There’s no denying it. Ireland is a high cholesterol nation. We have the world’s tastiest butter, beef and your most easily accessible foods from snacks to takeaway dinners can be very high in cholesterol. This makes combatting high cholesterol issues extremely difficult in Ireland. If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol or your doctor has warned you that levels higher than average there are a number of changes to your diet that will help dramatically.
What is cholesterol really, and why does high cholesterol matter?
In basic terms cholesterol is a fat found in the blood. Too much cholesterol can build up and block arteries and cause cardiovascular disease. If you have a family history of stroke, or heart attacks, you will want to take your cholesterol intake seriously. And in doing so you will (potentially inadvertently) be one-step closer to a balanced diet. Knowing what foods are high in Cholesterol will help you change your daily eating habits, and the following continues to elaborate on what to avoid.
Too much butter
It’s saddest thing to write, but despite the reality that Irish butter is the best in the world, it is one of the worst contributors to cholesterol problems. Unfortunately just reaching for margarine instead isn’t perfect. Some margarine’s offer lower calories, but include trans fats, that at the end of the day aren’t much better for your heart. Look for the latest plant sterol / stanol containing margarines that also promote their positive cholesterol reducing properties.
It’s good to also consider what else you may be eating that is mass produced and heavily reliant on butter. Baked snacks are not your friend here. Your muffin addiction has to go, and so do those delicate and delicious buttery croissants.
Avoid milk & cheese
Following on from butter, just about all-dairy products are high in cholesterol. Considering using milk alternatives such as oat or soya milk with your coffee to go. And cheese might be best thing in the world, but not doing much good for your heart or your waistline. If you just can’t live without cheese, consider low fat cottage or cream cheese, which as a result of lower or completely removed milk-fats is also lower cholesterol. Personally, I resorted to a ‘cheat day’ (aka cheese day), which despite giving-in once in a whole, still means I have greatly reduced my cheese intake.
Red meat & shellfish
Love a good steak for dinner? If you are eating red meat daily, you’ll need to find a way to reduce the saturated (bad) fats in your diet. Chicken or fish are generally better options. Beans are also a fantastic way to add more substance to meals and home cooking without any additional cholesterol.
A moderate contributor to high cholesterol is prawns and shellfish. Sushi may have the perception of being healthy or ‘lite’, but many sushi style dishes are high in sugar (used to make the rice stick together nicely), and cholesterol due to use of prawns or crabmeat. Unfortunately prawns are very good for you in terms of low saturated fats, and also offer healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but unfortunately do contain a moderate amount of cholesterol. Consult your doctor, and base your food avoidance decisions on sound medical advice. It may be the case that things like eggs, and prawns can still be in your diet while minimising cholesterol in other areas.
A balanced diet is key
Too much of one thing is rarely going to be good for your health, and the reality is that Cholesterol is found in any animal based food product. If you are taking your cholesterol levels seriously it will do you the world of good to seek out vegetarian and vegan menu options wherever possible. The best advice is always to talk to your doctor about nutrition and your diet. In many cases a few lifestyle changes can make the world of difference to the health of your heart.