The Importance Of Managing your Cholesterol

The amount of cholesterol in your blood is a major risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. When you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it begins to build up on the walls of your arteries through the process of atherosclerosis, which causes your arteries to become narrowed or completely blocked. When this happens, a heart attack or stroke can occur. Higher levels of triglycerides, high blood pressure and cigarette smoking also may contribute to atherosclerosis.

What Can You Do to Avoid High Cholesterol?

There are certain risk factors for high cholesterol that cannot be controlled, such as your age and family history. Fortunately, there are several lifestyle changes that you can make that may help reduce your odds of developing high cholesterol, or assist in reducing your cholesterol levels.

How Can You Lower Your Cholesterol Levels?

Cholesterol levels can be lowered by making various diet changes. Limit saturated fat intake to 7% or less of total calories; saturated fat is typically found in foods like red meat, butter, whole or 2% milk and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil. Eliminate trans fats from the diet, which can increase LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in the body. Instead, opt for healthier fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which can be found in things like olive oil, canola oil and avocadoes, but overall, it’s advisable to keep your calories from total fat between 20 and 35% of total calories. Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fish, can raise HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and positively effect overall cholesterol.

Tips for Adding More Oats to Your Diet

  • Replace crackers or breadcrumbs in meatballs and meatloaf recipes with oats.
  • Use ground oats as a breading for baked fish and chicken.
  • Substitute oats for up to one-third of the flour in breads, cakes, cookies, or muffins.
  • Make oatmeal pancakes topped with fresh fruit.
  • Make your own oat-based granola.
  • Use oats as the topping for your fresh fruit crisp.
  • Top yogurt or low-fat ice cream with toasted oats and fresh fruit.
  • Use oats instead of flour as a thickener in soups and stews.

There is no question that oats are an important component of a heart-healthy diet. As scientists continue to study oats, even more potential heart health benefits may be found. If you are looking for an easy way to improve your heart health, why not give oats a try?

If you'd like to try more food ideas like these, visit our Cooking & Recipes section.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

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