Hey there! Are you aware of the 5 signs of high cholesterol? If not, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll provide you with a brief yet informative overview of these signs, helping you understand the importance of recognizing them and taking necessary action.
So, whether you’re curious about your own health or simply interested in gaining some knowledge on this topic, keep reading to find out more!
Signs of High Cholesterol
If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, it’s important to be aware of the signs that may indicate high cholesterol. These signs can manifest in physical symptoms, laboratory tests, family history, unhealthy lifestyle habits, and certain medical conditions.
By being knowledgeable about these signs, you can take steps towards maintaining your overall health and preventing any potential complications.
One of the most recognizable physical symptoms of high cholesterol is recurring chest pain. This pain, known as angina, occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become blocked or narrowed due to cholesterol buildup.
If you experience chest pain that persists or worsens, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional.
Another physical symptom that may indicate high cholesterol is the presence of fat deposits on the skin, also known as xanthomas. These deposits typically appear as yellowish, firm, raised bumps and can be found on the elbows, knees, hands, feet, or buttocks.
While xanthomas do not cause any pain, they can be a visual indication of high cholesterol levels.
In some cases, high cholesterol can lead to yellowish deposits in the eyes, known as xanthelasma. These deposits often appear on the eyelids and can be a sign of high levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
If you notice any changes in the appearance of your eyes, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional.
Leg cramps can also be a symptom of high cholesterol. When cholesterol builds up in the arteries that provide blood flow to the legs, it can lead to poor circulation and muscle cramping.
If you frequently experience leg cramps, especially during physical activity, it may be worth discussing with your doctor.
Lastly, a color change on the lower limbs, such as a bluish or purplish tint, can be an indication of high cholesterol-related circulation problems. This discoloration, known as peripheral artery disease, occurs when fatty deposits accumulate in the arteries, restricting blood flow.
If you notice any abnormalities in the color of your lower limbs, it’s important to seek medical advice.
Laboratory tests are essential for assessing cholesterol levels and identifying any potential abnormalities. High cholesterol levels can often be detected through these tests, including:
- High LDL Cholesterol Levels: LDL cholesterol, commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol, is responsible for transporting cholesterol throughout the body. Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
- Low HDL Cholesterol Levels: HDL cholesterol, often referred to as “good” cholesterol, helps remove excess cholesterol from the bloodstream. Low levels of HDL cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease.
- High Total Cholesterol Levels: Total cholesterol levels encompass both LDL and HDL cholesterol. High total cholesterol levels can be an indicator of a cholesterol imbalance and a potential risk factor for heart disease.
- High Triglyceride Levels: Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the bloodstream. High levels of triglycerides can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
- Elevated Lipoprotein(a) Levels: Lipoprotein(a) is a specific type of LDL cholesterol that has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease when present in high levels.
Family history plays a crucial role in determining the likelihood of developing high cholesterol. Certain factors within your family tree can contribute to an increased risk, such as:
- Genetic Predisposition: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol levels. If your parents or close relatives have struggled with high cholesterol, you may be at a higher risk as well.
- Inherited Disorders: Certain inherited disorders, such as familial hypercholesterolemia, can cause exceptionally high cholesterol levels. These disorders are typically passed down through generations and require specialized medical attention.
- Previous Heart Disease Cases: If immediate family members have a history of heart disease or cardiovascular issues, it can indicate a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol. Family history of early heart disease can be an important factor to consider.
- Age and Gender Factors: As you age, your risk of developing high cholesterol increases. Additionally, men are generally more prone to high cholesterol levels than women, until women reach menopause when the risk becomes equal.
- Ethnicity Considerations: Certain ethnic groups, such as African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, have a higher prevalence of high cholesterol and related complications. This predisposition is influenced by both genetic and lifestyle factors.
Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits
Unhealthy lifestyle habits can significantly contribute to the development of high cholesterol. By recognizing and addressing these habits, you can take important steps towards improving your cholesterol levels. Some common unhealthy lifestyle habits associated with high cholesterol include:
- Poor Diet Choices: Consuming excessive amounts of saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol-rich foods can contribute to high cholesterol levels. A diet high in processed foods, fried foods, red meat, and full-fat dairy products can negatively impact your cholesterol levels.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain and increased LDL cholesterol levels, while also reducing HDL cholesterol levels. Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and promotes cardiovascular health.
