Fitness & NutritionHealthcare Tips

A Dietician’s Guide to Managing High Cholesterol

October 4, 2023

At first, having high cholesterol might not seem like such a big deal. After all, there are no symptoms to accompany it, so you may not feel like it’s something that needs to be immediately addressed. But high cholesterol can pose more dangers than you realize, making it more important than ever to check your levels and address any concerns with your doctor. 

If you’re dealing with high cholesterol, read on to hear first hand from one of our dieticians about how you can mitigate its effects.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in all the cells of your body. It’s perfectly normal in moderation, but too much of it can cause fatty deposits to clog blood vessels, restricting blood flow and possibly leading to serious medical conditions such as a stroke or heart attack. 

“A healthy diet and annual screenings are critical to mitigate high cholesterol,” said Sara Hardin, clinical nutrition coordinator. “A stroke or heart attack caused by high cholesterol can be life-threatening.”

What can I do to treat high cholesterol?

Luckily, high cholesterol is easy to treat with diet and exercise. Trying simple workouts like cardio or yoga can do wonders to help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, and keeping an eye out for high-fat, high-cholesterol foods and reducing your intake of them can improve your levels as well. 

However, if you’re already battling high cholesterol, there are steps you can take to reduce the harmful effects. Our dieticians recommend a diet high in soluble fiber, for starters. 

“Foods containing soluble fiber naturally bring cholesterol levels down in the blood,” said Hardin. “Scientists believe that soluble fiber forms a gel and binds to cholesterol, where it is then excreted by the body.” 

Hardin recommends eating 5-10 grams of soluble fiber per day. Foods like brussel sprouts, oats, winter squash, beans, and pears are all naturally high in soluble fiber, and contain about 2-3 grams of fiber per serving, making them the perfect food choices to add to your diet. 

“White and red grape juice also have been shown to increase high density lipoprotein (HDL), which is a form of good cholesterol,” said Hardin. “Adequate HDL levels counteract the harmful effects of low density lipoprotein (LDL), which is the bad cholesterol.” 

Hardin also recommended consuming foods that contain phytosterols, which have the capability to lower your cholesterol. 

“These compounds compete with cholesterol for absorption in the digestive tract, and beat out cholesterol, lowering or negating the amount that your body absorbs,” said Hardin. 

Foods containing phytosterols include whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.

How can I find out if I have high cholesterol?

If you’re concerned you may have high cholesterol, speak to your doctor about having a blood test done. 

“You can also ask your doctor for a referral to the outpatient clinical dietician,” said Hardin, adding that, “We’d love to speak to you about improving your heart health!” 

Whether that means speaking with your doctor or talking to a clinical dietician, consider taking steps to check your cholesterol today.