September is National Cholesterol Awareness Month. And while you should be aware of your cholesterol levels and what affects them every month, it doesn’t hurt to give it a little extra attention now and again.
First, it’s a good idea to know what constitutes healthy and unhealthy cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association has an established range for your daily cholesterol intake:
– Less than 200 mg/dL is considered healthy.
– 200 to 239 mg/dL is borderline high cholesterol.
– 240 mg/dL and above is an unhealthy cholesterol level.
Many foods can contribute to an increase in your unhealthy cholesterol levels, but what you may not know is that some foods actually have the opposite effect. Yes, instead of medications and supplements, sometimes actual natural nourishment is the solution.
Here are five foods that have been shown to have positive effects on your cholesterol levels:
Oatmeal and Oat Bran
Fiber is a key component in the fight against high cholesterol. Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which lowers your LDL cholesterol, also known as the “bad” cholesterol.
Walnuts and Almonds
Walnuts and almonds are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol levels.
Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and albacore tuna have omega-3 fatty acids that help your heart in many ways, including lowering cholesterol.
This Mediterranean dietary favorite contains antioxidants that lower LDL cholesterol. The Food and Drug Administration recommends about two tablespoons of olive oil a day.
Foods Fortified with Plant Sterols or Stanols
Sterols or stanols are substances that are in plants that help block the absorption of cholesterol. Now, foods are fortified with sterols or stanols, including margarines, orange juice and yogurt drinks. You find the substances naturally in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
These are just some of foods that can counteract the cholesterol produced by your body or eaten on a daily basis. Incorporate them into a balanced diet and you can enjoy foods like eggs and beef in moderation without guilt or worry of damaging your health.
While diet is the most popular route for lowering cholesterol, exercise is also an important component, and you don’t have to become a fitness fanatic to see real results. Most experts agree that about 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week is what you should shoot for. It doesn’t even have to be at one time. Maybe you take a 15 minute walk in the morning and one during your lunch break.
You will see the results of your efforts through better blood circulation, weight loss (which often results in lower cholesterol), and even an increase in HDL cholesterol in your blood (the good kind of cholesterol). Walk, run, bike, or swim… just get out in the fresh air and see how little it takes to improve your cholesterol.