Cholesterol - Foods to Lower Cholesterol
Most of us are aware that too much fatty food will raise our cholesterol levels, but did you know that some foods actually work to lower these levels?
If you have problems with cholesterol, foods to lower your cholesterol are plentiful and easy to obtain. Surprisingly common to our diets, too.
Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is the 'bad' cholesterol that we should keep to a minimum in our bodies. The 'good' cholesterol, HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is not the problem.
Foods to Lower Cholesterol
Greasy foods, high-fat foods, including butter, cream, cheese and full fat milk, should be eaten in minimum to moderate amounts. Eating too much of any of these, can lead to cholesterol problems, although this is not the only cause.
Once we have 'overdone it' and our LDL levels are high, there are things we can eat which will help to bring these levels back down again:
Soluble fibre helps to reduce the absorption of cholesterol in your intestines, which will mean less is passed into the bloodstream. 10 g or more a day will decrease cholesterol levels.
Soluble fibre is found in high amounts in oatmeal, apples, pears, bananas, kidney beans, barley and prunes.
Oatmeal. A bowl of cooked oatmeal (approximately 1 1/2 cups) has 6 g of fibre. Adding fruit will bring you up to your 10 g. Cereals which include oatmeal or oatbran and fruits will also be good.
Apples. Apple pectin, a soluble fibre, helps to draw cholesterol out of your system. Quercetin, the flavonoid in Apples, is a strong antioxidant, inhibiting the accumulation of 'bad' cholesterol in the blood.
Nuts are good for reducing blood cholesterol, particularly walnuts, as they are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, helping with blood vessels' elasticity and general health.
Other nuts that are particularly good are almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and peanuts (although peanuts are not really nuts, but pulses) do not overdo it with nuts, however, as they are high in calories.
If you eat nuts in place of foods high in saturated fats, you will be okay. For instance instead of grated cheese, eggs, or croutons on your salad, sprinkle a handful of crushed walnuts or almonds.
The unsaturated fats in nuts are far better than saturated fats. Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats lower LDL levels.
Nuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as found in fish. Omega-3 is very helpful in preventing heart attack.
Nuts also contain L arginine which helps improve the health of the artery walls, improving flexibility or elasticity, and thus less likely to allow blood clots to form.
The fibre in nuts not only helps lower cholesterol, but will make the stomach feel fuller, so you're less inclined to need to eat more. This fibre is also believed to help in preventing diabetes.
Instead of high calorie nuts, try flaxseed as it has the omega-3 but not the calories.
Plant sterols are found in certain nuts. These sterols, called phytosterols, are known to help lower cholesterol, and are nowadays added to some foods as their health benefits are known. Look when you buy; certain products like orange juice, drinking yoghurts, and margarine, containing Plant sterols, are a good addition to your diet.
Salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna, sardines, rainbow trout, and other fish that contain high levels of omega-3 should be eaten at least twice a week.
If you can't eat fish, you should try to get your omega-3 from flaxseed or other sources.
Extra virgin olive oil is brimming with antioxidants which lower LDL and leave HDL completely untouched. Two tablespoons a day is recommended for a healthy heart. Used for cooking, as a salad dressing, or wherever you would normally use fats, olive oil is a great substitute.
In Spain and Italy, it is drizzled onto bread, even at breakfast time. These countries have remarkably less heart problems than the USA or the UK.
Any olive oil is good but the extra-virgin obviously is the best, having gone through less processing, and contains far more antioxidants. Don't buy light olive oil, this doesn't mean low-calorie, it means it has gone through a lot more processing to lighten the colour.
Pomegranate juice is thought to reduce or even stop the buildup of cholesterol in arteries. This cholesterol buildup would cause arteries to narrow and harden, leading to heart disease.
Pomegranate juice is full of antioxidants, especially health giving polyphenols, which reduce LDL.
Whole grains are much better for assuring healthy hearts, so choose whole-grain flour, breads, pasta and rice.
Brown rice, which has oil to lower cholesterol, (more so than its fibre) also contains magnesium and B vitamins.
