Best foods to eat to lower cholesterol
What you eat can have a direct impact on your cholesterol levels, high cholesterol is a real threat to your risk of cardiovascular disease. Watching what foods, you eat along with regular exercise can help to lower cholesterol levels in your blood, the question is what are the best foods to eat to lower cholesterol?
Healthy eating habits
By having an awareness of how to eat healthily have a balanced diet and keep yourself active means you have a head start in stopping your cholesterol getting high in the first place.
Many studies have shown how high cholesterol levels can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Should you be concerned about your cholesterol levels especially between the age of 35 -74.
Talk to your doctor about your diet, you may need some change there, dietary changes like cutting down on foods that contain saturated fats and getting more fibre from fruit and vegetables can have a positive impact on your blood cholesterol levels.
Poor diet high cholesterol
A poor diet is just one part of the equation there are other factors to be considered such as family history, a lack of regular exercise, diabetes and hypothyroidism (a condition where the thyroid gland is unable to make enough thyroid hormones) can have an impact on total cholesterol levels.
In the Western world and America, a poor diet is the number one cause of unhealthy LDL or bad cholesterol, this type of diet causes inflammation in the arteries elevating LDL levels and reducing the good HDL cholesterol, this is what we don’t want to see happening.
How does inflammation make cholesterol rise?
Let’s be clear, our bodies produce cholesterol from the foods that we eat, our liver and other organs produce most of the cholesterol that we need in fact about 80% of it.
Cholesterol is vital for our bodies to function, we need cholesterol to produce hormones, digest food and to make vitamin D, it looks like a waxy fat substance, there are two types LDL ” bad” cholesterol or lipoprotein and HDL “good” or high-density lipoprotein.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is in a fatty acid form it travels around the body in the bloodstream, when we are younger these fatty acids particles keep moving and don’t stick or build up on the arterial walls.
However when inflammation occurs the LDL or low density lipoprotein cling together forming dangerous plaque clots leading to interrupted blood flow. Any change in the blood flow to the heart or brain can have serious consequences in the form of a heart attack or stroke.
Inflammation is the root cause of many conditions
On its own cholesterol is good for us, however when you introduce inflammation into the equation it can cause deposits of plaque to harden the arteries this is known as Atherosclerosis it leads to more and more inflammation the root cause if so many common conditions particularly dangerous in heart disease.
Fats and cholesterol are inextricably linked, there are two main types of fat, saturated fat and unsaturated fat, consuming foods high in saturated fats will raise LDL or bad cholesterol in your blood, a western diet contains far too much saturated fats.
What foods contain saturated fats?
- Fatty meat
- Meat pies
- Hard cheese
- Food with coconut/palm oil
- Fatty beef
- White chocolate
- Full fat milk
Now you know what foods are causing your cholesterol levels to rise, what you need to do now is change what you eat and lower your cholesterol, here is my list of the best foods to eat to lower cholesterol.
Best foods to eat to lower cholesterol
Having a sweet tooth isn’t helpful if you are trying to lower your cholesterol as you can see from the list of saturated fats foods a lot of those are sweet things that we like to eat, so it will take a lot of willpower and a change in your eating habits to reduce your cholesterol by changing your diet.
My advice is to replace the foods that you know for sure contain saturated fats with foods that are good for you and contain unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are made up of molecules containing one maybe more double/triple bond, these fats (liquids) are oils at room temperature, these unsaturated fats are also in solid foods.
This group of unsaturated fats are divided into two categories monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are found in rapeseed oil, olive oil, avacados, canola oil, nearly every nut, sunflower oils.
Back in the 60’s a study of heart disease in the Greek people showed a low rate of heart disease even though they ate a high fat diet. The reason? They use a lot of olive oil that contains monounsaturated fats proving the point that monounsaturated fats are good for heart health, so why not consider a Mediterranean diet?
These are essential fats, our bodies need them for building cell membranes, muscle movement, blood clotting and inflammation.
Which foods are best for unsaturated fats?
The best sources to find unsaturated fats in food are:
- Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel
- Olives & olive oil
- Nuts & Seeds like cashew nuts, peanuts almonds
- Vegetable oils, sunflower, canola, rapeseed, corn, avacado, sunflower
- Pumpkin seeds
- Low fat dairy milk
- Low fat dairy cheese
Replace food rather than cut out
You need food for nutrition so it’s better to replace rather than cut out, to get the maximum healthy benefits try to change from unhealthy saturated foods to healthy unsaturated foods
1. If you feel like a snack instead of cookies eat walnuts or a protein bar
2. Instead of eating meat try to replace it with oily fish like salmon or mackerel at least twice a week
3. Put some flax seed on your morning cereal
4. Adding sunflower seeds or walnuts to a salad can help to fill you up
5. Use corn, rapeseed or sunflower oil in place of butter or fats.
What are trans fats?
