Eating Introduction

Every aspect of the Plan is important. Some psychologists would argue that good mental health and a nurturing network of friends matter most. And if you happen to be training for a triathlon, good for you— enough exercise can erase a lot of other lifestyle sins. But for most people the “heart” of the Plan will be the diet. After all, eating is something all of us do every day, often with some degree of abandon, so it stands to reason that therein lies the biggest opportunity for improvement.

When researchers look for a cause-and-effect relationship between our lives and our cholesterol levels, diet always comes out on top. Various studies show drops of 25 percent or more in total cholesterol from many of the simple dietary changes that make up the eating plan.

For instance, by cutting back your consumption of saturated fat (the kind in hamburgers and ice cream) to less than 7 percent of your total calories, increasing your fiber intake by 5 to 10 grams (about one serving of a raisin bran cereal) a day, and adding a couple of tablespoons of a special margarine designed to help lower cholesterol to your diet regularly, you could lower your LDL level between 17 and 30 percent, And that’s before you add more bran, apples, oats, nuts, and other foods that on their own can lower your LDL several percentage points or increase your HDL.

The right foods can also reduce inflammation (think fatty fish such as salmon), regulate blood clotting (think garlic or black or green tea), lower blood pressure, and more. While healthy cholesterol levels are vital when it comes to avoiding heart disease, there is no way to overstate the courtless benefits of eating well.