How To Lower Cholesterol – The TLC Diet, or Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Diet, was made for people with high cholesterol. This diet is specially formulated to help you lower cholesterol by up to 10 percent in as little as six weeks. This diet was created by the National Cholesterol Education Program, a part of the National Institutes of Health. This diet is government endorsed, proven to work, and recommended by many doctors and medical professionals for anyone wanting to lower their high cholesterol. You could also lose weight with this diet.
The TLC Diet is for anyone, since any person can be affected by high blood cholesterol. If you already have high cholesterol or have risk factors for getting high cholesterol, the TLC Diet is for you. If you have high blood cholesterol, the first and best step in lowering your cholesterol is by making dietary changes. If you do not make changes in your diet and other health changes, you may have to go on medication to help lower your cholesterol, which is not as healthy for your body. Losing weight as well is also going to help you lower your cholesterol
Why To Lower Cholesterol
To understand why it is important to lower your cholesterol, you first need to know what cholesterol is and how it can affect you.
There are two types of cholesterol, LDL and HDL. LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein, and is the ‘bad’ type of cholesterol to have. Healthy LDL levels should be at 129 mg/dl or lower, while 100 mg/dl is the optimal level. HDL is high-density lipoprotein and is the ‘good’ cholesterol.
Cholesterol is used for many functions in the body. It has a waxy texture and is found in both cells and in your bloodstream. Naturally your body makes approximately 75% of the cholesterol you have, with the other being obtained from the foods you eat. The cholesterol that the body makes naturally is all that it needs for regular body function. Any excess that you obtain from food could be causing harm if you are eating foods high in LDL cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol is good because it works as a natural cleaner, keeping the arteries clean and unblocked from obstructions. If your LDL cholesterol levels get too high, it can begin to block the arteries, harden and turn into plaque, and cause various medical problems. When the arteries are blocked there is less blood flow to certain areas, which could cause stroke, heart attack, and How To Lower Cholesterol wother heart disease.
If you make changes to lower your LDL cholesterol levels, the HDL will be able to more effectively do their job of transporting the LDLs to the liver for proper disposal.
To determine if you have high cholesterol you can visit your doctor for a simple blood test. Some things that may leave you predisposed or at risk for developing high cholesterol include:
- Smoking cigarettes
- Being sedentary
- Having high stress
- Using alcohol excessively
- Having a family history of heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Having diabetes
- Being male over 45
- Being female over 55
- Obesity or being overweight
- Having a diet high in saturated fats
It is incredibly important for you to lower your cholesterol levels if they are high, or to prevent them from becoming high if you are at risk for developing high cholesterol. High cholesterol is serious and can cause heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.
Fortunately there are steps you can take to lowering or preventing high cholesterol, such as the TLC diet.
Your Control Over Cholesterol
There are many factors that can change and/or affect your cholesterol levels. Some of these you have control over, others you do not.
You cannot change certain risk factors such as having a family history of heart disease or high blood cholesterol. You also cannot change your gender or age.
You can control your diet, weight, and how active you are. By making changes in these areas you can effectively and significantly lower your cholesterol in order to live a longer, healthier life and reduce your risk of developing life-threatening conditions.
Weight: If you are overweight, the fat in your body can increase the LDL levels in your blood. Also, people who are overweight have higher levels of triglycerides that work to lower HDL and make you more prone to having higher levels of LDL and therefore high cholesterol. You can effectively lower your cholesterol by losing weight to raise your HDL and lower your LDL and triglyceride levels.
Diet: Following a diet such as the TLC diet can help you lower your cholesterol. Having diets that are high in Trans fat, cholesterol, and saturated fat can raise your LDL levels and cause you to have high cholesterol.
How To Know If You Have High Cholesterol
Majority of people with high cholesterol initially never have any symptoms and do not know they have high cholesterol. If you do not know you are living with high cholesterol you are likely doing nothing to control it and it could lead to serious health issues.
If you are over the age of 20 you should have your cholesterol levels checked every 5 years, and more often if you lead an unhealthy lifestyle, already have high cholesterol, or have risk factors for high cholesterol.
The most common and recommended test for cholesterol is the lipoprotein profile. With this test a sample of blood is taken that will measure your levels of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides. You are required to undergo a 9-12 hour fast before the test.
Create a Goal
If you have high cholesterol it is important to set a goal for lowering your levels. Research has shown that lowering your cholesterol does significantly prevent you from having heart attacks, stroke, and from developing heart disease.
Cholesterol is measured as milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood, also written as mg/dL.
For LDL cholesterol:
- Ideal – 100 mg/dL
- Near ideal – 100-129 mg/dL
- Borderline high – 130-159 mg/dL
- High – 160-189 mg/dL
- Very high – 190 mg/dL and higher
For HDL Cholesterol:
- Protection against heart disease – 60 mg/dL and higher
- At risk for heart disease – 40 mg/dL and lower
- Ideal – 200 mg/dL and below
- Borderline high – 200-239 mg/dL
- High – 240 mg/dL and higher
Once you know your cholesterol levels and where you stand you can then see how much you need to work to lower your levels.
