Maj West
Maintaining a healthy diet is important for everyone, but especially for someone with dyslipidemia. Dr. Patel, can you help us understand the role that cholesterol plays in our diet?

Dr. Patel
Absolutely, Dr. West.

Cholesterol enters into your system in two different ways. First, your own body — mainly your liver — produces varying amounts of cholesterol, usually about 1000 milligrams a day. Another 400 to 500 milligrams or more can come directly from the foods that you eat.

Generally foods from animal sources, such as egg yolks, red meat, organ meats, poultry, and whole milk dairy products contain cholesterol. On the other hand, foods from plants like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, don’t contain cholesterol. Typically, the body makes all the cholesterol it needs, so you really don’t need to consume more.

Research has shown that a heart healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean diet, can help lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Dietary changes should include reducing total fat intake, particularly saturated fat. Saturated fatty acids are the chief culprit in raising blood cholesterol, which then increases your risk of heart disease. Foods that are high in saturated fats are typically high in cholesterol as well, so avoiding them is particularly helpful.

Since saturated fat and cholesterol are found in all foods from animal sources, be careful to eat no more than six ounces of lean meat or skinless poultry per day, and to use fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Fish that contains heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids should be consumed at least three times a week. High-quality proteins from vegetable sources, such as beans are also good substitutes for animal sources of protein.

Substitute grilled or broiled foods for fried foods whenever possible. If you do decide to fry, avoid oils that are high in saturated fat like coconut and palm oils. Whenever possible, use olive oil to fry meat or fish, or to sauté vegetables. A recent report indicates that including four or more tablespoons of olive oil per day as a part of your diet has beneficial effects on your blood cholesterol levels.

Besides choosing healthy foods, remember that portion sizes are important as well. You can consult your provider on the portion sizes that are best for you.

Whenever possible, be sure to read the label on the foods that you buy. Look for the terms “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils” and try to avoid these.