Trimming down high cholesterol

almondsA handful of almonds, with no added sugar and no added salt, are a good snack for those watching their cholesterol. (Associated Press) Isn't it always the case that once you're personally connected to something, you start noticing stories about it cropping up everywhere? For me, it's high cholesterol -- recently diagnosed in several of my family members.

My father, an aunt and an uncle all recently shared that they'd been warned about or prescribed medication to tackle high cholesterol. Because of the revelations, I've been perusing health pages and websites in more detail than ever.

While stories like the one last week about some dramatic success for an experimental cholesterol-lowering drug are somewhat heartening, much of my reading has been aimed at finding food-based advice to share with my family.

While there isn't one miracle food to solve high cholesterol, bodies such as Health Canada and the Mayo Clinic have some good basic suggestions, such as:

  • Having a cup and a half of oatmeal for breakfast regularly (it boosts soluble fibre, which reduces low-density lipoprotein, a.k.a. "bad" cholesterol).
  • If you consume dairy, swapping high-fat for low-fat or skim products (e.g. milk, cheese, yogurt).
  • Snacking on unsalted, unsugared walnuts, almonds and brazil nuts to keep blood vessels healthy - although keeping portions to about a handful, since they're high in calories.
  • Eating reduced portions of meat (size: a deck of cards) and choosing poultry, fish and leaner cuts to reduce consumption of saturated fats.
  • Cook with olive oil (again, small amounts should do just fine).
  • Avoid processed foods -- e.g. store-bought cookies, crackers, cakes and baked goods that are often high in "bad cholesterol-raising" trans-fats.

And, as always, boosting the role of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains in your overall diet apparently does a body good.

Other lifestyle changes, like adding exercise and cutting out smoking, are also key.

My goal is to take some of this healthy food advice and adapt it for my Chinese-food-eating family.

What's the best advice you've received for reducing "bad" cholesterol? Have you found or developed heart-healthy but still tasty recipes?