A recent health checkup caused me to reassess my dietary needs. My labs results indicated a jump in my LDL, or bad cholesterol numbers.
My husband, recently evaluated due to a new health program at work, was told his triglyceride numbers were too high.
What are LDL and triglycerides?
LDL or low-density lipoprotein, is the “less desirable” type of cholesterol in your body, (that is how I remember which is which.)
LDL causes plaque build up in arteries, which causes blood to be restricted and can result in heart attacks, heart disease and strokes. I already have a family history of heart disease and my father has survived several heart attacks – so this is cause for concern for me.
Ideal LDL numbers – if NO OTHER health risks exist
Less than 100 mg/dL — Optimal
100-129 mg/dL — Near optimal
130-159 mg/dL — Borderline high
My LDL number was 171.
However, my HDL or high-density lipoprotein level, which is the “highly desirable” type of cholesterol was 65 mg/dL. Anything greater than 39 mg/dL is considered good. Doctors believe the HDL proteins carry away the LDL proteins to the liver, where it is broken down and exits the body.
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body; they store excess energy from your diet. A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is linked with fatty buildups in artery walls; therefore, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
My husband’s Triglyceride level was 282 mg/dL, whereas, 150 should be highest.
HDL level 35 mg/dL, whereas 39 mg/dL should be the lowest
LDL level 146 mg/dl, wheras 100 mg/dL is optimal
Reasons for elevated numbers
I believe my numbers were elevated because I have not been taking a daily dose of Meta Mucil. Before we moved into our new house, I was walking five-days each week, water bottle in hand – which contained a dose of Meta Mucil.
Rich in fiber, which reduces LDL numbers, it also helped me feel less hungry, maintained good blood sugar levels and promoted digestive health.
Going from almost daily – to nothing HAD TO affect my numbers. Therefore, I have returned to taking a daily dose.
I only take a tablespoon daily, with 8-10 ozs of water. The orange flavor is pretty tasty.
Another reason for our elevated numbers; we have over-indulged in our consumption of pasta recently.
Not trying to use as an excuse; but it has been on sale, frequently, at my local grocer; so, I have been stocking up.
Not to mention, it is probably our favorite meal – anything with pasta.
Therefore, we are changing our meal plan, to only include pasta once, every two weeks. There is no way we would make it, eliminating it completely. I think reducing the frequency, will affect our numbers.
Foods to reduce LDL
Obviously, these few changes will not completely resolve any issues; therefore, we need to incorporate LDL reducing foods into our diet.
This will be an easy first step to improving our cholesterol numbers. Having a bowl of oatmeal, at least 2-3 times per week, will give us 1 – 2 grams of soluble fiber. Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 – 35 grams of fiber per day, with at lease 5 – 10 grams coming from soluble filter.
Not one of my husband’s favorite foods, but I love beans, which are rich in soluble fiber. They can also make you feel fuller longer. There are many varieties to choose from – navy, kidney, pinto and Lima.
A 1/2-cup serving of cooked kidney beans provides 7.9 grams of dietary fiber
My doctor told me eating almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are good for the heart. Eating 1 ounce of nuts each day can slightly lower LDL numbers.
Roughly, an ounce of nuts is the equivalent to a small handful.
Almonds = 3.5 grams of fiber = 1 oz.
Pistachios = 2.9 grams of fiber = 1 oz.
Walnuts = 1.9 grams of fiber = 1 oz.
My Breakfast Smoothie
4-5 frozen strawberries
1/2 of a banana (or whole)
1 scoop of your favorite protein shake mix or whey protein (I like chocolate flavors)
pinch of chia seeds
12 oz. of Lactaid 2% milk (or your favorite milk product)
Place all ingredients in a blender or Vitamix. Thoroughly mix until smooth and enjoy.
Replacing meat with fish is going to be a major meal planning change for us. Salmon is loaded in Omega-3’s which reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms.
Traditionally, wild-caught Pacific salmon is the most desirable, however, it is very expensive and is ideal when purchased “in-season.” Farmed raised Atlantic salmon is a great alternative.
Buy thick, center-cut fillets, which can be poached, steamed, pan-seared, roasted or grilled. Cut from the head end or center, these fillets are the prime cut of the fish.
Stay away from thin fillets you see at the market. These are cut from the tail end and cook so fast, it is impossible to get a nice sear before the fish is overcooked.
Some recipes call for salmon “skin-on.” For recipes that call for “skinless,” you can easily remove it yourself; however, the skin is completely edible, it is just what you prefer.
Bone-in steaks are great for pan-searing, grilling or roasting. Be aware if buying pre-packaged, frozen salmon as you may not be able to judge the thickness of the fillets.
Supplement to lower LDL?
After careful consideration, I am going to take the advice of my #bbqbestie and begin taking a dietary supplement, CholestOff, with plant sterols and stanols.
According to WebMD: “sterols and stanols look a lot like cholesterol. So when they travel through your digestive tract, they get in the way. They can prevent real cholesterol from being absorbed into your bloodstream. Instead of clogging up your arteries, the cholesterol just goes out with the waste.”
According to Ruth Frechman, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA), three servings a day of plant stanols can reduce LDL numbers by 20.
The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends just 2 grams of stanols or sterols each day.
I think we will start with one supplement capsule each day.
As per Nature Made website: “Caution: Not for use by pregnant or lactating women or children. Do not use this product if you are allergic to pine trees or any other ingredient in this product. Check with your physician before using CholestOff® if you are currently using any medications, including medications to lower your cholesterol
Read more at http://www.naturemade.com/supplements/cholestoff/cholestoff-original#S4fIitmK0Fo5Y4Zm.99″
We will know in six months if our dietary changes have made a difference.
Do you have any suggestions for lowering LDL cholesterol? Please share them in the comments!