Eat these Seven Bariatric-Friendly Foods to Help Lower Your CholesterolOctober 23, 2023
Bariatric-Friendly Foods to Help Lower Your Cholesterol: This might surprise you. Did you know that your total cholesterol level and your triglyceride level may both improve, that is, decrease within six months of bariatric surgery? It’s quite common to have elevated lipid levels prior to and after bariatric surgery. These lipid levels can include your total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, which I also call ‘lousy’ cholesterol. If your levels are elevated, this decrease is a nice surprise.
Additionally, research shows that more than 85% of patients have improved HDL cholesterol, the better cholesterol, more than two years after surgery. And there’s more to celebrate. Certain foods can help lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels even more to help prevent buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
You’ll read hype about various foods that promise to single-handedly lower your cholesterol. But that’s just not how it works. To have a strong cholesterol-lowering effect, the strategy is not to focus on a single food or food component, but to develop a portfolio of powerful foods.
To have a strong cholesterol-lowering effect, the strategy is NOT to focus on a single food or food component, but to develop a portfolio of powerful foods.
The success of the cholesterol-lowering approach from food is based on synergy. Think of your favorite team…basketball, soccer, football, whatever it is. Mine would be the Tennessee Vols. To win and to continue to win, the team has to work together. In the same way, the synergistic effect of nutrients and bioactive compounds consumed from a variety of healthy foods provides the best lipid lowering outcome. When it comes to your heart, there is a portfolio of foods to help lower the blood cholesterol level. These foods work as a team with this synergistic effect. In other words, if you consume all of these foods regularly, their ability to lower cholesterol is significantly enhanced versus if you eat one of them every now and then.
What does this cholesterol-lowering food portfolio of foods look like?
Here are seven of my favorite cholesterol-lowering, bariatric-friendly foods:
Walnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, peanuts. I like them all. Do you? Now you have a reason to go nuts, so to speak. If your cholesterol level is elevated or you’re trying to keep a lid on it because high cholesterol runs in your family, perk up for this news about cholesterol-busting nuts. Nuts typically contain a low amount of saturated fat andhigher amounts of the better-for-you monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats along with fiber and vitamin E. Try small amounts of almonds, walnuts, and peanuts in Greek yogurt, sprinkle in a salad or add to a stir fry.
Avocados contain natural compounds called phytosterols. Why does that matter to you? Because they help lower LDL cholesterol, remember, the lousy type you don’t want elevated. What a tasty way to get this benefit. Also, the majority of the monounsaturated fat in avocado is what’s called oleic acid and guess what, it’s the major component of olive oil too. This oleic acid in the fat has an anti-inflammatory effect. When you substitute monounsaturated fat for saturated fat, you benefit from the total cholesterol and LDL lowering effects. So avocados have two benefits for your cholesterol: natural phytosterols and healthier monounsaturated fat.
3. Oats: contain fiber and the beneficial fiber is a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which acts kinda like a sponge and lowers lousy LDL cholesterol.
Black tea and green tea contain various flavonoids which are beneficial, naturally occurring phytonutrients or plant compounds. These specific flavonoids are called catechins and they play a role in lowering cholesterol. Enjoy a steaming mug today.
Try black beans in soup or quesadillas, kidney beans in chili, or make a white bean chicken chili. All of these beans help to bring down the lousy or LDL cholesterol because of their fiber content. The fiber can block cholesterol from being absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream. Beans are also a source of the vitamin folate, which brings down the homocysteine level tied to inflammation.
Olives and olive oil
Olives and olive oil are nice sources of monounsaturated fat and oleic acid which have anti-inflammatory effects similar to omega-3s found in fish. When substituted for saturated fat, olives and olive oil help lower total and LDL cholesterol levels.
Dark Chocolate contains various naturally found flavonoids similar to tea, which may improve blood flow, reduce blood pressure and lower that LDL cholesterol. You’ve had surgery but that didn’t change the occasional desire or craving for chocolate, right? So even after bariatric surgery, when you’re back to eating regular food in smaller portions, you’ll likely have the occasional desire for chocolate. How do you smartly handle this craving? Depends on you. If you skip the chocolate, are you ok with that? If so, fabulous. Or do you feel you have denied yourself of something you really love? What happens if you continually deny this desire for chocolate? In my experience, it’s not unusual to give in and eat WAY more than if you have allowed yourself that small piece when you wanted it. Remember that added sugars and sugar alcohols can cause dumping syndrome so pay attention to the added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list. Everyone is different, but for many, it doesn’t take much added sugar to start symptoms.
Don’t miss this. The caveat here is that the benefits of dark chocolate can turn ugly by the addition of less healthy ingredients such as added sugars or sugar alcohols, trans fat or hydrogenated fat, and even butter oil and coconut oil, both of which contain a lot of saturated fat…not great for your cardiovascular health.
Become a label sleuth and closely read the ingredient list. The longer the ingredient list, the more likely it is that less-healthy items have been added and will take away from the cocoa’s or dark chocolate’s potential health benefits ...and potentially kick off dumping. Choosing a small piece of your favorite dark chocolate is a smart way to go. Try a small bite and see how you tolerate it. You’ll get that fabulous flavor and mouthfeel. Plus, if you compare chocolates, you can find numerous good quality ones with few added ingredients you don’t need. Allow yourself a small piece when you really want it…yes give yourself permission to have it and enjoy it and get the benefits. NO guilt. Say that again…small piece, no guilt.
Remember, to benefit from these foods, your strategy is to combine a number of these foods from the portfolio…nuts, beans, olives and olive oil, oats, tea, avocado and of course dark chocolate on a daily basis so you get the maximum cholesterol-lowering benefits.
ABOUT THE AUTHORBariatric dietitian Dr. Susan Mitchell is host of the podcast Bariatric Surgery Success. Selected as one of the Best 35 Dietitian Podcasts, Bariatric Surgery Success was chosen from thousands of podcasts on the web ranked by traffic, social media followers, domain authority & freshness. Dr. Susan helps you conquer cravings, emotional eating and weight regain after bariatric surgery with a focus on your nutrition and health, journey and success. Read more articles by Susan!