Why is high cholesterol a problem?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that your body can make and is also found in foods that come from animals like cheese, meat, and eggs. Your body needs some cholesterol, but when blood cholesterol is too high it can lead to heart disease. In our blood, there are two main types of cholesterol:
- LDL or "bad" cholesterol: When you have too much of it, your arteries can get clogged, which increases your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. LDL cholesterol increases in the blood when your diet is high in saturated or trans fats.
- Saturated fats are found mostly in foods that come from animal sources, like meat and dairy products. Examples of saturated fats are fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, beef fat, lard, cream, butter and cheese.
- In New York City, trans fats are banned from restaurants and other food service establishments. When you're buying food from a supermarket, avoid foods that list anything "partially hydrogenated" [healthopedia - see below] on its ingredients label-that indicates that the food has trans fat in it.
- HDL or "good" cholesterol: HDL cholesterol can protect against having a heart attack. You can increase levels of HDL cholesterol by exercising, losing weight, or simply adding more fiber to your diet!
What does fiber have to do with your cholesterol?
Adding fiber to your diet can decrease your LDL cholesterol and increase your HDL cholesterol, which will improve your health.
If you increase the amount of fiber you eat everyday a little at a time, even by 5-10 grams a day, you can reduce your LDL cholesterol by a lot! Fiber is found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
Here are some simple ways you could add 5-10 grams of fiber into what you eat every day (Most people only get 5-14 grams of fiber per day and need about 23 grams per day if you're a woman or 35 grams per day if you're a man-but it's always a good idea to start small):
- an apple and two slices of whole wheat bread
- a baked sweet potato and ½ cup of carrots
- a small bowl of lentil soup
- a burrito
Adding fiber to your diet will help you to: