I decided to split this article into 2 parts because it is so long. However, the information in it is so important that it was impossible to cut any more information. I really did drop 16 points off my LDL blood cholesterol level in one year by making 5 revisions in what I was eating. Therefore, Part 2 of this article will post next week.
Two years ago my cholesterol level was 109, which was a wake-up call because I knew that anything above 100 was bad. That caused me to make a lifestyle change with some revisions in my diet to reduce the 109. Last year I had my blood tested again and it was down to 93! I am not a dietitian. I just love to research things. I want to know WHY something works and I only research reputable sources. The end result was not only dropping 16 points, but I now have a much better diet that even has some fun wrapped up in it.
When I learned that I was above the “optimal” range of 100, I made it a point to learn different ways to control the levels without the use of medications. I learned that “bad” cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein, or LDL) is bad because it builds up on the walls of your arteries, which raises the potential for a heart attack because blood vessels cannot flow easily through my the arteries.
High Density Lipoprotein, or HDL, is the “good” cholesterol because it might work at clearing away the accumulation along the walls of my arteries that causes the openings of my arteries. I did not find any article that said it definitely does help reduce the accumulation; however, I did know that LDL was my enemy at the time.
Whenever I received the results of blood tests, the LDL was the only level that the provider shared with me. No one ever talked about my HDL levels. Since I’m not medically trained, I understand that the “mg/dL” is a measurement; however, the number is what everyone always read to me, so I focused on the numbers. Another chart from the National Institutes of Health lays out both LDL and HDL (the “good” cholesterol).
I also know that cholesterol alone does not cause strokes or heart attacks. It is one of a variety of things that cause those issues; however, every “issue” that I resolve means one less source of potential problem.
My next task was to learn what kinds of foods I could use to potentially lower my LDL level, naturally. I know that there are medications that I could take; however, my concern with taking medications is there are ALWAYS side effects to worry about. Therefore, I preferred to do as much as possible naturally.
Three changes that I made to revising my menu were: (1) to incorporate a variety of legumes into my menu, (2) to include a variety of oats into my menu (steel cut, Scottish, and old fashioned), (3) to replace the unhealthy fats (saturated and trans) with omega-3, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats (the healthy fats), and (4) to include a variety of other high fiber “super foods” into my menu. Clearly those 4 steps worked because as mentioned above, in one year my LDL level went from 109 to 93!
After I reduced my LDL level, I continued to replace some of the “old food items” with a variety of high fiber, packed omega-3 foods into my menu so that I could get on with living life and having fun. I found a list of “healthy foods” from a wide variety of websites and then compared the list to the physician-driven and medical university universities that I regularly refer to because those sites back up their claims with medical research so I know the information is correct. To my surprise, MOST of the food items that I had found on many other websites were not listed on the websites that I normally use.
Below are just some of the replacements that I now regularly use that helped to lower my cholesterol level by 16 points in just one year.
- Oats, grains, and legumes: There are so many ways to include oats and legumes into menus such as when I baked breads and breakfast cobblers, I cut the white flour into thirds and used two thirds flour and one third oats (that I had ground into oat flour). I thickened homemade soups and stews by adding lentils to the beef and chicken broth. From the research I conducted, I learned that oats, bran, and legumes all are soluble fiber that can reduce the absorption of cholesterol in my bloodstream.
To illustrate just how powerful legumes are, I found the following information of high fiber foods from the Mayo Clinic:
- 1 cup of cooked split peas have 16.3 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of cooked Lentils have 15.6 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of cooked black beans have 15.0 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of cooked lima beans have 13.2 grams of fiber
2. Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids; however, I did not like fish. I made it a goal to find ways to learn to like fish and I turned to my son, who is a gourmet chef for help. He told me to start by choosing light colored fish at supermarkets because the lighter the color, the less fishy taste that fish will have.
I tried flounder first and although I liked the taste, there was something about the fish that I did not like and could not figure out what I did not like about the fish. My son said that texture also has a lot to do with liking fish. Even though flounder is very mild, the texture is a bit mushy and therefore, My son suggested that I try cod. I really liked the cod and also the texture. He said that’s the kind of fish that fast food restaurants use for their fish sandwiches. He served Mahi one night and I loved it. Did you hear that? I LOVED IT!!! Next he tried Ahi Tuna; however, the way tuna is served at restaurants is the center is raw and I did not like eating raw fish even though the taste was really good. Recently, he asked that I try a piece of Chilean Sea Bass that he had and I loved that one better than any other types of fish I had tried.
My point in telling you all of this is if you try one type of fish and do not like it, try light colored fish. My success story is that I went to Florida this past September on vacation and at a restaurant, I actually chose Mahi as my meal. Before this, I would never purchase fish of any kind. If they would have had Chilean Sea Bass, I would have chosen that.
To be continued next Monday