Introducing high-fat foods into your diet can increase your blood cholesterol levels. While your body does require cholesterol to function, excess cholesterol can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. In order to lower cholesterol levels, choose healthy meals and snacks that lower your levels.
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Two types of cholesterol exist in the body. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol is known as “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to the buildup of arterial plaque, according to The Permanente Medical Group. High-density lipoproteins, or HDL, cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol because it reduces the amount of arterial buildup. When your LDL cholesterol exceeds 130 mg/dL, you could be at increased risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes. Better eating choices and exercise can help to reduce this risk.
Snacks to Avoid
Cholesterol is found only in those foods that contain animal products; foods made with meats, dairy products and eggs all contain cholesterol, according to The Ohio State University Medical Center Department of Nutrition Services. When choosing healthy snacks, you should avoid foods made with butter, whole milk or that include high-fat meats. Carefully read food labels and look for trans fats. This additive is found in high-cholesterol prepackaged foods to extend their shelf life. Avoid snack foods that have any trans fats, such as crackers, cookies, fried pies, cream substitutes and nondairy whipped topping.
When creating a low-cholesterol snack, it’s a good idea to choose a sampling of foods from different food groups and include a protein source, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Protein helps you to feel more full longer and is essential to building healthy muscles. An example of a low-fat snack could include apple slices with peanut butter and a glass of low-fat or skim milk. This allows you to take in a variety of nutrients without excess cholesterol.
Foods to Try
Because fruits and vegetables do not contain cholesterol, these foods can be a building block of low-cholesterol snacks. Good examples include strawberries, raisins, grapes, oranges, carrot sticks, raw broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Low-cholesterol protein sources include low-fat dairy products, such as fat-free cottage or ricotta cheese, water-packed tuna or a spoonful of seeds, such as sunflower seeds. Nuts also are associated with lowering high cholesterol--choose unsalted almonds, walnuts or pecans, according to Reader’s Digest. Whole-grain foods also contain carbohydrates, which give you energy. For dessert options, mix chopped fruit in low-fat yogurt or scoop sherbet or sorbet.
Eating several small meals and supplementing your diet with snacks throughout the day can help you to feel fuller for longer, according to The Ohio State University Medical Center Department of Nutrition Services. Aim to eat a meal or snack every two to three hours in order to keep your blood sugar levels constant and reduce the temptation to eat a high-cholesterol snack. For added convenience, keep several snacks in your work or gym bag in order to resist temptations. Trail mix, whole-wheat crackers or a fruit bar are ideal for on-the-go low-cholesterol snacking.