Different Choices, Similar Advice
Eating a diet rich in healthy fats can help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol and improve your overall heart health. For example, the American Heart Association’s recommendations are straightforward: eat less food with unhealthy saturated and trans fats, and eat more food with healthy unsaturated fats.
But how do you know which foods to choose, how much of them to eat, and how often?
Fortunately, two diets have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and improve overall health: The Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet. Here’s how they work.
The Mediterranean Diet is a popular, well-studied heart-healthy diet that’s based on foods people have traditionally eaten in Greece, Italy, and other regions of the Mediterranean. It’s recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to improve heart health and prevent disease, and has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. It suggests you:
- Eat primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
- Replace butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
- Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Limit red meat to no more than a few times a month
- Eat fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Drink red wine in moderation. Red wine contains resveratrol, which may have heart-healthy benefits
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet is a flexible and balanced eating plan. It was designed to lower blood pressure without medication, and help people create a heart-healthy eating style for life. It has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure compared to a typical American diet alone. Its guidelines include:
- Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
- Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
- Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
- Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets
You may notice it suggests similar foods as the Mediterranean Diet, but it also provides daily and weekly nutritional goals.
More Than a Good Habit
Eating in a way that’s been shown to lower cholesterol, like the Mediterranean Diet or DASH Diet, can help lower LDL cholesterol and be an important step toward a heart-healthy way of life.