Trans fats are bad fats, they can cause your bad or LDL cholesterol to rise they can also cause your HDL or good cholesterol to fall, trans fats are found mainly in foods made from hydrogenated fats and oils, foods such as margarine, French fries and crackers.
These are found smaller amounts in meat, dairy foods and milk, try to replace this type of food with healthier fat food like lean meat, nuts, use unsaturated oils like olive, canola, rapeseed or sunflower.
What are artificial trans fats?
A lot of processed foods are made from trans fats, foods like biscuits, cakes and bars, manufactures are trying to reduce trans fats in their product range, so it is important to check the food label before you buy.
How to reduce total fat intake
To reduce your risk of heart disease you need to lower the amount of fat in your diet, try these tips:
- Grill instead of frying
- Steam instead of frying
- Buying food
When buying food stop and think? Choose leaner meat, choose low fat instead of full fat dairy or spread, reduce your intake of full fat foods.
Eat more fibre
Many studies have shown that by eating more high fibre food you increase your chances of lowering cholesterol it is recommended that an adult should aim to get a minimum of 30 grams of fibre per day, your diet should have a good mix of fibre to include:
- Wholegrain cereal and bread
- Oats and barley
- Seeds and nuts
- Lentils, beans and peas
- Potatoes with skins
- Fruit and veg
“Five a day keeps the doctor away”
Which foods have cholesterol in them?
Cholesterol is naturally present in certain foods, its known as dietary cholesterol, for example foods such as kidney, prawns and eggs are known to be higher in dietary cholesterol compared to other foods. Dietary cholesterol doesn’t have as bar an effect on your cholesterol levels as saturated fats.
If your doctor has discussed ways to get your cholesterol down, then you will know that cutting down on saturated fats is the best place to start. At the same time, it is advisable to look at ways to bring more fibre into your diet by eating more vegetables and fruit.
Recommended daily cholesterol intake
The recommended daily intake of cholesterol for adults is 200 mg, limiting foods that contain cholesterol like liver, dairy, shrimp, organ meats and whole milk dairy products is advisable.
Soluble fibre is best
By eating foods high in soluble fibre will help to stop the digestive system from absorbing the cholesterol, high fibre foods such as
1. Apples, oranges, prunes, pears
2. Oatmeal, oat bran and wholegrain cereals
3.Legumes which are kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, lime beans and black-eyed peas
Eat vegetables and fruit
Vegetables and fruit are the best food that you can eat, they are known to increase the chemical lowering compounds known as plant sterols or sterols, they work the same as soluble fibre.
Eat omega 3 fatty fish
You may or may not like eating fish, trust me eating fatty fish containing omega 3 fatty acids is a fantastic way to lower the harmful triglycerides that cause heart attacks and stroke. Not only that these fatty acids protect your heart from inflammation blood clots and reduce your overall risk of a heart attack. Try eating salmon, tuna or mackerel at least twice a week.
Limit your salt intake
The recommended daily salt intake for adults is 2,300 mgs (one tablespoon) some food has salt in it already, the daily intake includes that so be careful about adding too much salt to your food. Salt by itself wont lower your cholesterol however it does help to lower blood pressure a factor in your heart disease risk. Nowadays there is more choice, so go for a low salt version,
Limit your alcohol intake
Alcohol contains sugar, so it isn’t good for weight management, by carrying too much weight you put pressure on your heart, it can also affect your LDL and HDL levels as well as raise your blood pressure. Try to limit your alcohol intake, one glass of wine or beer is fine with a meal but don’t drink to excess.
Be more active
The heart association recommend an active lifestyle to help with lower cholesterol levels, get involved in activities like walking, running, cycling or learn how to do ballroom dancing!
It’s amazing how a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week can help to reduce your cholesterol levels, do an exercise that gets your heart pumping but doesn’t cause your body too much stress.
Statins to lower cholesterol
Statin drugs have been prescribed and used by millions of people since 1987 when the first statin drug became available, it was called Lovastatin and was the first statin drug to be approved by the FDA in America. Since the many more statin alternatives have come into the market, it’s TRUE that statins do reduce cholesterol most doctors will prescribe a statin if your cholesterol doesn’t first reduce by changing your diet. Over the last few years several people taking statin drugs have reported a variety of side effects, read more here.
Pharmacies have low dosage statins for sale, you can get these without a doctor’s prescription, but my advice is to try the best foods to eat to lower cholesterol first.
Natural cholesterol lowering products
If your cholesterol is high your first port of call is to try the best foods to eat to lower cholesterol, so you would have no need for a natural cholesterol lowering product. Most doctors will not recommend products like these because there are no long-term studies to prove that they work. But and large your best option is to try the best foods to eat to lower cholesterol as part of your daily routine.
There are choices available in the supermarket in the shape of low-fat dairy spreads and yoghurts that contain plant sterols and sterols. Studies have shown that this type of product may be helpful in lowering cholesterol for some people they may not be suitable for breastfeeding women and children.