The Best Drinking Habits to Lower Cholesterol After 50, Say Dietitians
If you're working on lowering your cholesterol, you may not be aware that what you drink on a daily basis may be sabotaging your efforts.
"Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is made by the liver that circulates in the bloodstream, and it's responsible for making hormones and vitamins and creating new cells in the body," says registered dietitian nutritionist Roxana Ehsani, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN, and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "However, if a person is eating and/or drinking a diet rich in saturated fat, cholesterol can build up in the blood, and negatively impact one's cholesterol levels."
Here are six drinking habits that will help you lower your cholesterol after 50. Then, for more drinking tips, here's The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science.
Swap out your whole milk or cream for non-fat or low-fat.
The next time you order your latte, ask for skim—or low-fat milk.
"If you love your creamy lattes, milkshakes, or smoothies made with whole milk or half and half, but have high cholesterol, make a swap for a lower fat or non-fat milk-based option," says Ehsani. "Opting for skim milk (non-fat) milk or 1% milk can help reduce your intake of saturated fat. This small change over time can help reduce your daily intake of saturated fat and help lower your cholesterol, too."
Limit your alcohol intake.
You should adhere to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as much as possible, which is no more than one serving of alcohol for women and two servings of alcohol for men, notes Jonathan Valdez, RDN, owner of Genki Nutrition and a spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
"Alcohol is broken down into fat. Excessive alcohol is associated with higher bad cholesterol," says Valdez. "Also, it may be paired with fried foods or foods high in saturated fat, which may further increase bad cholesterol."
"Alcohol actually contains 7 calories per gram, almost the equivalent of fat (9 calories per gram) and close to double the calories of carbohydrates or protein (4 calories per gram each)," Adds registered dietitian nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, creator of the website and blog BetterThanDieting.com.
If you do drink alcohol, increase your water intake.
If you do imbibe, just make sure you have a second glass…of water.
"Alcohol is a dehydrator. Replacing fluid, particularly in warmer climates, is essential," says Taub-Dix. "Calories aside, try to make every other drink either club soda, sparkling water, or just plain water. Adding ice cubes to your beverage will help hydrate you and also make your glass of booze feel bigger."
Try a non-dairy-based milk substitute.
Ehsani notes that plant-based milk can serve as the perfect coffee creamer substitute, or can be used in milkshakes or smoothies, or lattes, such as almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk, flaxseed milk, oat milk, rice milk, hazelnut milk, walnut milk, and pistachio milk.
"Some nut-based milk like flaxseed milk or walnuts even contain omega-3s which are heart-healthy fats that can actually support your heart health but brain health too," says Ehsani.
She also notes that the only non-dairy-based milk she would recommend limiting/avoiding would be coconut milk, as it's quite high in saturated fat.
Sip on some tea.
If you've never been a huge fan of tea, in your 50s is a great time to start sipping it.
"Black and green tea contain powerful antioxidants, which may help lower one's risk for certain diseases, cancers, and possibly even cholesterol," Ehsani. "More research is needed to confirm but one study found that green tea lowered LDL-cholesterol and total cholesterol levels in participants. Tea can be a great replacement for other higher-calorie beverages out there too- as it's hydrated and just hot water plus a teabag."
Add more dietary fiber to your drinks.
Ehsani notes that most people struggle to get the recommended number of grams per fiber per day, which is 25 grams per day for women, and 38 grams per day for men.
"Dietary fiber is so important to include into a heart-healthy diet, especially for those looking to lower their cholesterol level," she says. "Dietary fiber binds the bad cholesterol circulating in the blood and can pull it out of the body."
To add more fiber, vitamins, and minerals to drinks like smoothies, she suggests you start adding berries and dark leafy greens like spinach or kale.