Cholesterol is measured in three ways, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and total cholesterol. Cholesterol is determined by a couple of different factors genetics, diet and exercise. One’s diet is the easiest factor to control. However, peoples eating habits have declined over the years and diets are filled with highly processed, high fat, and high sugar foods. This raises the bodies LDL bad cholesterol and lowers the HDL good cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol levels are bad because it raises blood pressure, increases plaque build up in arteries and increases the risk for heart disease and heart attack. Lowering your bad cholesterol should be a major concern and by eating these foods you can start reducing your LDL levels today. Remember to eat a variety of these foods on a daily basis to get the maximum cholesterol lowering effects.
1. Oats/Oatmeal– Oats are part of the whole grain group of food and should be consumed on a daily basis. Oats are one of the best sources of soluble fiber. It is recommended to consume 20-35 grams of fiber a day, with 5-10 grams being soluble fiber. Due to the switch to highly processed flour and refined grains, which are cheaper and easier to produce, Americans are taking in less fiber and our cholesterols are rising because of it. Soluble fiber is important in lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) also known as bad cholesterol. Soluble fiber works by reducing both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. So eat a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat based cereal to boost your fiber intake and lower your cholesterol. Also include oat bran, barley and other whole grains n your diet to reduce your risk for heart disease.
2. Beans– Beans are another source of valuable soluble fiber. Therefore eating 1/2 cup of beans a day can reduce your cholesterol. Additionally beans fill you up and take a long time to be digested by the body. This is why beans are a perfect food to lower cholesterol. Plus there are so many different choices of beans such as navy, kidney, pinto, lentils, garbanzos, black eye peas, etc.
3. Nuts– Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and some pine nuts are great for lowering LDL cholesterol and raising good HDL cholesterol. Nuts are rich in unsaturated fats, which keep the blood vessel to the heart healthy. These fats make LDL cholesterol unable to oxidize therefore reducing the plaque build up in arteries, which can cut off blood flow to the heart. By reducing plaque build up you reduce your risk for heart disease. Nuts are high in calories so limit your intake to about a handful or 1.5 ounces a day and avoid salted or sugar coated nuts.
4. Olive oil– Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, which lower LDL cholesterol. Olive oil is also rich in phenolics, a plant substance that makes blood less likely to clot. Because olive oil is high in calories, limit your intake to 2 tablespoons a day. To reap all the heart health benefits of olive oil use it in place of butter, lard, or shortening. To get even better cholesterol lowering effect use extra virgin olive oil because the oil is less processed and contains more antioxidants. Other vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower and safflower oil also provide cholesterol-lowering benefits to the body.
5. Fish-Fish, especially fatty fish are a heart healthy addition to ones diet. Fatty fish have high levels of omega 3 fatty acids, which reduce blood pressure, and development of blood clots. Omega 3 fatty acids reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream, which lowers LDL cholesterol and keeps blood vessels clear and healthy. Fish should be consumed at least 2 times a week. Examples of fatty fishes include salmon, halibut, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna. The best way to consume fish is by baking or grilling it. Omega 3’s and fish oils are available in supplementation, however fresh fish have additional nutrients such as selenium that you will miss out on when taking the pills.
6. Fruit– Fruit is a great food for a healthy body. In addition to their vitamins they are low in calories and should consume 4-6 servings of a day. Fruits such as apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus fruits are rich in pectin a soluble fiber that helps to lower cholesterol. Blueberries have been called a superfood because of its nutritional benefits to the body. Blueberries lower LDL cholesterol in the blood, which reduces plaque build up in the arteries. Blueberries help support liver function by removing cholesterol from the system more quickly. Avocadoes are also a heart healthy fruit, full of monounsaturated fats. Avocadoes lower LDL cholesterol and remove triglycerides from the blood stream. Avocadoes are high in calories so limit your intake to a few slices per serving.
7. Vegetables– Vegetables are very healthy for the body as a whole. They are full of vitamins and minerals are very low in calories and you should consume 6-8 servings of vegetables a day. Tomatoes are full of lycopene, which inhibit LDL production. Lycopene lowers LDL cholesterol and breaks down artery clogging plaque. Asparagus, beets, okra, carrots, eggplant, green beans, and cauliflower also help to lower cholesterol. When these vegetables are served steamed it improves their cholesterol fighting abilities. Steaming these vegetables helps to bind bile acids, therefore the liver requires more LDL cholesterol to make bile, further lowering LDL cholesterol.
Sarah Labdar, “Naturally Lower Your Cholesterol Through the Food You Eat”, Better Health