How to Lower Your Cholesterol When You're Living Low Carb

Published on 
June 18, 2024
April 10, 2024
Theresa Link, RD, CDE
Theresa Link, RD, CDE
Theresa Link, RD, CDE

Ask Theresa is a weekly advice column by Theresa Link. A Virta Health Coach since 2015 and a loyal follower of the ketogenic lifestyle, Theresa is a Registered Dietitian who is an expert in living a metabolically-healthy life. 

This week, Theresa explores the complexities of cholesterol, which has been historically villainized for dietary crimes it may not have committed. Recognizing there may be a need for some people to lower their cholesterol, she outlines dietary options that are suitable with a low carb lifestyle. 

Question

Theresa,

I have been on Virta for approximately 6 months. I am a bit discouraged because my cholesterol has increased. I have been reading and some food items that lower cholesterol levels are the ones that I need to NOT eat, so I feel a bit stuck, to be honest. How do I lower my cholesterol and still stay with the Virta way?

Sincerely,
Dazed and Confused

👩🏻‍💻 Theresa:

Dear Confused,

Several decades ago cholesterol became a household villain, stealing your eggs, cheese, and butter right out of your fridge like a thief in the night, and replacing them with dry toast, oatmeal, and orange juice. Poorly designed studies and bad policies turned this innocent waxy-like substance into a miscreant, capable of destroying everything you hold dear. The character assassination of cholesterol has persisted, at least in certain circles, to this very day. And it makes me feel sad.

The impact of cholesterol on heart health has remained a controversial subject. Our research shows that Virta results in a 12% improvement in the 10-year atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) risk score, resulting in a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk at one year. In English, please, Theresa? Out of 26 markers of cardiovascular disease, 22 improved, including reduced weight, A1c, blood pressure and triglycerides, among many others.

The short of it is that your cholesterol doesn't tell the whole story about your health. That said, for some Virta Members there may still be good reason to reduce cholesterol levels, which is a decision between you, your Virta Provider, and your Primary Care Provider, as it’s weighed against other risk factors in your medical history.

If your care team thinks you should lower your cholesterol levels, there are dietary adjustments you can make without eating fistfuls of Cheerios or choking down Metamucil wafers. Simply make a few switcheroos and continue to enjoy all the benefits of a low carb lifestyle.

Oils

First, swap coconut oil for olive oil or avocado oil. I know, I know… coconut oil can reduce inflammation, heal mouth ulcers, and get your first born into college. But it also happens to contain over 90% saturated fat, so it may not be the best choice if your cholesterol is already elevated.

Meat

Who doesn’t want a big, fatty ribeye? Perhaps those trying to lower their cholesterol levels. Here at Virta we often recommend eating high fat cuts of meat in order to keep protein intake moderate (and keep our bellies full). But you can essentially do the same thing by choosing leaner cuts of meat (sirloin steak, skinless chicken, pork tenderloin) and drizzling olive oil or avocado oil on top. Roll it in some crushed almonds, walnuts, or pistachios and you’ve got yourself a Mediterranean-style dish that your nosy neighbors will rave about.

Dairy

Do you snuggle up to your carton of heavy cream like it’s your most prized teddy bear? Me too. It’s my coffee’s best friend in the whole world. But sometimes my heavy cream gets a bit clingy and I need some space. That’s when I opt for an unsweetened almond milk latte. Only a gram of carbs and quite low in fat, it makes for the perfect alternative to heavy cream if you are looking to lower your cholesterol levels. While Virta’s standard recommendation is to choose full fat dairy, you can also opt for reduced fat versions of plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream if you preferBease, no reduced fat cheese. Life’s too short. If giant handfuls of shredded colby jack are your go-to snack, just stick with one instead of four.

If you have questions about your cholesterol panel which includes total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides, don’t hesitate to ask your Virta Provider. Their expertise in this area mimics the wizardry of Albus Dumbledore. 

See if you’re eligible for Virta Health here.

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or any advice relating to your health. View full disclaimer

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