It comes as a surprise to many when they hear that close to one in five 18 to 34-year-old Australians are presenting with high cholesterol levels.1
Having consistently high cholesterol levels can cause blood vessels to be lined with fatty deposits, and this increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
Commonly (and mistakenly) regarded as a condition that only affects older adults, the prevalence of high cholesterol levels in younger Australians causes us to consider how we can prevent this.
Most of the cases of high cholesterol in Australia are linked to a diet that is high in saturated fat and cholesterol and low in fibre.
Research shows that restaurant and takeaway foods tend to have greater amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol compared to home cooked meals.2
However, for many people, the thought of meal planning and grocery shopping makes them dread Sundays and may even make them feel anxious.
You yourself may be among the many millennials who have very active accounts on restaurant meal delivery services. You probably find that when you order take-out, you usually skip ordering vegetables or salad, since the main dish has already cost more than ten dollars. You are also more inclined to order a side of hot chips as part of a meal deal. I know, because I find myself doing this (and I’m a dietitian!).
It is trickier to select a meal low in saturated fat because you are unable to control what type of oil or what cut of meat the restaurant uses.
If you are someone who would like to switch from eating out frequently to eating at home without the added stress of meal planning, meal providers may be worth a try.
Many of the recipes developed by meal providers like Hello Fresh and Dinner Twist are suitable for the eating guidelines for healthy cholesterol levels, especially the recipes which focus on plant-based ingredients like vegetables and pulses.
Your eating guide for healthy cholesterol levels
- Eat a diet high in fibre including mixed fibre sources (insoluble and soluble). Aim for at least a third of the fibre you eat to be viscous soluble fibre (sources of this are labelled in the food list below).
- Eat less saturated fats (meat, poultry, butter, lard) and more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (olive oil, canola oil, oily fish, nuts).
- Limit dietary cholesterol (meat, poultry, butter).
- Include soy protein daily (soy drink, tofu, tempeh).
What you could eat for breakfast
- Choose rolled oats, either cooked into porridge or as part of muesli (viscous soluble fibre).
- Sprinkle psyllium on your breakfast (viscous soluble fibre).
- Choose wholegrain breads.
- Choose low-fat milk, cheese, and yoghurt.
- If you already have high cholesterol levels, choose ‘Cholesterol-Lowering Weet-Bix’ or margarine that has added plant sterols, such as Flora ProActiv margarine.
What you could eat for lunch and dinner
- Cook with lean meats and poultry, trimming off any excess fat or skin before cooking. Aim to have red meat only twice per week.
- Replace meat and poultry dishes with tofu, tempeh, or pulses (beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils) four to five times a week (viscous soluble fibre).
- Include oily fish in your diet regularly, such as salmon, sardines or mackerel.
- If you already have high cholesterol levels, aim for less than seven eggs per week.
- Have less shellfish or have a small portion when you do eat it.
- Include different coloured vegetables daily, especially okra, eggplant, sweet potato, broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, turnip and carrots (viscous soluble fibre).
- Use olive or canola oil when cooking.
- Mix psyllium into stews and soups (viscous soluble fibre).
- Explore cooking with different kinds of wholegrains, like barley, bulgur, brown rice, and quinoa.
- Munch on 45g (about a good handful) of unsalted or dry roasted nuts per day.
- Enjoy temperate climate fruits such as apples, citrus fruits, berries, and stone fruits (viscous soluble fibre).
- Try avocado on wholegrain bread as a mid-afternoon snack.
- Have less butter and animal fats, which is usually used in baked goods, pastries, deep fried foods and snack foods like chips.
1. National Heart Foundation of Australia. High cholesterol statistics.
2. Nguyen BT, Powell LM. The impact of restaurant consumption among US adults: effects on energy and nutrient intakes. Public Health Nutrition. 2014 Nov;17(11):2445-52.