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol can contribute to high cholesterol levels, particularly when consumed in excessive quantities. It’s important to consume alcohol in moderation and be mindful of its potential impact on cholesterol.
- Smoking or Tobacco Use: Smoking damages blood vessels, increases inflammation, and reduces HDL cholesterol levels. Quitting smoking or avoiding tobacco use altogether can significantly improve cholesterol levels and overall health.
- Being Overweight or Obese: Excess weight, especially around the waist, can contribute to elevated LDL cholesterol levels and lower HDL cholesterol levels. Maintaining a healthy weight through proper nutrition and regular exercise is essential for cholesterol management.
Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of developing high cholesterol. It’s important to be aware of these conditions and how they can influence cholesterol levels. Some medical conditions associated with high cholesterol include:
- Diabetes Mellitus: People with diabetes often have lower levels of HDL cholesterol and higher levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Proper management of diabetes is crucial for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
- Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid gland can disrupt the body’s normal cholesterol balance, leading to high cholesterol levels. Treating hypothyroidism with medication can help regulate cholesterol levels.
- Kidney Disease: Kidney problems can disrupt normal cholesterol metabolism and lead to high cholesterol levels. Regular monitoring and management of kidney function are necessary to control cholesterol levels in individuals with kidney disease.
- Liver Disease: The liver plays a vital role in cholesterol production and metabolism. Liver diseases, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, can lead to imbalances and elevated cholesterol levels.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects women and can contribute to high cholesterol levels. Managing PCOS through lifestyle changes and medication can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
If you’re looking for natural ways to lower your cholesterol levels, you’ll be pleased to know that certain foods can lend a helping hand.
Eating a variety of vegetables is an excellent way to maintain a healthy diet and reduce high cholesterol levels. Vegetables are packed with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that promote overall health and well-being. Let’s explore some of the top vegetable choices for reducing high cholesterol:
1.1 Leafy green vegetables
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are rich in fiber and antioxidants, making them an ideal choice for individuals looking to lower their cholesterol levels. These vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients, which can help improve heart health.
1.2 Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are not only delicious but also play a significant role in lowering cholesterol. They are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, reducing the absorption of cholesterol in the body and aiding in its elimination.
Avocados, often referred to as a superfood, are a rich source of monounsaturated fats, which have been proven to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Additionally, avocados are high in fiber and contain plant sterols that help regulate cholesterol absorption in the body.
Tomatoes are famous for their lycopene content, a powerful antioxidant that gives them their vibrant red color. Lycopene helps prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of plaque buildup in the arteries.
Whether you enjoy them raw in salads or as a base for sauces, adding tomatoes to your diet can have a positive impact on your cholesterol levels.
Eggplant is a versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed in various dishes and also offers health benefits for individuals wanting to lower their cholesterol. It is an excellent source of dietary fiber and contains compounds that promote healthy cholesterol levels.
Incorporating eggplant into your diet can be as simple as grilling, roasting, or using it as a substitute for meat in dishes like eggplant parmesan.
Just like vegetables, fruits offer a vast array of health benefits, including their ability to lower high cholesterol levels. Fruits are naturally low in calories and packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.
Here are some fruits known for their cholesterol-lowering properties:
Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are rich in antioxidants and fiber. These powerful compounds help reduce LDL cholesterol levels and promote overall heart health.
Enjoy a handful of berries as a snack or add them to your breakfast cereal or yogurt for a tasty and cholesterol-friendly boost.
2.2 Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes are not only refreshing but also play a vital role in managing cholesterol levels. They are packed with soluble fiber and vitamin C, which helps to lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Start your day with a glass of freshly squeezed citrus juice or add slices to your water for a burst of flavor and health benefits.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is not just a saying, but a reality when it comes to managing cholesterol levels. Apples are rich in soluble fiber, particularly pectin, which helps reduce LDL cholesterol and promote a healthier heart.
Enjoy apples as a snack, add them to salads, or incorporate them into your baking for a cholesterol-friendly treat.
Pears are another excellent fruit choice for individuals aiming to improve their cholesterol profile. They are rich in fiber and contain antioxidant compounds that help lower LDL cholesterol levels.
Adding sliced pears to your salads, enjoying them as a snack, or incorporating them into desserts can provide both a sweet taste and cholesterol-lowering benefits.
Grapes, whether red or purple, contain powerful antioxidants called polyphenols that have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and improve heart health. These antioxidants help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the arteries.