Lowering Cholesterol with the TLC Diet : Getting Started
Before you start the TLC diet you should have already had your cholesterol levels checked by your doctor. In order to know that you are being successful on the TLC diet, you will need to have regular doctor visits to re-check your cholesterol levels. Your doctor can also help you set realistic goals on which levels to reach and when.
After your first doctor’s visit you should then follow the TLC diet to reduce trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol in your diet. You should increase your physical activity, and decrease the amount of calories you will consume if you need to lose weight.
Though the TLC diet was specifically put together to lower cholesterol levels, studies have shown that participants of the diet were able to lose weight as well, especially when the diet was combined with exercise or more physical activity than normal.
If you are looking to lose weight with the TLC diet, you will need to eat fewer calories than someone just needing to lower cholesterol.
If you only need to lower cholesterol and are at a healthy weight, your calorie intake should be:
- 2,500 per day for men
- 1,899 per day for women
If you do need to lose weight, your calorie intake should be:
- 1,600 per day for men
- 1,200 per day for women
Wait 6 weeks, then visit your doctor again.
During your second doctor’s visit you should have your cholesterol levels checked again to see if you are on track with reducing. You should discuss the changes you have made in your life with your doctor. If you have not seen the results you want, you will then make more strict changes to your diet such as further reducing trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol from your diet.
You may need to increase your physical activity levels as well as the fiber in your diet.
Schedule your next appointment for 6 weeks later.
On this third visit you will once again have your cholesterol levels checked. By now you should see a significant decrease in your LDL levels and an increase in your HDL levels.
If you are not seeing the results you want, you and your doctor may discuss starting a drug therapy to help further lower LDL levels, since sometimes diet alone is not all that is needed, especially if your levels have been elevated for a long period of time or if you have other medical conditions such as metabolic syndrome.
After this third visit you should then make appointments to see your doctor and keep a check on your cholesterol every 4-6 months.
The TLC Diet Basics
By the time you get to this point, where you are ready to learn the diet, you should already have your basic treatment plan in place. You should know what you are going to do in regards to changing diet, activity levels, and seeing your doctor.
The TLC diet is heart-healthy and mainly focuses on decreasing three things in your diet: saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. In order to be successful with TLC, you will have to change your eating habits quite a bit and be more physically active.
To succeed with the TLC diet, you should ideally have:
- Less than 200 mg per day of cholesterol
- Between 25-35% of daily calories from total fat – including saturated fat
- Less than 7% of daily calories from saturated fat
- Only the amount of calories you need to stay at a healthy weight if you are not overweight
- If overweight, you will need to have a calorie deficit where you can burn more than you consume in a day
- At least 30 minutes of moderate activity per day.
Besides lowering cholesterol levels, the other goal of the TLC diet is for you to not think of it as a temporary diet. You should be looking at TLC as a new way of life and a new way of eating. This diet is healthy for your entire body and would benefit you in the long-term if you stuck with it long after your cholesterol levels are under control.
Learn To Read Labels
To successfully follow the TLC diet, you should learn to read nutrition labels. Once you know what is in the food you are eating you have a better idea of how these foods are going to work for or against you.
While you should eat as many fresh foods as possible, you can still eat packaged foods. You should use nutrition labels to compare different foods to find ones that are healthier and better options for you.
It is also important to read the ingredients list on anything you consume. This list will let you get a good idea of which types of fats, sugars, and chemicals are in the food product.
You should first check the serving size to see how much of the product is a single serving, since the nutrition facts and percent daily values will be based on a single serving.
Next, check the calories. Even if you are at a healthy weight you should still watch how many calories you consume in order to prevent weight gain.
Choose products that are low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
Always check the percent daily values for all ingredients listed. The percent daily value will let you know for each serving how much it will supply for the day’s recommended intake. A general rule of thumb is that for ingredients you want to limit, such as saturated fat, you should aim for 5% or lower. For ingredients you want more of, such as fiber, 20% or more is high and is ok.
Eating On The TLC Diet
Of course the main focus of any diet is what you are going to eat and how. TLC focuses on incorporating as many fresh and heart-healthy ingredients as possible and eating low-fat foods. Sometimes it can be difficult to know how much of certain foods you need to eat each day, which can make it hard to stick to a diet.
On the TLC diet you should have the following amounts of servings each day (make adjustments to lower servings if you need fewer calories to lose weight):
- Grains – 6 or more per day
- Vegetables and legumes – 3-5 per day
- Fruits – 2-4 per day
- Dairy products – 2-3 per day
- Eggs – 2 or less per week
- Meat, Fish, Poultry – 5 oz. of less per day
- Fats, Oils – Depends on calories needed, limit these
Some examples of some serving sizes include:
- Grains – 1 cup of cereal flakes
- 1 pancake
- 1/2 cup cooked pasta or rice
- 1 slice bread
- Dairy – 1.5 oz. cheese
- 1/2 cup ice cream
- Lean Meat – 3 oz. meat, fish, poultry
- Fruit – 1/2 cup fresh fruit chopped
- 1/4 cup raisins
- Vegetables – 1 cup salad greens
- 1 baked potato
Now that you know how many servings per food group you should have each day, you can more easily plan your menu.
