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Kitchen Makeover for a Low Cholesterol Diet

Follow these 9 steps for a kitchen that makes it simpler to stick to your low cholesterol diet.
By
WebMD Feature

Let's say you've decided to get serious about reducing your cholesterol. You've committed to exercising more regularly, losing some weight, and starting a low cholesterol diet. But your kitchen, alas, is still full of the not-so-healthy foods you love.

It's time to make over your kitchen -- and you don't have to knock out walls, replace appliances, or even paint the cabinets. Instead, dieticians recommend:

Recommended Related to Cholesterol Management

Cholesterol Testing and the Lipid Panel

Why get a cholesterol test? For decades, doctors have known that people with high total cholesterol levels are at higher risk for heart disease. More recently, they've found the different forms of cholesterol ("good" and "bad") also affect risk. Knowing your cholesterol levels is an essential part of understanding your own risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone over age 20 get a cholesterol test.

Read the Cholesterol Testing and the Lipid Panel article > >

  • Getting rid of as much unhealthy food as you can.
  • Replacing it with heart-healthy food.
  • Learning how to store and prepare those foods properly.

Low Cholesterol Diet Tip 1: Throw out the 'Bad' Fats.

Sometimes the easiest way to make sure you stick to a low cholesterol diet is to just get unhealthy foods out of the house. So grab a trash bag, open the cabinets, the fridge, and the pantry, and start tossing.

Look for the most obvious villains first -- processed foods containing trans fatty acids. These ''trans fats'' have been linked to increased levels of the so-called "bad cholesterol'' (low-density lipoproteins or LDLs), which are associated with heart-disease. Trans fats have also been linked to decreased levels of "good cholesterol" (high-density lipoproteins or HDLs).

As of January 2006, the FDA ruled that all nutritional labels must list trans fat content. But if you have products in your cabinets or freezer that pre-date 2006 and contain ''hydrogenated'' or ''partially hydrogenated'' ingredients (such as vegetable shortening, margarine, non-dairy creamer, or commercial baked goods) -- toss them. The American Heart Association recommends that Americans get no more than 1% of their calories from trans fats.

Low Cholesterol Diet Tip 2: Stop Buying Saturated Fat.

After you've used up the last hamburger in the meat drawer and the last gallon of whole milk, vow to buy better. The American Heart Association recommends that we get only 7% of our daily calories from saturated fats, as they have been linked to higher levels of LDLs.

The best way to keep saturated fat levels down is to avoid animal products (beef, pork, cold cuts, bacon, and whole-milk dairy products like milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt). Instead, buy low-fat dairy products and low-fat sources of protein (like skinless chicken breasts, cod, tuna, and legumes).

And go ahead -- throw out the bacon grease you've been keeping in the refrigerator.

Low Cholesterol Diet Tip 3: Stock Up on Heart-Healthy Oils and Fats.

One key to a low-cholesterol diet is using unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in nuts and seeds (sunflower, peanut, and walnut oil) have been shown to reduce LDLs. Monounsaturated fats, like olive, peanut and canola oils, have been shown to reduce the "bad" LDLs and increase HDLs.

Low Cholesterol Diet Tip 4: Replace Refined Grains with Whole Grains.

The white flour used in white pasta, cake mixes, many crackers, and some breads doesn't have as much nutritional value as whole-grain flour. These commercially baked products may also contain trans fats and/or saturated fats.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

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or
Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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