Snack on a handful of grapes or enjoy a glass of red wine in moderation to experience these cholesterol-lowering benefits.
3. Whole Grains
Incorporating whole grains into your daily diet can have a significant impact on lowering high cholesterol levels. Whole grains are rich in fiber, which helps remove cholesterol from the body and improve heart health.
Let’s explore some of the top whole grain choices for reducing cholesterol:
Oats are a cholesterol-lowering powerhouse due to their high soluble fiber content, particularly a specific type known as beta-glucan. Regular consumption of oats has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels and improve overall heart health.
Start your day with a warm bowl of oatmeal or add oats to baked goods for a heart-healthy twist.
Barley is a whole grain that not only offers a delicious nutty flavor but also plays a significant role in reducing high cholesterol. The soluble fiber found in barley forms a gel-like substance in the intestines, binding to cholesterol and carrying it out of the body.
Incorporate cooked barley into soups, stews, or as a side dish to enjoy its cholesterol-lowering benefits.
3.3 Brown rice
Brown rice, unlike its refined counterpart, contains the bran and germ layers, making it a whole grain rich in fiber and nutrients. This nutrient-dense rice is an excellent choice for individuals looking to manage their cholesterol levels.
Swap white rice for brown rice in your favorite dishes to add cholesterol-lowering benefits to your meals.
Quinoa is a complete protein and a versatile grain that offers numerous health benefits, including its ability to lower cholesterol levels. This gluten-free grain contains soluble fiber, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats.
Use quinoa as a base for salads, side dishes, or even as a substitute for rice to enjoy its cholesterol-lowering properties.
3.5 Whole wheat bread
Switching from refined white bread to whole wheat bread can make a significant difference in managing cholesterol levels. Whole wheat bread is rich in fiber, providing a more sustained release of energy and helping to reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
Enjoy sandwiches or toast made with whole wheat bread to incorporate this heart-healthy choice into your diet.
Legumes, including beans, lentils, and peas, are an excellent addition to a cholesterol-lowering diet. They are packed with plant-based protein, fiber, and a variety of essential nutrients while being low in saturated fat.
Explore the range of legumes available to find the ones that suit your taste preferences and enjoy the cholesterol-lowering benefits they provide:
Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse and a fantastic way to incorporate plant-based protein and fiber into your diet. They contain soluble fiber that helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels and improve heart health.
Lentils are incredibly versatile and can be used in soups, stews, salads, or as a meat substitute in various dishes.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a beloved legume that offers numerous health benefits, including their ability to lower cholesterol levels. They are high in fiber and contain phytochemicals that help reduce LDL cholesterol levels and promote heart health.
Enjoy chickpeas in hummus, salads, stews, or even roasted as a crunchy snack.
4.3 Black beans
Black beans are an excellent source of soluble fiber and protein, making them an ideal choice for individuals looking to reduce their cholesterol levels. Their rich, creamy texture makes them an excellent addition to a variety of dishes.
From black bean soups and stews to incorporating them into Mexican-inspired dishes like tacos and burritos, there are countless ways to enjoy the cholesterol-lowering benefits of black beans.
4.4 Kidney beans
Kidney beans, like other legumes, are high in soluble fiber, which helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels. They are also a good source of plant-based protein and various vitamins and minerals.
Incorporate kidney beans into your diet by adding them to chili, salads, or using them as a filling in vegetarian tacos or burritos.
Peas may be small, but they pack a nutritional punch. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber and contain plant sterols that help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Peas can be enjoyed steamed as a side dish, added to soups, stews, casseroles, or even enjoyed in salads.
Their sweet flavor and vibrant color make them a delightful addition to any meal.
5. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds make a great snack option and can be incorporated into various recipes to add texture and flavor. They are rich in healthy fats, fiber, protein, and various vitamins and minerals. Let’s explore some of the top choices for including nuts and seeds in a cholesterol-lowering diet:
Almonds are a versatile and nutritious nut packed with heart-healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Regular consumption of almonds has been shown to improve cholesterol levels by reducing LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol.
Enjoy a handful of almonds as a snack, add them to salads, or use almond butter as a spread for a cholesterol-friendly twist.
Walnuts are known for their unique shape and distinct flavor, but they also offer numerous health benefits, particularly for managing cholesterol levels. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the arteries.
Snack on walnuts, add them to your favorite baked goods, or sprinkle them on top of salads for a delicious and heart-healthy choice.
