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Besides maintaining a healthy body weight and getting enough physical activity, changes to your diet are also important to maintain your cholesterol levels and keep your heart in good shape. Here are four diet-related tips that can help.

1. Reduce sources of saturated fat

Saturated fat, often found in red meat and full-fat dairy products, can increase your levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol i.e. the "bad" cholesterol. It is also found in sources like baked goods, processed foods, and deep-fried items.

The latest national dietary guidelines recommended limiting consumption of saturated fat under 10 percent of total energy intake while the American Heart Association (AHA) advised the consumption of 5 to 6 percent at most.

"The best thing to do is to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (nuts, olive oil, fish, seeds, avocado) — not carbohydrates," said Kim Larson, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

2. Eat more fruits, vegetables, fish

It is certainly hard to go wrong when fruits and vegetables are involved, just ask the Mediterranean diet. These foods are not only low in saturated fat but can also provide a significant portion of your soluble fiber intake from sources like sweet potato, aubergine, broccoli, apples, strawberries, etc. As a part of your daily diet, also consider including at least one pulse in the form of beans, peas, or lentils.

And when it comes to fish, opt for the ones high in omega-3 fatty acids. You can choose from options like salmon, mackerel, canned tuna, and fresh tuna for two meals per week, according to the National Institutes of Health.

3. Change your cooking methods

A few changes in your cooking methods can help make a difference with your cholesterol levels and your overall heart health. According to AHA, it is preferable to broil rather than pan-fry meats.

"Cook a day ahead of time. Stews, boiled meat, soup stock or other dishes in which fat cooks into the liquid can be refrigerated. Later, remove the hardened fat from the top," the website added.

Scan your kitchen ingredients and take a look at the type of oil you usually use. Experts usually recommend extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil for cooking fish, vegetables, and other dishes. Avoid using butter for frying foods, since it contains high levels of saturated fat.

4. Enjoy some wine, but in moderation

"Red wine contains antioxidants called polyphenols, substances that protect the lining of the blood vessels that could become blocked due to high cholesterol," said Kevin R. Campbell, a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist at Wake Heart & Vascular in Raleigh, North Carolina.

But caution is advised as it is best consumed in light to moderate levels and while accompanied with regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and good lifestyle habits. This would mean avoiding smoking, having a good sleep schedule, and other healthy practices.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are the author's own and MSN does not endorse them in any way. Neither can MSN independently verify any claims made in the article. You should consult your physician before starting any weight loss or health management programme to determine if it is right for your needs.

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