Elevated cholesterol levels along with chronic inflammation are big contributors to heart disease such as atherosclerosis, stroke, and heart attack. Chronic inflammation is often a result of a diet high in fat and simple carbohydrates accompanied by a sedentary lifestyle. This combination of factors can lead to elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol levels which begin to form deposits along the lining of blood vessels. This causes further inflammation and it also causes blood vessels to narrow. Narrow blood vessels require higher pressure to move the blood through the vessel which means the heart has to work harder to pump blood through the body.
An anti-inflammatory diet approach can help lower cholesterol levels and decrease chronic inflammation. The purpose of an anti-inflammatory diet in relation to heart disease is to lower blood lipids including cholesterol and triglycerides, maintain or reduce blood pressure within a normal range, slow/prevent or reverse the development of cholesterol deposits in blood vessels (atherosclerosis), and lower the risk of major heart disease events or conditions.
Key notes of an anti-inflammatory diet:
Incorporate adequate potassium (~4700 mg/day). Potassium can be found in bananas, white beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, spinach, tomatoes, swiss chard, oranges, avocadoes, yogurt, coconut water, and salmon.
Make sure you are meeting the daily fiber recommendation of at least 25 g/day. Click here for fiber sources and how to incorporate more fiber into your diet.
Try for 5! Get at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables in each day (~2.5 cups total). Click here for ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet.
Eat more whole grains and starchy vegetables such as beans, lentils, peas, and potatoes.
Lower saturated fat intake by choosing lean proteins or plant-based proteins. Click here for plant based protein ideas.
Eat more omega-3 fatty acids! Omega-3’s can be found in fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, herring), flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.
Eat more nuts. Add more nuts such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, and hazels nuts.
Limit highly processed foods, trans fats, fried foods, and foods with large amounts of added sugar.
Diet is important, but don’t forget to exercise regularly. I shoot for at least 15 minutes/day 5x/week, but 30 minutes/day 5x/week is preferred.
As always, working with a registered dietitian can help tailor a diet and exercise plan that will fit into your lifestyle.