5.3 Chia seeds
Chia seeds have gained popularity in recent years due to their nutritional value and health benefits. These tiny seeds are rich in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels and improve heart health. Add chia seeds to smoothies, yogurt, or sprinkle them over your breakfast cereal for a cholesterol-lowering boost.
Flaxseeds are another excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber, making them a fantastic choice for individuals looking to lower their cholesterol levels. These small seeds can be ground and added to various dishes, including smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, or used as an egg substitute in vegan recipes.
5.5 Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are a delicious and nutritious snack option that can be enjoyed on their own or incorporated into various recipes. They are rich in healthy fats, protein, and fiber, helping to lower LDL cholesterol and promote heart health.
Sprinkle sunflower seeds on top of salads, add them to homemade granola bars, or enjoy them as a crunchy topping for roasted vegetables.
6. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and trout, are known for their high content of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids have been shown to lower triglyceride levels, reduce inflammation, and improve heart health.
Including fatty fish in your diet can be a flavorful and nutritious way to manage cholesterol levels:
Salmon is one of the most widely consumed fatty fish and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA. These fatty acids have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Whether grilled, baked, or added to salads or sushi, salmon is a delicious choice for individuals aiming to improve their cholesterol profile.
Mackerel is another fatty fish that offers significant health benefits, particularly when it comes to managing high cholesterol. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as other nutrients like vitamin D and selenium.
Enjoy grilled or baked mackerel as a main dish to savor its distinct flavor and heart-healthy properties.
Sardines may be small, but they are packed with nutrients that can help lower cholesterol levels. They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and various vitamins and minerals.
Whether enjoyed on their own, added to salads or pasta dishes, or used as a topping for toast, incorporating sardines into your diet can have a positive impact on your cholesterol levels.
Tuna, whether fresh or canned, is a popular choice for individuals looking to incorporate fatty fish into their diet. It is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.
Enjoy tuna in salads, sandwiches, or grilled as a main dish to reap its cholesterol-lowering benefits.
Trout is a freshwater fish that offers a mild and delicate flavor while providing significant health benefits. It contains omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce cholesterol levels and promote heart health.
Enjoy trout baked, grilled, or pan-seared with a side of vegetables for a cholesterol-friendly and delicious meal.
7. Olive Oil
Olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet and is well-known for its health benefits. It is rich in monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels when used as a replacement for saturated and trans fats.
Let’s explore the various aspects of olive oil and how you can incorporate it into your diet:
7.1 Extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality and least processed form of olive oil. It retains the most nutrients, flavor, and aroma compared to other types of olive oil. It is rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, making it a heart-healthy choice.
Use extra virgin olive oil as a dressing for salads, a flavor enhancer in cooked dishes, or as a dip for bread.
7.2 Benefits of using olive oil for cooking
Using olive oil for cooking instead of oils high in saturated fats can help lower LDL cholesterol levels and promote overall heart health. Olive oil contains healthy monounsaturated fats that do not contribute to high cholesterol levels or clogged arteries.
It is also rich in antioxidants that protect against the oxidation of cholesterol in the body.
7.3 How to incorporate olive oil into your diet
Incorporating olive oil into your diet is easy and can bring a multitude of health benefits. Use it as a substitute for butter or margarine when spreading on bread or opt for olive oil-based salad dressings instead of those high in unhealthy fats.
Drizzle olive oil over roasted vegetables, use it for sautéing, or add it to sauces and marinades for a heart-healthy touch.
7.4 Alternative uses of olive oil
In addition to culinary uses, olive oil can also be utilized in various other ways to promote overall health and well-being. It can be used as a natural moisturizer for the skin and hair, helping to lock in moisture and provide a healthy glow.
Olive oil can also be used for oil pulling, an ancient practice that involves swishing oil in the mouth to improve oral health.
8. Dark Chocolate
When it comes to indulging your sweet tooth, dark chocolate is a delicious choice that also offers potential health benefits, including its ability to improve cholesterol levels.
However, it is crucial to choose the right kind of dark chocolate and consume it in moderation. Here’s what you need to know about dark chocolate and its impact on cholesterol:
8.1 Benefits of dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that has been shown to have heart-healthy properties. These flavonoids help reduce LDL cholesterol oxidation, regulate blood pressure, and improve overall vascular health.
Consuming dark chocolate in moderation can provide these health benefits while satisfying your sweet cravings.
