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I train hard and try to eat right, but my doctor told me I have high cholesterol. What can I do nutritionally to lower my cholesterol?
It is possible to both be a “healthy” triathlete and have high cholesterol. I have numerous clients in exactly your situation. Here’s what I tell them to do: First, keep track of everything you eat and drink for five to seven days. Write everything down, and be honest! If you become more conscious of your eating habits and make a healthier choice, such as eating a low-fat yogurt for your mid-afternoon snack instead of your usual muffin, then write down what you usually would have eaten as well. Next, become a nutrition detective. There are many foods that contain saturated or trans-fats, and these foods elevate our total and LDL cholesterol levels. These are foods you should eat minimally. Fortunately, plenty of healthy foods contain soluble fiber, which can help lower your cholesterol.
Avoid: High-fat meats, lard, butter, palm kernel oil, fried foods, margarine, safflower oil, sunflower oil, mayonnaise and prepared dressings. (Steer clear of foods with hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, or trans-fats.)
Stock up on: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains (make sure the first ingredient is 100 percent whole wheat or whole grain), nuts, seeds, beans (black, kidney, garbanzo), lentils, sardines, albacore tuna, salmon, canola, olive or avocado oil.
To simplify, think of eating mostly “vegetarian style,” meaning lots of fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains, etc. With this healthy eating plan, I can also (almost) guarantee it will be easier for you to maintain your weight throughout your life and triathlon career.
Clinical nutritionist and certified sports dietitian Lauren Antonucci is the owner/director of Nutrition Energy in New York City.