IF your doctor has prescribed a heart healthy-diet to manage your high cholesterol, then shifting around a few things like replacing fried eggs with oatmeal or non-fat chocolate pudding instead of that red velvet cake with cream cheese will not cut it. Instead, nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant said that a more beneficial choice would be the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet.
“The TLC diet is just one of a number of heart-healthy, low cholesterol diets which have been designed to reduce the risk of a number of conditions/diseases of the heart. In particular, the diet is known for its contribution to lowering cholesterol as well as your risk of heart diseases and stroke,” Grant explained.
He pointed out that the diet, which focuses on a reduction in the amount of saturated fats you eat because of its role in elevating cholesterol levels, also challenges individuals to eat foods which are lower in cholesterol for a more desirable outcome.
“You want to focus on reducing the number of meats and milk products that you consume and go for foods from these same food groups. So, for example, you want to avoid foods such as butter, fatty cuts of meat, egg yolk, whole milk dairy products and pastry, and these could be replaced by salmon, sunflower seeds, yoghurt, reduced-fat milk or sorbets,” Grant explained.
Using the recommendations of the American College of Cardiology, which has been endorsed through the US National Cholesterol Education Program, Grant notes that the guidelines for the TLC diet are as follows:
• You'll get 25 per cent to 35 per cent of your daily calories from fat, mainly from unsaturated fat. These fats include canola, olive, peanut, safflower, sunflower, and corn oils.
• You'll get less than seven per cent of your daily calories from saturated fat. These fats include butter, shortening, and fat found in animal and dairy products.
• You'll eat no more than 200 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day. Cholesterol is found in foods such as poultry, red meat, dairy products and shellfish.
• You'll choose proteins carefully. Protein-based foods should account for approximately 20 per cent of your daily total calories. You, however, must be cautious when choosing your proteins since they are high in cholesterol and saturated fat. Some viable options outside of lean meats and reduced-fat dairy include beans, lentils, seeds and soy products.
• The programme recommends a total of 50-60 per cent of your calories coming from carbohydrates daily. Again, you have to be careful where you get your carbs from. You can also double on your benefits by choosing carbohydrates that are rich in fibre since the diet calls for 20-30 per cent daily. Therefore, you want to go for more complex carbs — some good sources include vegetables, whole grains, quinoa, beans and fruits.
• You should avoid trans-fats at all cost. Foods with trans-fats include some vegetable shortening, crackers, cookies, and packaged snack foods.
While much of the TLC programme focuses on the diet, there are two other arms which are essential to the three-tiered system — namely exercise and weight management.
Grant said that the general recommendation is to aim for thirty minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily, or as often as you can.
“You don't even have to go to the gym; you can do it anywhere, really, many people brisk walk, but of course you can jog, cycle and even dance. It is whatever makes you comfortable,” Grant instructed.
The third component, and equally important, is the issue of weight. For one you want to shed some pounds if you are overweight as well as you want to work on management and maintenance.
“Firstly, this diet is not intended to achieve weight loss — the aim as we know is to lower cholesterol. However, with the changes to diet and exercise we expect that you will lose some weight and will continue to shed pounds,” Grant said.
He noted that weight loss is also important because obesity can also contribute to some of the challenges — particularly heart-related concerns — which you would be trying to ward off by keeping your cholesterol levels in check.
Grant said that the diet provides a great alternative for people who wish to reduce their need and dependency on cholesterol drugs. He said for best results, patients should be guided by their doctor, nutritionist or dietician.