First Steps: One Change to Start A Low-Cholesterol Diet

Beginning a low-cholesterol diet after a lifetime of routine can be very challenging. Here, nutrition experts told us what they would do if they could only make one change to begin a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Write it Out

“List 16 of your favorite plant-based foods,” recommends Carol Ireton-Jones, PhD, RD, LD, Nutrition Therapy Consultant in Carrollton, Texas. “By listing what people like, they can identify things that they can eat in place of processed foods and fats, providing is an easy way to decrease cholesterol and fat intake.”

Select Unprocessed Foods

“Eat whole, real foods and avoid packaged processed foods, which contain added sugars, sweeteners and omega-6 oils that all contribute to increasing inflammation in the body, which can in turn increase cholesterol levels,” says Susan Dopart, Nutrition Consultant in Santa Monica, California, and author of “A Recipe for Life by the Doctor’s Dietitian” (SGJ Publishing, 2009).

Add in Oatmeal

Karen Graham, RD, owner of Integrative Nutrition Consultants in Scottsdale, Arizona, recommends using oatmeal to lower cholesterol levels. “I have been very successful in lowering cholesterol in many of my clients. Many of them have been able to go off of their medications — or never had to start them. I have them eat ½ cup of steel-cut oats five days a week for six weeks. That’s all it takes!”

Regular rolled oats do not have the same effect as steel-cut oats, according to Graham. She explains that this is due to the fact that steel-cut oats contain a large amount of beta glucan (fiber). “This special fiber binds to cholesterol in the body and removes it,” she says. “Steel-cut oats take about 30 minutes to cook. They take that long because of the beta glucan. Regular rolled oats that take 15 minutes to cook have less of this beta glucan — which is why they cook faster, and why they are not as efficient at lowering cholesterol. Instant oats, where you just add hot water, do not have any beta glucan, and hence don’t lower your cholesterol. They now have ‘quick cooking’ steel-cut oats, but again, they have less beta glucan so they do not lower cholesterol as well as the regular kind.”

Add in Beans

In the experience of Jan Patenaude, RD, CLT, Director of Medical Nutrition for Signet Diagnostic Corporation, adding in beans is a wise first move for a low-cholesterol diet. “Years ago, people who thought they were on a cholesterol-lowering diet but weren’t experiencing success sure got their levels to go down once they added beans and nuts to their diets on a daily basis,” she says.

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