No, you don’t have to give up snacking to manage your heart health.
According to the CDC, more than 11% of Americans have high cholesterol, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. One of the best ways to prevent or manage high cholesterol is through nutrition. Consuming adequate fiber and unsaturated fats can help reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol and raise HDL or “good” cholesterol levels. Oftentimes, snacking gets a bad rap. But we’re here to tell you that snacking can absolutely support your health goals. Keep reading to learn what to look for in a high cholesterol-friendly snack and our top six bedtime snack ideas for high cholesterol.
What to Look for in a Cholesterol-Friendly Snack
When it comes to managing high cholesterol with nutrition, there are two key things to keep in mind. The first is to swap saturated fat for unsaturated fat. Saturated fat and trans fats can raise your LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels, while unsaturated fats can lower LDL and total cholesterol levels. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that no more than 10% of your daily calories come from saturated fat, while the American Heart Association has stricter guidelines, recommending no more than 6% of your daily calories come from saturated fat.
The second recommendation is to consume enough fiber. Generally, females should consume 25 grams of fiber daily, and males should consume 38 grams, though it can vary slightly by age, per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Soluble fiber—a type of fiber that attracts water and becomes a gel-like substance during digestion—is especially valuable for lowering cholesterol. Additionally, beta-glucans are polysaccharides that act as dietary fiber and have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. These can be found in both soluble and insoluble sources of fiber.
The 6 Best Bedtime Snacks for High Cholesterol
1. Oatmeal with Bananas
Oatmeal has a couple of properties that can help reduce cholesterol. It is one of the best sources of beta-glucans out there, and it also has soluble fiber. Pairing it with bananas adds more soluble fiber and some yummy sweetness for a comforting, cholesterol-friendly evening snack. As a bonus, you might add some chia seeds for more soluble fiber and unsaturated fat to help you feel satiated.
2. Low-Fat Yogurt with Granola and Berries
While full-fat dairy can add saturated fat to your diet, fat-free or low-fat dairy can help you get in this calcium-rich food group with minimal saturated fat. Remember, you don’t need to eliminate saturated fat entirely; you just need to be mindful of it. Low-fat yogurt, particularly low-fat Greek yogurt, will be high in protein to help you feel satisfied. Adding berries will add soluble fiber to reduce cholesterol. Depending on your taste preferences and hunger, you can also add chia or flax seeds and granola.
3. Whole-Wheat Crackers with Hummus
If you’re a savory-food lover, don’t fear! Whole-wheat crackers with hummus are a great bedtime snack with cholesterol-lowering potential. Whole-wheat products can be a great source of fiber, and some crackers are also a good source of unsaturated fat. Just check the nutrition label to make sure since products will vary. Hummus is another good source of unsaturated fats and fiber thanks to its chickpea and olive oil base. As a bonus, when eaten together, this pairing will form a complete protein containing a good balance of all nine essential amino acids. This can help you feel full and satisfied!
4. Chia Pudding
Chia seeds are a great source of unsaturated fats and soluble fiber. If you mix them with a liquid and put them in the fridge for a few hours, they absorb some of the liquid and form a tasty gel-like snack, both creamy and crunchy (I swear, it’s delicious!). They also contain some protein and carbohydrates, but you can get more protein and carbohydrates by using low-fat dairy milk or soy milk as your liquid. If you like, you can add nuts or fruit to make it similar to a parfait.
5. Whole-Wheat Toast with Avocado
Here’s another bedtime snack idea for our savory-food lovers. Avocado is a traditional Latin cultural food that has become increasingly popular in the U.S. It is packed with unsaturated fats and fiber and makes for a delicious, creamy addition to many dishes. Having it on top of whole-wheat toast can up the fiber content and make for a well-rounded, satisfying snack.
5. Dried Fruit and Nuts
We’ve spoken about how soluble fiber and unsaturated fat are key for cholesterol management, and this duo is a perfect example of that combo! Many fruits are rich in soluble fiber, while nuts are a great source of unsaturated fats and fiber, too. Dried fruit will contain more soluble fiber in a smaller volume than whole fruit. Just be mindful of whether the dried fruit you’ve purchased contains added sugars; you generally want to avoid going overboard on those.
Other Tips to Manage Your High Cholesterol Levels
In addition to making nutritious food choices, here are some other health-promoting behaviors you can focus on to manage high cholesterol:
- Quit smoking or vaping. Smoking and vaping have been shown to lower HDL or “good” cholesterol levels.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol consumption can raise LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels. Limit your intake to two drinks or less per day for men or one drink or less per day for women, per the CDC.
- Get in regular physical activity. Getting in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week can help reduce cholesterol levels.
- Take medication as recommended by your doctor. Sometimes your health-promoting behaviors won’t be enough to keep your cholesterol levels in check. This could be due to a genetic predisposition for high cholesterol. Follow your doctor’s recommendations about medication for managing your cholesterol.
Also, be sure to speak with your doctor about getting bloodwork done to check your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol doesn’t result in any symptoms, so the only way to know if you have it is by getting lab work done.
The Bottom Line
High cholesterol is pretty common in the U.S., and there are a bunch of lifestyle factors you can alter to help prevent or manage it. When it comes to nutrition, try to increase your fiber intake and swap out saturated fats for unsaturated fats in your diet. And if you’re struggling to get started, why not try out one of the snacks we suggested above?
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