Question: I just had bloodwork done for the first time in a few years, and it showed that my cholesterol levels are high. I’ve never had this problem before. What diet changes should I make to help lower it?
Thanks for reaching out with your question, Jasmine! There are many misconceptions when it comes to high cholesterol numbers and strategies for lowering them.
Cholesterol is a necessary component for numerous bodily functions, such as hormone synthesis, the creation of bile for fat digestion and making up a part of the cell membrane.
However, while cholesterol plays an important role in our bodies, it’s also important to watch out for increased serum cholesterol, as too much cholesterol can contribute to heart problems.
LDL & HDL Cholesterol
Cholesterol is transported in the body by lipoproteins. The two primary forms that are important to know are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).
LDL is responsible for depositing cholesterol in the blood while HDL is responsible for returning cholesterol from the blood back to the liver. High levels of LDL have the potential to lead to clogged arteries and other heart problems. On the other hand, high levels of HDL can help prevent these diseases. 
Improving Your Cholesterol Levels
When it comes to improving your cholesterol numbers, there are plenty of dietary and lifestyle changes you can make. Some of these strategies include incorporating soluble fiber into your diet, eating healthy fats and consistently exercising.
Soluble Fiber: Soluble fiber has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol because it can bind to cholesterol in the small intestine preventing it from entering your bloodstream, which allows the cholesterol to exit your body. Some great sources of soluble fiber include beans, apples, oats, brussels sprouts and avocados. Aim to get in 5-10 grams of soluble fiber each day to experience any cholesterol-lowering effects. 
Healthy Fats: Polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3, and monounsaturated fats have been shown to help reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. They have also been found to help reduce the oxidation of lipoproteins, which contribute to clogged arteries. Some great sources of healthy fats include olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and fatty fish. 
Consistent Exercise: Incorporating activity throughout your week has been found to help reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. According to studies, roughly 30 minutes of activity at least 5 days a week is enough to reduce the risk of heart disease. The best type of exercise is the one that’s most enjoyable for you, as you’ll be more likely to stick with it! Weight lifting, walking or swimming are all types of exercise that have been shown to impact your cholesterol levels positively. 
Understanding Dietary Cholesterol
You may have been told not to eat eggs due to their high cholesterol content. Well, we now know that dietary cholesterol – the cholesterol found in foods like eggs, meat and full-fat dairy – does not have as much of an impact on our serum cholesterol levels as we once thought. This is because the body tightly regulates the amount of cholesterol it makes according to how much it needs. In fact, dietary cholesterol only affects a small percentage of the population. This very small population of hyper-responders has a genetic predisposition to this tendency. 
For example, if you eat 300mg of cholesterol in your day, your liver will produce the additional amount your body needs. Because of this, foods with dietary cholesterol have little impact on your blood cholesterol.
Dietary guidelines once stated that you should have no more than 300mg of cholesterol per day. However, this has since changed, and there is no longer any specific recommendation. Instead of worrying about how much dietary cholesterol you are consuming, incorporate soluble fiber, healthy fats and exercise in your week to support your blood cholesterol levels.