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The Other Ways To Lower Cholesterol

Most of my clients have heard the word about saturated fats and avoiding trans fat to lower their cholesterol levels. Many also know they need to increase their fibre intake. But, there are a few other diet tricks you can use to help lower cholesterol.

  1. Eat nuts 5 days a week. The Mediterranean diet plan encourages us to use healthy fats like monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats in order to reduce cholesterol. Nuts are high in MUFA and PUFA oils. Nuts are nourishing and satisfying, but the portion of nuts we consume is very important. Over consumption can lead to extra calories we may not need. A healthy portion of almonds or peanuts is 1/3 to 2/3 cup, but this quickly adds up to 270-540 calories per serving. 1/2 to 1 cup of pecans or walnuts is considered a serving size and provides 390-780 calories.

  2. Plant Sterols. These are substances found in all plants and their structure looks similar to dietary cholesterol, which is only found in animal products. They compete with the cholesterol in our diet for absorption sites in our guts. If we eat enough plant sterols we can get 50% lower cholesterol absorption. Our typical Canadian diet provides 150-400 mg of plant sterols daily. A vegan diet provides up to 800 mg per day. However, 2000 mg per day lowers LDL cholesterol by up to 9%. So, we should maximize our plant intake (make sure you eat your veggies and whole grains) then look into a supplemental form of plant sterols. Some foods have plant sterols added to them (such as Becel ProActive margarine or Oasis Health Break Cholest Prevent juices). A supplement such as Centrum Cardio multivitamin, which also has added plant sterols, is another option to consider.

  3. Add soy to your diet. We don't really know how soy lowers cholesterol, but it does! When we consume 20-25 grams of soy protein daily we lower LDL cholesterol by 3-5%. So, what does 20-25 g of soy protein look like? -- 1 cup of edamame; 1 cup of tofu; 3 cups of soy beverage; 3/4 cup boiled soybeans or 2/3 cup tempeh (fermented soy).

So, along with the traditional lower fat, higher fibre approach, try some of these add-ins to a healthy cholesterol lowering diet!

Submitted by Robin Clark, a Registered Dietitian at various clinics in Brooks and Bassano.

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