By Courtney Eby, RDN, LD
If you find yourself confused about cholesterol you’re not alone! Cholesterol is produced in the body and is also found in foods and beverages. Blood cholesterol is tested as a health screening tool. In the past, if your cholesterol was high, you might have been told to eat fewer high cholesterol foods, like eggs. But now we know that certain fats - saturated and trans fats - have a larger affect on your blood cholesterol.
Foods high in saturated fats include full fat dairy (butter, cream, half-and-half, ice cream, cheese), tropical oils (coconut, palm oils), and red and highly processed meats (beef, pork, bacon, sausage, hot dogs and brats). Many desserts are also high in saturated fat. It’s important to limit these foods to smaller portions and enjoy in moderation.
Trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils found in some margarine, baked goods, and many processed foods.These fats should be avoided because they raise harmful cholesterol and lower the good cholesterol.
Unsaturated fats are healthy fats. They help to decrease harmful cholesterol. These include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are found in avocados, olives, nuts and sesame seeds as well as olive, canola, and peanut oils. Polyunsaturated fats are found in fish, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and oils such as corn, soybean, safflower and sunflower oils.
Cutting back on fat or switching to healthier fats doesn’t need to be a huge change. Even small changes add up! Choosing lean meats like skinless chicken and turkey, fish, low-fat dairy products, unsaturated oils and eating broiled or baked foods instead of fried foods are enough to make a difference.
Here are a few more ideas to help you incorporate more healthy fats:
- Pair whole grain crackers or vegetables with hummus for a tasty snack.
- Instead of a cream sauce, toss whole grain pasta with chopped olives, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs.
- Serve fish or shrimp at your next BBQ instead of burgers, brats or hot dogs.
- Eat whole grain bread with a small amount of olive oil instead of butter.
- Spread hummus or olive tapenade on your sandwich instead of mayo.
- Instead of chips and dip try whole grain tortilla chips with guacamole.
- When cooking, drizzle a small amount of olive oil in your pan instead of butter.
- Lower the fat content of your milk by switching to 1% or skim.
- Spread a thin layer of nut butter on your toast or bagel instead of butter or cream cheese.
- Prepare small baggies of nuts and seeds to have available when you’re on the run. A level handful is all you need.