Ask an RD

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Q: My husband was just diagnosed with high cholesterol. I do the food shopping and cooking for our family. Are there certain foods I should avoid? I want to help him improve his health but I’m not sure how!

A: With regard to diet, saturated fatty acids have the largest impact on cholesterol level. These fats are mainly found in animal sources like meat and dairy. Substitute beef and bacon with leaner meats like skinless chicken breast and turkey. Incorporate fish like salmon, trout or tuna into your diet twice a week. Not only is fish a healthy source of protein, it also packs the added benefit of Omega-3 fatty acids which have a proven heart protective quality.


Cook with olive or canola oil instead of butter, palm kernel, or coconut oil. When making sandwiches replace higher fat condiments like mayonnaise or creamy dressings with mustard or balsamic vinaigrette. Add healthy sources of fat like nuts and avocado into salads and other prepared dishes.


Read labels in the supermarket!  Pay attention to the percentage of saturated fat listed on dairy and other packaged food items. Buy more foods that contain 5% or less saturated fat per serving and never purchase those that contain over 20%. Avoid foods that list “partially hydrogenated…” under ingredients.


Having a high level of LDL or the “bad cholesterol” leads to thickening and narrowing of the arterial walls and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. Eating a well balanced diet low in saturated fat is crucial in maintaining a healthy cholesterol level.


Consult with a registered dietitian to receive a personalized and more in depth heart healthy eating plan.


Q: I’ve been feeling down lately and I’m not sure why. I’ve heard that certain foods can affect mood. Is this true!?

A: Certain nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D have been shown to ease anxiety and improve symptoms of depression. The most effective sources of these nutrients are fatty fish like salmon, tuna and sardines. Making these fish part of your lunch or dinner twice a week can help uplift your spirits. If you are not a fish person look for a fish oil supplement. Read labels and make sure to buy one that contains at least 1 gram of EPA and DHA fatty acids.

Vitamin D is also found in fortified milk and grain products like breakfast cereal.


On the other side of the spectrum certain beverage and food choices can dampen your mood. Caffeine often disturbs the sleep cycle and in turn can cause irritability. If you’re a coffee drinker try limiting your daily intake to one or two cups before lunch (that means less than 16 oz!) Also be weary of other caffeine containing beverages like soda and energy drinks. Baked goodies, fried foods, and greasy snacks may also have you feeling a bit disconnected. These foods contain saturated fats, which are more difficult for your body to digest. This can lead to fatigue and mental fog. Instead of eating a breaded chicken and cheese sandwich for lunch choose a less fatty version like grilled chicken adorned with a healthy source of fat like avocado. Your mind will feel clearer and your heart will thank you later!


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