Cholesterol – that nutrient in the human body which is associated with the most diseases that we dread, such as heart attacks and strokes. This oil-based material is carried in the blood by lipoproteins and is insoluble in blood, which has a water base. We cannot afford to live with cholesterol, and we cannot live without cholesterol! Cholesterol is needed by the human body to produce hormones, Vitamin D and other digestive juices. However, an excess of cholesterol gets deposited on artery walls. This results in the blood flow slowing down, thus causing high blood pressure. In extreme conditions, cholesterol deposits lead to heart attack and stroke.
There are two forms of cholesterol that we ingest through food – High-Density Lipoproteins or HDL and Low-Density Lipoproteins or LDL. Usually, the excess of LDL in the blood is what causes the aforementioned problems. The only way to keep a check on the LDL intake is by taking a planned diet to reduce the LDL cholesterol levels. Here we have listed down what foods to eat to lower cholesterol quickly and lead a healthier lifestyle.
Food to Reduce Cholesterol
Here are 10 easily available food products that you can consume to lower your bad cholesterol levels drastically.
Oats are highly recommended to reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood, especially because it is a whole grain cereal. Whole grain cereals are completely fortified with vitamins, minerals, fibres and are a powerhouse of multiple other nutrients. More importantly, oats also contain a soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which is pivotal in reducing LDL levels in the blood. 3 grams of oats every day has been shown to reduce LDL levels in the blood by 7%! Other whole grain cereals like barley are also rich in beta-glucan and do the trick.
2. Citrus Fruits and Strawberries
Most of the citrus fruits, berries and grapes are rich in soluble fibres which help in tackling cholesterol levels in the blood. These fruits contain pectin, a soluble fibre that can reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood by a whopping 10%. They also improve HDL levels in the blood, hence increasing good cholesterol in the blood.
3. Dark Leafy Vegetables
Leafy vegetables like spinach are the best answer for what to eat to lower cholesterol naturally. These vegetables contain soluble fibres and carotenoids like lutein. Lutein and other carotenoids act as antioxidants that bind with free radicals in the bloodstream that causes artery clogging, such as bad cholesterol. They also help in binding with bile juices, helping the body to excrete more cholesterol.
Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats (healthy fats). They can help in substituting for LDL-rich foods, hence reducing the LDL intake. Secondly, avocados are rich in soluble fibres and plant sterols. Sterols drastically reduce the cholesterol absorption in the intestine and lower the plasma cholesterol levels, hence helping in excreting the cholesterol more effectively.
5. Fatty Fish
Fishe like tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel are known to reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood. Firstly, they act as supplements to red meat, which is the biggest source of bad cholesterol or LDL. Fish also contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce atherosclerotic plaques, ventricular arrhythmia and blood pressure.
6. Dark Chocolate
Yes! You heard it right. Cocoa, the main ingredient in dark chocolate, contains flavonoids. Flavonoids stop the LDL in the blood from oxidising, which is the major reason for heart-related diseases. But chocolates contain added sugar, which is extremely detrimental to having a healthy heart. Hence, it should be ensured that the dark chocolate being consumed contains at least 75% cocoa.
Garlic is extremely beneficial in reducing cholesterol levels in the blood. Almost all the other vegetables in the onion family, especially garlic help in reducing LDL levels by hindering the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver. Moreover, garlic helps in reducing blood pressure by allowing the blood to flow more freely.
If you are on a cholesterol diet control, soya and soy-based foods are a must-have on your diet. Firstly, they are a rich source of proteins, especially for vegetarians. Secondly, studies have linked soy-based foods to drastically reduce the LDL levels in the blood, especially for people with high cholesterol. 25 grams of soya in a day can help in reducing LDL levels by over 5%.
Walnuts and other non-processed nuts are a great source of monounsaturated healthy fats. They also contain soluble fibres and plant sterols, which are both known to combat LDL in the body. Nuts not only combat bad cholesterol or LDL, but also promote good cholesterol or HDL. Having a handful of nuts every day has been seen to reduce the LDL cholesterol levels by over 10%.
Flaxseeds are the healthiest snacks for a healthy heart. They contain Omega-3S, which is a polyunsaturated fat that helps in improving blood vessel functions, reducing bad cholesterol levels and decreasing inflammation of blood vessels. Flaxseeds can be added to low-fat yoghurts and cereals for a healthy meal as well.
What Foods to Avoid When Cholesterol Is High?
Although we have touched upon what foods to have to reduce cholesterol, we have not addressed the root cause of the problem yet. Here is a list of some foods that are a part of a cholesterol diet high on LDL. These foods should be avoided or kept in check to have a healthy heart.
As it is the source of cholesterol in the body of animals, this organ must be avoided to keep cholesterol levels in check.
Although it is considered to be an alternative to butter with less saturated fat than butter, it contains a large amount of trans fats due to partially hydrogenated oils, making them more detrimental to heart health than butter.
3. Baked Products
Baked products like muffins, cupcakes, cookies and so on contain a lot of trans fats due to the hydrogenated vegetable oils in which they are cooked.
Eating shellfish has a lot of health benefits associated with it. But it is not recommended for people with high cholesterol levels as every ounce of shellfish contains over 20 milligrams of cholesterol, which is very high.
5. Fried Chicken
Fried chicken contains a large amount of cholesterol, especially LDL. Hence, eating chicken in fried form should be avoided.
6. Red Meat
Red meat like mutton is a big source of bad cholesterol and should be avoided at all costs for a healthy heart.
7. French Fries
French fries are also cooked in hydrogenated vegetable oils, making them rich in trans fats, just like every other junk food item out there.
8. Cream Cheese
Every ounce of cream cheese contains a whopping 27 milligrams of cholesterol. Enough said!
9. Ice Cream
Ice cream is full of cholesterol of the bad type. Every scoop of ice cream contains more cholesterol than 10 glazed doughnuts!
10. Egg Yolk
Chicken egg yolk is a rich source of cholesterol and should be avoided by people with high cholesterol levels.
Only a healthy heart can ensure that you perform your bodily functions well. The only way to have a healthy heart is to keep your cholesterol levels in check – nor too high to block the arteries, neither too low to stop nutrient synthesis. This can only be realised by eating right – eating the right food items to lower the cholesterol levels and avoiding food products having a high content of bad LDL cholesterol. Maintaining good heart health is the key to having a healthy life.