Cinnamon has been found to drastically reduce LDL, as well as triglycerides, and helps to balance total cholesterol levels. With just half a teaspoon a day, added to foods or taken in water, you're doing your body a lot of good. It also lowers blood sugar levels, helpful with type 2 diabetes.
Garlic is very useful in lowering cholesterol levels, and also lowers the blood clotting properties in the blood, making it extremely helpful to our hearts. Nanoplaque, the plaque which clogs arteries, is prevented by eating garlic, as it helps stop cholesterol particles sticking to the arterial walls.
The allicin in garlic kills bacteria and funghi and helps digestion.
Grapes. Grapes have flavonoids which protect from free radical damage, and reduce 'clumping' of platelets. Grapes of darker colour have more benefits.
Soy. Soya beans have isoflavones which act the same way as human hormones, raising HDL and lowering LDL levels. Soya beans also contain soluble fibre.
Pulses, especially kidney beans, pinto, black or butter beans, lentils and chickpeas, are especially helpful in lowering cholesterol because of their high soluble fibre content. 1 cup a day will significantly lower cholesterol levels in a very short time.
Even cans and jars of beans are good, (as long as you wash off the liquid they are stored in, as this is high in sodium)
Avocado . Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, which raise HDL, and lower LDL levels. They are also rich in beta-sitosterol, a plant-based fat, which reduces the amount of cholesterol the body will absorb from food. Both these properties make the avocado extremely helpful in the fight against cholesterol.
Avocado is a great substitute for butter and other fats.
You can spread ripe avocado in place of butter, especially in sandwiches, where it is healthier than both butter and mayonnaise. The monounsaturated fats in avocado should replace saturated fats anywhere in your diet.
Spinach. Spinach contains an abundance of lutein, which will help keep arterial walls clear of cholesterol, and guard against blockage. This lutein is also helpful in old age, with degenerating eyesight.
Fresh spinach leaves in a salad are wonderful, even lightly cooked. If you buy them in a bag, just pierce the bag a couple of times and place it in the microwave briefly. This will soften the leaf without cooking all the goodness away.
Served with nuts or seeds, a very healthy lunch.
Lightly cooked or raw, in a whole-grain sandwich with avocado, delicious!
Tea. Hot tea or iced tea, both are full of antioxidants. Studies have shown tea to relax blood vessels and prevent clots.
The flavonoids in tea prevent oxidation of LDL, which leads to plaque formation on arterial walls. A powerful antioxidant, flavonoids reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
Fresh tea will be higher in antioxidants, but shop-bought prepared iced tea still has high levels.
A cup of fresh hot tea will give you more antioxidants than one serving of any fruit or vegetable. The high antioxidant levels are present in all kinds of tea, including the normal black leaf, as well as green and red. At least 1 cup per day will be helpful.
Chocolate. Dark or bitter chocolate has three times the antioxidants of milk chocolate. These antioxidants, flavonoids, help prevent the clogging of arteries, and the 'glueing' together of platelets. Milk chocolate contains the same amount of antioxidants as red wine. Dark chocolate with high cocoa content, much more, but white chocolate contains no flavonoids at all.
An ounce of chocolate a day will help with cholesterol levels, but don't overdo it!
Diet is not always the cause of high cholesterol, however.
An hereditary condition known as familial hyperlipidaemia (FH) can be passed even to a person who follows a very healthy diet.
A doctor can prescribe pills which will readjust cholesterol levels, and don't have to be taken permanently. A course of these tablets will bring cholesterol levels back to normal, then you can adjust your diet accordingly, to keep them that way.
Regular exercise and physical activity will help increase HDL, or 'good' cholesterol levels. Walking for at least 20 minutes every day, preferably first thing in the morning, will help your heart immensely.
It was originally thought that eggs were bad for cholesterol levels, but nowadays it is thought that saturated fats and trans fats are far more harmful than foods which contain cholesterol, as in eggs and shellfish. So if you like these foods, you can eat them in moderation as part of a varied and balanced diet.
Once you have bought your cholesterol levels back to normal, continue to include these healthy foods in your diet, to prevent the recurrence of problems.
You can get pills from a doctor, and just one course will probably get your levels straight again, but the problem can return, and more than once, however there are a lot of ways to help yourself control cholesterol, without needing medical aids.