Cholesterol management is an essential part of maintaining overall health, especially for those who struggle to keep their numbers in place.
Boston-based registered dietitian and nutritionist Nikita Kapoor told Fox News Digital that high cholesterol can lead to heart metabolic risk factors such as heart disease, diabetes, and atherosclerosis (a buildup of plaque on artery walls).
High levels of LDL, also known as “bad cholesterol,” can put the body at risk for this complication, which is often genetic but can also be controlled by diet and lifestyle factors.
“We sometimes see very challenging levels of high cholesterol that don’t necessarily respond positively to diet and lifestyle,” she said in an interview.
“But there are always benefits to focusing on these lifestyle factors.”
Omega-3 and healthy fats found in fish, seeds, and oils are also beneficial for lowering cholesterol.
If that sounds like a lot to chew on – here are five quick diet swaps to help manage your cholesterol levels.
1. Replace sugary cereals with fiber-rich ones
Instead of reaching for a bowl of Reese’s Puffs, try cereal alternatives that are high in fiber and low in sugar.
Kapoor encouraged consumers to focus on fiber content and “quality of carbohydrates” rather than calories.
“The plain old school Cheerios we know have very high concentrations of oats,” she said.
“And then oats contain a lot of beta-glucan and fiber that can be beneficial for lowering cholesterol.”
Oatmeal can be another great alternative to cereal, as well as high-fiber oat bread.
2. Replace white rice with brown rice
Achieving a cholesterol-sensitive diet includes a constant focus on whole grains.
She suggested white rice eaters try switching to brown rice or other slightly more nutritious alternatives like farro, barley or quinoa.
You can also swap out whole-grain, high-fiber cereals by swapping flour tortillas for corn tortillas or simply leaving the skin on the potatoes, which adds even more fiber.
Today, she said, “We also have a lot of high-fiber packaged products, like pasta or bread.”
Kapoor added that it is important to build a diet that ensures “the food is still satisfying” while not breaking the bank.
“Bean-based pasta and whole-grain pasta have more protein,” she said.
“But we want sustainable behaviors – so if you have to force yourself to eat, there are other ways to get those benefits.”
3. Eat one vegetarian meal
Eating plants forward is a recent trend, which is a plus for people looking to clean up their diet.
Although some of the new plant-based food products can be artificial and heavily processed, Kapoor suggested consumers focus on “humble” plant-based products made with beans, tofu and edamame.
Kapoor recommended eating one vegetarian meal a day to help lower cholesterol.
“If you’re someone who prepares eggs for breakfast, chicken for lunch, and turkey for dinner, this would be a good place to swap and add black beans instead of turkey. [for] “One meal,” she said.
“You still eat animal proteins, but you make way for those phytonutrients.”
4. Try seeds if fish isn’t your thing
While a variety of fish is high in omega-3s — a great source for keeping bad cholesterol at bay — not everyone is a fan of fish.
Kapoor suggested swapping the fish for different nuts and seeds such as flax, chia, hemp, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, as well as almonds and walnuts.
“They will try to imitate some of the properties of omega-3s,” she said.
For those who eat fish but can’t afford to spend a fortune, Kapoor suggested trying smaller fish like sardines and mackerel, which are affordable and available at most food stores.
5. Replace your regular peanut butter with unsalted, sugar-free nut butter
Peanut butter can sometimes get a bad reputation in diet discussions, but Kapoor said there’s no point in giving it up.
The best option is to substitute any type of nut butter – peanut, almond, sunflower, etc. – for unsalted and sugar-free–Add nut butter.
Kapoor emphasized that maintaining a balanced diet is key – and too much of anything does not benefit our health in general.
“The easiest way to focus organically on making sure quantity isn’t an issue is to eat a variety of foods, making sure you’re eating consistently and balancing your meals.”
“They are all important,” she said.
“We don’t want to fear the fats we get from nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados.”
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