DEAR PEGGY: I've been diagnosed with high cholesterol. What is the recommended amount of cholesterol I should limit myself to each day? — M.H., Blaine, Minnesota
The American Heart Association recommends limiting cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day, for most people. If you have coronary heart disease or your LDL cholesterol level is 100 mg/dL or greater, limit your cholesterol intake to less than 200 mg a day.
Surprisingly, the amount of saturated and trans fat that we eat has a bigger impact on our blood cholesterol than the cholesterol we get from our diet.
According to the AHA, we should limit saturated fat to less than 7% of our calories and trans fat to less than 1%. There are 9 calories in 1 gram of fat, so if you eat about 2,000 calories each day, that translates to no more than 15 g saturated fat and 2 g trans fat. It's likely that we get around 2 g trans fat each day from naturally occurring trans fat in the foods we eat, so that leaves virtually no room to consume foods with added trans fat.
Here are some more ways to improve cholesterol:
1. Stop smoking
2. Exercise regularly
3. Eat a healthy diet:
- Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Increase fiber, especially soluble fiber in foods like oatmeal, oat bran, barley, citrus and peas, which can decrease cholesterol
- Limit saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol
- Choose healthier fats, like monounsaturated fat found in olive and canola oils
- Eat more fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon
- Drink alcohol in moderation — no more than one drink per day for women and 2 for men