Low Fat Diet
If you’ve just been diagnosed with high cholesterol – or are looking for ways to prevent high cholesterol – a low fat diet may be able to help. In fact, your healthcare provider may request that you try following a low fat diet before the decision to place you on cholesterol-lowering medication is made. A low fat diet is not only helps to lower your cholesterol – it is also good to your heart and your waistline.
Before starting low fat diet you should learn about “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol”. According to the lipid hypothesis, abnormal cholesterol levels (hypercholesterolemia) — actually higher concentrations of LDL particles and lower concentrations of functional HDL particles — are strongly associated with cardiovascular disease because these promote atheroma development in arteries (atherosclerosis). This disease process leads to myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Since higher blood LDL, especially higher LDL particle concentrations and smaller LDL particle size, contribute to this process more than the cholesterol content of the HDL particles, LDL particles are often termed “bad cholesterol” because they have been linked to atheroma formation. On the other hand, high concentrations of functional HDL, which can remove cholesterol from cells and atheroma, offer protection and are sometimes referred to as “good cholesterol”. These balances are mostly genetically determined, but can be changed by body build, medications, food choices, and other factors.
Certain fats, like those in nuts, seeds and oily varieties of fish provide essential fatty acids (including the omega-3 variety). These essential fats are important for maintaining healthy blood vessels, making hormones and for the correct functioning of our nervous system. The fat in our diet also helps us absorb certain vitamins, the fat-soluble ones, which include A, D, E and K. Following a very low-fat diet makes you more likely to be low in these vitamins and that can impact your immunity, limit the body’s ability to heal itself and have an influence on bone health. It’s better to focus your diet on the healthier unsaturated fats by including more fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils including avocado and olive and reduce your intake of saturated fats.
Minimize the saturated fat in your diet
You can minimize saturated fats in your low fat diet by:
- Replacing fats like butter and lard with un-saturated oils like rapeseed or olive oil.
- Eating more fish, nuts and seeds – for example choose salmon instead of bacon for a weekend brunch; snack on unsalted nuts rather than crisps.
- Removing the skin from poultry and trimming visible fat from other cuts of meat.
- Checking labels on food products – see tip box.
- Using good quality un-saturated oils, like walnut or pumpkin, for dipping your bread instead of using spreads.
- Avoid frying instead steam, bake, poach or grill.
- Replace mayo with plain yogurt – just add a squeeze of lemon juice and some mixed herbs, chives work well.
- Make chips by baking chunky cut potato wedges with a drizzle of rapeseed oil and a sprinkle of paprika.
Low fat diet foods
Dairy and dairy-like products
- Low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) yogurt, cottage cheese, or milk
- Sorbet, sherbet, gelatin ices, and low-fat or fat-free frozen yogurt
- Neufchatel or “light” cream cheese or fat-free cream cheese
- Fat-free American cheese or other types of fat-free cheeses
Fish, meat, and poultry
- Egg whites or egg substitutes
- Crab, white fish, shrimp, and light tuna (packed in water)
- Veal, chicken and turkey breast (without skin), and lean cuts of other meats (look for “loin” in the name) – braise, roast, or cook them without adding fats
- Extra lean ground beef such as ground round, or ground turkey breast (check the labels)
- Veggie burgers
Grains, cereals, and pastas
- Hot (oatmeal or grits) and cold cereals (except granola types)
- Rice or noodles (watch out for fat in sauces you may add)
- Bagels, pita bread, or English muffins
- Low-fat crackers
- Soft tortillas – corn or whole wheat
- Toast, English muffins, or bagels with jelly or honey (no butter)
- Pretzels, soda crackers, or plain breads
Fruits and vegetables
- Fruits and fruit juices, applesauce
- Vegetables and vegetable juices (again, watch out for fat in sauces you may add)
Snacks and sweets
- Danish pudding and fruit pie fillings
- Vanilla wafers and ginger snap cookies
- Angel food cake
- Puddings made with skim milk
- Baked chips, tortilla or potato
- Low-fat microwave popcorn
- Hard and jelly candies
- Broth type soups with a vegetable base
- Sauces, pudding, or shakes made with skim milk