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Nutrition Newsletter
Clinical Nutrition and Lactation Services Newsletter

Give Yourself a Little TLC this Month

September is National Cholesterol Education month.  High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors of heart disease.  High blood cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms, so it is important to get your levels checked.  Lowering your cholesterol is good for every age, with or without heart disease. 

A desirable level for total blood cholesterol is less than 200mg/dL.  Your total cholesterol is comprised of LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglycerides.  An optimal level for LDL cholesterol is less than 100mg/dL.  HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease; therefore, a higher level is desirable (greater than 60mg/dL) and a lower level (less than 40mg/dL) increases risk of heart disease.  Triglycerides are considered normal below 150mg/dL.

There are many lifestyle changes that can be made to improve your cholesterol level and ultimately reduce your heart disease risk.  The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health designed a three-part program called Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC), which includes diet modification, physical activity, and weight management to lower your risk of heart disease.

The TLC program includes:

  • Consuming less than 7% of total daily calories from saturated fat
  • Consuming less than 200mg cholesterol per day
  • Limiting fat intake to 25-35% of total daily calories (includes calories from saturated fat)
  • Consume 10-25g soluble fiber per day
  • Consume 2g plant sterols and stanols per day
  • Balance calories to maintain a healthy weight
  • Participate in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week

Saturated fat
A type of fat found in animal products such as full-fat dairy products, poultry with skin, fatty cuts of meat, and lard, as well as some plant foods such as coconut and palm oils.  It is important to know that saturated fat raises your blood cholesterol more than anything else in your diet.  Look for products with 1g or less per serving.

Dietary cholesterol
Dietary cholesterol is found only in animal products including organ meats, egg yolks, full-fat dairy products, and shrimp.  Look for products with 20mg or less per serving.

Total fats
Another type of fat that should be avoided is trans fatty acids.  These fats are found naturally in animal fats, as well as partially hydrogenated products such as margarine, baked goods, and fried foods.  The American Heart Association recommends less than 1% of total daily calories from trans fatty acids.

Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats (good fats) should be included in a healthy diet.  Sources include most vegetable oils and nuts, olives, avocados, and fish.  Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat that protects against the risk of heart disease.  Sources include salmon, tuna, walnuts, canola and soybean oil, and flaxseeds.

Soluble fiber
Soluble fiber can reduce LDL cholesterol by blocking its absorption.  Sources include oatmeal, fruit, and beans.

Plant sterols and stanols
Sterols and stanols occur naturally in small amounts in many plants, they are also added to products such as margarine and orange juice.  Like soluble fiber, sterols and stanols can reduce LDL cholesterol by blocking its absorption. 

Bottom line:

  • Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats
  • Increase intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Limit added sugars, such as juice, soda, and sweets
  • Decrease intake of processed foods
  • Limit intake of fast food
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight

For additional information please visit http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/chol_tlc.pdf

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