Tips and Techniques for Eating Healthy on TLC Diet
You can still eat healthy on the TLC diet while incorporating a lot of taste. Your food does not have to taste like cardboard in order for you to get your cholesterol down or lose weight.
When cooking and eating:
- Use a nonstick or regular pan so you do not have to add extra fats or oils.
- Use as little salt as possible when cooking, try to use different spices that are not as high in sodium.
- Before eating soups, chill in the refrigerator until cold, remove hardened or solid fat, reheat, then eat.
- Try to use healthier cooking options that do not require a lot of fat or oil. These include baking, roasting, steaming, broiling, poaching, grilling, and microwaving.
- In place of regular bouillon and broths, choose low-sodium options.
- In place of fatback for flavor, use a little skinless smoked turkey breast.
- Use low-fat and fat-free milks when cooking instead of cream or whole milk.
- In place of lard or butter, use a little vegetable oil.
- Use three egg whites with only one yolk instead of two whole eggs, or two egg whites instead of one whole egg.
- Before cooking meat, remove all visible fat and skin.
- Use turkey in place of beef when possible.
- Instead of dressing, use fruits and vegetables to garnish salads.
- Use low-fat or fat-free condiments.
Tips To Lower Calories
If you need to lose weight in addition to lowering your cholesterol with the TLC Diet, you will need to cut and lower calories wherever you can.
- Eating only lean meat options.
- Instead of a sweet or salty snack, go for fruit.
- Drink only water all day. Not only will you save calories vs. drinking a sugary drink, but you will feel fuller for longer.
- Eat lean protein such as tuna, turkey breast, egg whites, and kidney beans.
- Always have fresh vegetables on hand to snack when you are hungry.
You should try cutting calories wherever you can without compromising taste. Always choose the low-fat or fat-free version of something instead of the regular version. If you enjoy American cheese on your sandwich, choose fat-free American cheese to reduce calories.
Instead of going for pasta with white sauce that is higher in calories, choose pasta with red sauce. Little changes add up and can save you hundreds of calories a day.
Here is an example of what a day of eating might be like for a 1,600-calorie limit on the TLC Diet.
- Whole wheat bread – 2 slices
- w/ 1 tsp margarine
- Banana – 1 small
- Orange juice – 3/4 cup
- Low-fat milk – 3/4 cup
- Low-sodium beef noodle soup, canned – 1/2 cup
- Chinese noodle and beef salad:
- Beef roast – 3 oz.
- Peanut oil – 1 1/2 tsp.
- Low-sodium soy sauce – 1 tsp
- Carrots – 1/2 cup
- Zucchini – 1/2 cup
- Onion – 1/4 cup
- Soft Chinese noodles – 1/4 cup
- Apple – 1 medium
- Unsweetened tea – 8 oz.
- Pork stir-fry with veggies:
- Pork cutlet – 2 oz.
- Peanut oil – 1 tsp
- Low-sodium soy sauce – 1 tsp
- Broccoli – 1/2 cup
- Carrots – 1 cup
- Mushrooms – 1 cup
- White rice, steamed – 1 cup
- Unsweetened tea – 8 oz.
- Almond cookies – 2
- Low-fat milk – 3/4 cup
- 2 cups popcorn cooked in canola oil
- 1 cup canned peaches (no syrup added)
- Total calories: 1,609
- Total Carbs: 56
- Total fat, % calories: 27
- Total saturated fat, % calories: 8
- Total Sodium: 1,296 mg
- Total cholesterol: 148 mg
Exercise on the TLC Diet
You are not required to exercise, but it is recommended, especially if you want to lose weight. Exercise and increased physical activity have been proven to help lower LDL levels as well as boost metabolism and help you lose weight.
If you are trying to lose weight on TLC, you should both cut calories and increase your exercise. Some benefits to exercising include:
- Increased energy
- Can be more active and involved with friends and family
- Can increase motivation to eat healthy
- Lowers LDL levels to lower high cholesterol
- Good for your heart
- Can help you lose weight
Regardless of if you are a beginner or an expert at exercising, you can still get your heart pumping at least 30 minutes a day. Virtually any activity that increases your heart rate can be considered exercise. Such activities include cleaning the garage, doing yard work, riding a bicycle, and dancing.
Of course, the more strenuous the activity is, the more calories you will burn. Here are some exercises and the calories they burn in 30 minutes for a healthy 150-pound person (a heavier person will burn more per 30 minutes):
- Gardening – 135
- Dancing – 190
- Walking at 2 miles per hour – 85
- Swimming laps at a medium pace – 240
- Jogging – 275
Some activities/exercises you could do for 30 minutes a day to help burn calories include:
- Shooting basketballs
- Raking leaves
- Washing and waxing a car
- Washing windows and floors
- Walking 2 miles
- Playing volleyball
The TLC diet can be extremely helpful for anyone that has been struggling to lower their cholesterol, lose weight, or both. This diet exceeds all dietary recommendations and is endorsed by a government agency. It has also been proven through trials and studies to be effective at lowering cholesterol levels in people of various gender, age, and sex.