Best Foods for Managing High Cholesterol

If you’ve been told your cholesterol is too high, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 102 million adults in the United States have cholesterol levels above the healthy threshold, which raises their risk of developing life-threatening heart disease. 

At Girard Internal Medicine, Nicole Kimzey, DO, and our team wants to help patients in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, manage their high cholesterol, and live healthier, longer lives. 

Dr. Kimzey uses your cholesterol numbers as a window into your health, designing an action plan to manage cholesterol along with other health factors. We also believe in the power of patient education and giving you the necessary tools to maintain good health.

Instead of focusing on foods to avoid, we’ve created this guide to show you which foods can help manage your cholesterol. 

What is cholesterol?

Your body naturally produces cholesterol, a waxy fat, to aid in the production of hormones and bile. Cholesterol also helps convert sunlight to vitamin D. 

Your liver produces enough cholesterol to support your essential body functions. The problem comes when you have more cholesterol than your body needs. 

Some people may have a biological issue with cholesterol production, but most of us end up with too much cholesterol from eating animal products like eggs, cheese, milk, fish, and meat. These foods contribute to high cholesterol because of the saturated fat they contain, which increases the production of cholesterol. 

Specialized proteins, called lipoproteins, carry cholesterol to every cell in your body. The two types of lipoproteins related to this process have been dubbed “bad” and “good” cholesterols based on their functions:

When your doctor diagnoses you with “high cholesterol,” they're usually referring to your LDL levels. When you have more LDL than necessary, it can oxidize and create a build-up of plaque on the walls of your arteries. This narrows your arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

What foods can help manage high cholesterol?

Many people only think about foods they should avoid when trying to manage high cholesterol. And while cutting out animal-based and processed foods can help, it’s important to include foods that increase your HDL, or good cholesterol.

Think of HDL as a friendly type of cholesterol that works to absorb the excess LDL and take it to your liver where it can be processed as a waste product and expelled from your body. Unfortunately, many Americans who are otherwise “healthy” have low HDL levels because of their dietary choices. 

The good news is you can manage both your “good” and “bad” cholesterol levels by incorporating more low-fat, plant-based foods into your diet. Foods that have been linked to lowering cholesterol include: 

It’s also important to incorporate other healthy changes, such as exercising, quitting smoking, eliminating or moderating your alcohol intake, and maintaining a healthy weight to experience optimal results. Some people may require prescription medication if lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough.

If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol or are worried about your cholesterol levels, Dr. Kimzey and our experienced providers can help. Contact our Philadelphia office to request an appointment today.

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