Study shows that frequent meals can lower cholesterol
Is it possible that eating more frequently can lower your cholesterol?
A study published in the British Medical Journal found that people who ate six small meals each day had an average cholesterol level that was five percent lower than those who ate only one or two big meals each day. The study, conducted at the University of Cambridge, found that eating more frequently also lowered levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.
Researchers aren't exactly sure why their cholesterol was lower, but eating throughout the day may put you at a metabolic advantage, keeping energy sustained throughout the day and avoiding large blood sugar fluctuations. Here is an example:
- 7:30 a.m: 1cup cooked oatmeal topped with ground flaxseed, fresh blueberries, and skim milk, black coffee
- 10 a.m: 6 ounces of non-fat yogurt topped with a tablespoon of walnuts, water
- 12:30 p.m: Spinach salad topped with carrots, radishes, onion, cucumber and light tuna (packed in water), 2 Tbsp light vinaigrette dressing, six whole-wheat crackers and an apple, unsweetened iced tea
- 3 p.m: One cup of raw vegetables dipped in ¼ cup hummus, water
- 6 p.m: Three ounces of grilled chicken breast, 2 cups steamed broccoli drizzled with olive oil, a cup of brown rice and a bowl of berries for dessert
- 8 p.m: 3 cups of light microwave or air popped popcorn
To help you begin eating small, frequent meals/snacks throughout the day, consider these pointers:
- Always start the day off with a high-fiber breakfast.
- Spread your calories evenly among meals and snacks throughout the day. Don't let more than 4 hours go between meals and snacks (unless you're asleep).
- Keep in mind that the most successful cholesterol-lowering strategies are to moderate total fat intake, cut back on high saturated fat foods (like marbled meats, butter, cheese, baked goods and fast foods), eliminate trans fats (from foods containing partially hydrogenated oils) and substitute these foods with mono- and polyunsaturated fats (canola, olive and other vegetable oils, nuts and seeds).
- Portion control is key! Small, frequent meals mean just that – small, controlled portions.
- Choose fresh fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, or low-fat dairy foods (e.g., yogurt, cottage cheese) for portable, healthy snacks.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Avoid snacking late in the evening; hold off snacking at least 3 hours before going to bed.
If you currently eat only one or two meals each day and find yourself skipping breakfast or lunch, start by adding small quantities of healthful foods during these meal times. Stock up on quick and healthy snack items so that you can grab them and go. Even the smallest changes in your meal pattern can have a positive impact on your weight and cholesterol.
For more information on a heart-healthy diet plan, please contact the Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation Program at 216.444.9353 (or toll-free at 800.223.2273, extension 49353) and we can schedule a nutrition consultation - or - use our Remote Cardiac Nutrition Counseling Services.