I am glad to tell you about my client Tom that was referred to me by his doctor to provide nutritional counseling for high cholesterol and weight loss. Tom’s doctor wanted to give him the chance to lower his cholesterol by diet alone before going on meds. Tom was very motivated since he was already on medication for hypertension and did not want to add another pill to his life.
During my years of practice and research I have devised simple, effective ways to lower cholesterol levels while eliminating much confusion. Our liver produces cholesterol in addition to the cholesterol that we take in our diet so the amount of cholesterol made in the liver is dependent upon what you eat. Saturated fat is the main culprit in producing high levels of LDL cholesterol which can cause heart attacks and stroke. So the goal with my clients is to cut back on saturated fat intake without giving up great meals.
I made it easy for Tom by saying he could have one animal meal a day which includes his favorite red meat, cheese, dark meat chicken, salami, pepperoni and prosciutto, For the opposite meals that day I told him to turn to turkey or fish. Amazingly, white meat turkey and fish have very little saturated fat. Of course, there is always a vegetarian meal such as chili or a pasta primavera dish. Basically, Tom needed to plan his meals with veggies, fruits, legumes, and whole grains with moderate amounts of animal foods that are low in saturated fat, but high in protein such as non-fat dairy products, egg whites, turkey and fish. So a typical Tom day includes oatmeal with a yummy topping or an egg white omelet filled with veggies for breakfast. For snacks he enjoys fat-free cottage cheese and veggies, flavored non-fat Greek yogurt, nuts and fruit. For lunch he can still enjoy his hamburger or Buck Horn Grill Steak or chicken sandwich with a salad and for dinner a baked potato topped with non-fat sour cream and veggies, chicken, fish, pasta, sautéed greens and a fudgeicle for dessert.
Fiber. The addition of soluble fiber to Tom’s diet is important because it dissolves in water and when absorbed lowers cholesterol. Oats from his oatmeal contain beta-glucan which is a soluble fiber that soaks up excess LDL cholesterol and removes it from the body. Apples contain pectin which is also a soluble fiber and great for lowering cholesterol. A cup of beans is also a good soluble fiber so Tom eats lots of burritos and tacos with whole beans. Since we need 30 grams of fiber per day, I suggested Tom add Metamucil to his diet since he travels and often is not consuming enough soluble fiber. Remember high fiber in general moves the food through your gut faster allowing fewer contaminants and carcinogens to be absorbed into the intestine.
Flaxseed. We added flaxseed to Tom’s diet which is high in fiber and Omega 3 fatty acids. Flaxseed has been proven to prevent platelets from getting sticky which reduces the risk of heart attack. Grinding your flaxseeds provides the full benefit and refrigerating extends the shelf life. Tom now keeps it in easy reach and sprinkles it on a variety of foods throughout the day.
Fish Oils. Tom, like most people, heard about the benefits and confusion of fish oils. It is important to buy one that provides the right kinds of omega-3 in the right amount. Look for the bioactive ingredients, EPA and DHA which are omega -3 fatty acids found in fish. It is recommended to get at least 650 milligrams of these key omega-3fats. Since Omega 3’s are not very well regulated I told Tom it would be best to purchase ones that have the highest grade of potency and purity like Nordic Naturals, Carlson or Lovaza, available thru prescription only. I encouraged Tom to eat at least two fish meals a week of the oily type such as salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies and tuna where then he would not have to use supplements. Since fish is not his favorite food, we decided he needed to take the fish oils.
Plant Sterols and Stanols. I introduced Tom to products that are fortified with plant sterols and stanols. They are components of plant membranes where recent studies have shown that consuming 2 grams per day can block the absorption of cholesterol from your diet and can lower your LDL’s by 10%. Best results come from consuming them twice a day at different times with other foods. Benecol and Take Control margarine spreads are very popular for this reason.
I am glad to tell you after reviewing Tom’s food diaries and talking on the phone a few times a week for two months his total cholesterol went down from 270 to 225. I know with consistent exercise and losing more weight Tom will be in the normal range. Another piece of good news is that his health insurance covered my sessions where all he had to pay was a weekly copay.
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