6 Tips to Help Lower Your Cholesterol

The South Beach Diet encourages you to eat nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods and to exercise regularly. These healthy lifestyle habits will not only help you meet your weight-loss goals, but they’ll also put you on the right track to lowering your cholesterol, thereby reducing your risk of heart disease. Here are 6 ways to help improve your cholesterol level:

  1. Limit saturated fat. Saturated fat (often referred to as animal fat) is typically found in foods like poultry skin, full-fat dairy products, and fatty cuts of beef, lamb, and pork. It should be limited because it can stimulate cholesterol production in the body and cause your total cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels to rise. By adopting our diet, which is low in saturated fat, you've taken a good first step toward improving your cholesterol levels.

     

  2. Avoid trans fats. Trans fats, aka hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (check the list of ingredients on nutrition labels), may be even more damaging to cholesterol levels than saturated fats because they can raise your LDL cholesterol while lowering HDL ("good") cholesterol. Studies show that trans fats also may increase the risk of cancer. The South Beach Diet excludes foods like stick margarine, and any commercially processed foods like baked goods and chips, because they often contain trans fats. On the South Beach Diet, we replace these unhealthy choices with foods made with the good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are found in oils such as olive, canola, peanut, and sunflower.

     

  3. Maintain a healthy weight. For many people, cholesterol levels improve as weight decreases. This is not due to the weight loss itself, but rather to the effects of following a healthy eating and exercise plan like the South Beach Diet. In other words, making the lifestyle changes that are necessary for sustained weight loss will help lower your cholesterol.

     

  4. Exercise smart and often. At least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise that incorporates interval training every other day can help lower LDL levels and raise HDL levels. The important thing is to be consistent: Find aerobic activities you enjoy. Walking, swimming, and biking are all good choices for working in intervals.

     

  5. Quit smoking. In addition to being a major risk factor for heart disease and cancer, cigarette smoking can also contribute to low HDL levels. If you smoke, quitting may raise HDL levels by up to 10 percent.

     

  6. See your physician regularly. If lifestyle measures haven’t helped to lower your cholesterol, or if you have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease, it may be necessary to embark on a program of medical therapy in the form of a cholesterol-lowering drug or drugs. Your physician will help determine the best course of action for you.

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