8.2 Choosing the right kind of dark chocolate
To reap the cholesterol-lowering benefits of dark chocolate, it’s essential to choose high-quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content. Look for dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa solids and minimal added sugars or unhealthy fats.
The higher the cocoa content, the greater the amount of flavonoids and potential health benefits.
8.3 Moderation is key
While dark chocolate offers health benefits, it is essential to consume it in moderation. Dark chocolate is still relatively high in calories and can contribute to weight gain if consumed excessively.
To enjoy the cholesterol-lowering benefits without overindulging, limit your daily intake to a small square or a couple of small pieces.
8.4 Other healthy options for satisfying your sweet tooth
If dark chocolate is not your preferred choice or you’re looking for alternative ways to satisfy your sweet tooth, there are several other healthy options available. Fresh fruits, such as berries or sliced apples, can provide a naturally sweet and nutritious treat.
Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey or a homemade fruit smoothie can also be a satisfying and cholesterol-friendly option.
9. Plant Sterols
Plant sterols, also known as phytosterols, are natural compounds found in plants that have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. They have a similar structure to cholesterol and compete with it for absorption in the intestines.
Incorporating foods rich in plant sterols into your diet can be an effective way to manage high cholesterol levels:
9.1 What are plant sterols?
Plant sterols are naturally occurring compounds found in various fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. They are structurally similar to cholesterol and can help block its absorption in the intestine, resulting in lower levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.
9.2 How do plant sterols reduce cholesterol?
When plant sterols are consumed, they compete with cholesterol for absorption in the intestines. This competition leads to decreased cholesterol absorption, resulting in lower LDL cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.
By incorporating more plant sterols into your diet, you can effectively lower your cholesterol levels and promote heart health.
9.3 Food sources of plant sterols
Certain foods are particularly rich in plant sterols and can help you increase your intake. Some examples include legumes, such as peanuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds, as well as various fruits and vegetables like oranges, Brussels sprouts, and strawberries.
Whole grains, such as oats and barley, also contain significant amounts of plant sterols.
9.4 Incorporating plant sterols into your diet
Incorporating plant sterols into your diet can be as simple as adding a handful of nuts and seeds to your meals or snacks, enjoying a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, and choosing whole grain options instead of refined grains.
Additionally, certain functional foods fortified with plant sterols, such as fortified margarine or yogurt, are available and can be a convenient way to increase your intake.
10. Green Tea
Green tea has been enjoyed for centuries and is well-known for its numerous health benefits. It contains powerful antioxidants called catechins that have been shown to improve overall heart health, including reducing cholesterol levels.
Let’s delve into the benefits and considerations of green tea for managing high cholesterol:
10.1 Benefits of green tea for cholesterol
Green tea contains catechins, which are potent antioxidants that have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels and increase HDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, green tea may help lower overall cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Regular consumption of green tea can provide these cholesterol-lowering benefits while offering a refreshing and delicious beverage.
10.2 How to properly brew green tea
To enjoy the full benefits of green tea, it’s important to brew it correctly. Start by using high-quality loose leaf green tea or tea bags. Bring water to a boil and let it cool slightly before pouring over the tea leaves or bags.
Steep the tea for about 2-3 minutes to avoid a bitter taste. Adjust the brewing time based on your preference for a milder or stronger flavor.
10.3 Other teas that may help lower cholesterol
While green tea is often the most commonly associated with cholesterol-lowering properties, other types of tea may also offer similar benefits. Black tea, white tea, and oolong tea have all been studied for their potential cholesterol-lowering effects. Incorporating a variety of teas into your routine can provide both different flavors and potential health benefits.
10.4 Precautions and considerations
While green tea and other teas can provide health benefits, it’s important to note that they should not be relied upon as a sole solution for managing cholesterol levels. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and consulting with a healthcare professional are crucial aspects of cholesterol management.
Additionally, be mindful of the caffeine content in green tea, particularly if you are sensitive to caffeine or have health conditions that require caffeine restriction.
Incorporating these cholesterol-lowering foods into your diet can have a significant impact on your heart health. Remember that achieving and maintaining a healthy cholesterol profile is best accomplished by combining a balanced diet with regular exercise and lifestyle modifications.
Consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice and guidance on managing your cholesterol levels. So start making these healthy choices today and enjoy the benefits of a heart-healthy diet!
Remember, it’s always important to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before making any significant changes to your diet, especially if you have specific health conditions or dietary restrictions.