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How To Lower High Cholesterol
I just learned I have high cholesterol. My doctor delivered this fun bit of news last week as he was reviewing the results of my blood panel with me in his exam room. This condition is something I've heard of obviously, but never gave a thought to, being one of those very obnoxious people who gets perfect results every year on my blood panels. Up until last week, high cholesterol was, at least to my thinking, a condition other people with predisposed constitutions and bad diets get. It never applied to me, at least, until now.
This information comes as a shock for someone trained to hear "Kidneys, normal, EKG, normal, liver, normal, heart normal, blood glucose normal...." year after year. Normal becomes the standard, and you settle into that. Worse than that though, you come to expect perfect results every year when you go for your annual. Living in that world never prepares you for anything different. I was delivered a serious kick to the groin this year though, when he gave me this news. Sitting cross-legged on the exam table in my paper gown, I felt the wind had just been taken out of my sails.
Doctor (looking at my papers): "Hmmmm...You have high cholesterol."
Me: "Whaaaaat? How did this happen? What am I eating?"
Doctor: "Too much red meat."
Me: " I don't eat red meat."
Doctor: " Well, dairy products then"
Me: "OK, you got me there."
Indignance and the Perils of High Fat Dairy
Notwithstanding the blow to my ego, I found this information disconcerting, more because I've always eaten well. Lots of vegetables, only fish for meat, enough fiber, lots of water, blah, blah, blah. Isn't that supposed to keep the engine running fairly well? Yes, I'm a dairy product freak, although it never occurred to me that overindulging in cheese would lead to this. But cheese, especially the regular kind, is high in fat. I know that, I've always known that, but it's a fact I've chosen to conveniently ignore over the years. Sloppy me. Yes, I know, there was always the option of low fat, but I never took it, simply because I don't like the taste. That stuff just doesn't have the kick of regular dairy.
There's another reason I've never gone low fat, though, and that is that I've always been slightly contemptuous of the whole low-fat-anything scene. To me, this is a world inhabited by weight-obsessed (anorectic?) people, willing to go as far as to sacrifice taste for looking good. Maybe not entirely accurate or fair on my part, but this is the way I've always seen it. So at this point, not being able to eat regular dairy, I'm trying to envision myself as someone who doesn't do dairy at all. This isn't the happiest thought ever to cross my mind, but then again, I know it's possible, because there are millions of people out there who are strict vegans and live perfectly normal lives without ingesting dairy. I just don't know if I'm strong enough for all that. Dairy is such a part of my life, I liken it to an addiction.
What Would Happen If I Just Ignored It?
Feeling overwhelmed as I left the doctor's office, my mind sought an escape route. Because my condition requires gearing up for a new way of eating, and a whole lot of work to get to that point, what would happen if I just ignored it? I mean, I'm busy enough without adding to the pile! So when I got home, I got on the Internet, and found out what ignoring high cholesterol can lead to:
2. Heart Attacks.
3. Heart Disease
Oh, great, that's just what I need. Apparently, high cholesterol leads to plaque build up in your arteries. This restricts the flow of blood to your heart and brain, which in turn causes the above mentioned conditions. And because I'm getting up there in age, ignoring this at this point is not an option. God, what a dilemma! Why couldn't my numbers have just been normal, so I wouldn't have to go through all this? But they're not, so here I am, forced to deal with a situation I really don't want to deal with.
TMI and Sifting Through
Going further into the research on how to lower high cholesterol yielded results beyond anything one person could ever want. Good Lord, what a glut of information! It's overwhelming... everything from exercising more to taking cholesterol lowering drugs (well, my doctor didn't prescribe that for me) to quitting smoking, to losing weight...... GAAAAAAAAAA, I can't take it all! The one suggestion they did offer, though, and this is where I'm going to start, is to pay attention to what I'm eating. And, what I need to eat, apparently, are foods high in fiber. The other thing I need to do is drastically cut down the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol I'm taking in. So, from what I can tell when I sift through all this information, is that there are three cardinal rules when eating to lower cholesterol:
1. Eat High Fiber foods. For women, that translates into 25-30 grams of fiber a day. For men, it's 35-40 grams.
2. Don't eat saturated fat, or at least keep your intake down to a dull roar. Daily intake of saturated fat should never be over 16 grams. (This is for the typical 2000 calorie a day person). You'll need to read labels, and fly under 16.
3. Limit your cholesterol intake to under 200 mg a day. You'll have to do some label reading for this one as well, but that's the number you want to stay under.
Narrowing It Down
OK, but what specifically are these foods a person is supposed to run toward or from? I looked at that next, and what I came up with was three lists. The first is a list of High Fiber Foods (the ones you're supposed to eat), the second, a list of Saturated Fats Foods (the foods you need to avoid), and the third gives you names of the Cholesterol-laden fare you need to run like a bat out of hell from. I'll start you off by giving you a part of the first list, (which is High Fiber Foods, the ones to eat), but in the interests of time and space, I won't include everything here. It's just too much. You can see the lists in their entirety, by clicking on the "More" button at the end of this list:
1. HIGH FIBER FOODS (THE ONES TO EAT)
Oatmeal, 1 cup = 8 grams of fiber
Raspberries, fresh or frozen, 1 cup = 8 grams of fiber
1 Apple with the skin on = 4.4 grams of fiber
Almonds, 1/4 cup = 3 grams of fiber
Corn, 1/2 cup, or 1 cob = 2 grams fiber
Popcorn, 3 cups = 3.5 grams fiber
1 Avocado = 10 grams fiber
So now, research in place and armed with my lists, it's up to me to make the right decisions about what I'm going to put in my piehole from now on. Actually, I already eat a lot in the High Fiber category and am pretty much in line with everything on the Saturated Fat list. This is why I was so put out by what the doctor told me. Where it all went wrong is that I also eat a lot in the way of Cholesterol foods. Clearly, it's time to clean up that corner by making a concerted effort to avoid everything on that last list. I can only hope it won't take too much out of me.
Already I've started in small ways. I didn't buy milk this week, stopped putting butter on anything, and have limited myself to two eggs a week. Next, I'll start slowly moving into eating even more on the High Fiber list while avoiding foods on the Saturated Fat and Cholesterol lists (especially the Cholesterol list). We'll see how it all shakes out next September, when I have my next blood panel test. Perhaps I'll score in the normal range again, in which case I can rejoin the realms of the Obnoxiously Perfect. This time around though, when I leave the doctor's office to celebrate, it'll be an Avocado I eat instead of Roquefort Cheese!
Lentil & Brown Rice Casserole
- 3/4 cup dried Lentils, rinsed
- 1/2 cup Brown Rice, uncooked
- 2 1/2 cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth
- 1 package (16 ounces) frozen, cut Green Beans or Broccoli
- 1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded (optional)
- Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix lentils, rice and broth in a 2 quart casserole dish. Cover and bake 1 hour.
- Stir in the frozen green beans or broccoli. Cover and bake another 30 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Sprinkle with cheese. Makes 6 servings.
|Serving size: 1|
|Calories from Fat||63|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 7 g||11%|
|Saturated fat 5 g||25%|
|Carbohydrates 35 g||12%|
|Fiber 9 g||36%|
|Protein 14 g||28%|
|Cholesterol 20 mg||7%|
|Sodium 800 mg||33%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|