s common to assume baked goods are more heart-friendly, baked goods such as donuts, pastries and croissants are not good choices for those looking to lower their cholesterol.

Along those same lines, many are quick to assume granola is good no matter what. However, granola with coconut or coconut oil added is not very healthy.

When looking for more heart-friendly breads and cereals, choose hot or cold cereals with no added fat. Plain breads and pastas and even English muffins are also heart-healthy.

When snacking, choose air-popped popcorn, pretzels, rice cakes or melba toast. Fruit cookies, angel food cake and graham crackers are also healthy snacking options.

To learn more about cholesterol, visit the AHA Web site at


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