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Managing High Cholesterol: 7 Foods to Limit for a Heart-Healthy Diet


When it comes to maintaining heart health, it’s essential to keep cholesterol levels in check. Dr. Nick West, a well-known cardiologist and Chief Medical Officer at Abbott’s Vascular Business, shows the intricate connection between genetics and diet in relation to cholesterol levels. Genetic factors play a significant role in determining the baseline, but Dr. West emphasizes the importance of considering the impact of dietary choices.

One dietary approach recommended by experts is the DASH diet, short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This regimen, endorsed by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, primarily emphasizes the consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and includes lean proteins such as fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. The DASH diet is designed to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol levels in the blood.

Tips for Healthier Eating Habits

When it comes to maintaining heart health, it’s essential to keep cholesterol levels in check.

Fine-tuning Eating Habits

Dr. West suggests that one doesn’t necessarily have to strictly adhere to the DASH diet to experience its benefits. Modifying existing eating habits can make a significant positive impact on cholesterol levels. To provide practical guidance, Dr. West and registered dietitian Theresa Gentile highlight seven types of foods that should be limited when aiming to control cholesterol.

  1. Fried Foods: Common pub and fast-food items like French fries and onion rings, while tempting, often raise LDL cholesterol levels due to their trans fatty acid content.
  2. Butter: High in saturated fatty acids, butter can contribute to increased cholesterol levels, making moderation essential.
  3. Cheese: Although rich in protein and calcium, cheese also contains saturated fatty acids, requiring moderation in consumption.
  4. Baked Goods: Delightful treats like cookies and cakes, aside from being high in sugar, often contain butter or shortening, contributing to saturated fat intake.
  5. Tropical Oils: Limit the use of palm oil and coconut oil, as some studies suggest they may raise both LDL and HDL cholesterol levels.
  6. Beef: Due to its high saturated fat content, it’s advisable to limit red meat consumption to two or three servings per week.
  7. Processed Meats and Sausage: Deli meats and sausages, composed of fatty cuts of meat, should be eaten sparingly due to their association with increased cardiovascular risks.

Expert Advice on Moderation

Dr. West acknowledges the challenge of maintaining a completely cholesterol-free diet, especially for those with high cholesterol. He recommends moderation and choosing lower-fat options where possible. 

While acknowledging the nutritional benefits of red meat, he advises limiting intake to manage associated health risks. Dr. West encourages individuals to consider a plant-based diet, emphasizing that fruits and vegetables are low in cholesterol and rich in fiber and vitamins, contributing to heart health and potentially reducing the risk of cancer.

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