Contrary to common belief, not all types of cholesterol are bad for your health. Though you are not completely wrong when you blame high-cholesterol diets for heart diseases, the truth is that some cholesterols are good for your body.
However, before we plunge into the good-fat, bad-fat debate, let us first find out what cholesterol is. Cholesterol, or lipid, is an oil-based waxy molecule, immiscible in blood and carried in the body by lipoproteins. There are two main types of lipoproteins:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol – it carries cholesterol from the liver and blood to the cells for use and storage. When in excess, LDL cannot enter the cells and starts clogging up the arteries leading to a condition called atherosclerosis.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol – it transfers cholesterol from the cells and blood to the liver for detoxification and removal from the body.
Cholesterol, as a whole, is generally not detrimental if it does not exceed the normal cholesterol levels — more than 200 mg per day. Our body needs it to perform several functions such as digestion, maintenance of cell membranes, production of hormones and the bile that plays a role in blood circulation, and also acts as a lubricant in the circulatory system.
There are two major sources of cholesterol, which means it can either be synthesized in our body by the liver or fed externally in the form of different high-cholesterol foods.
An excess of cholesterol, called hyperlipidemia, however, is bad. It is not a disease per se but it increases the risk of several other diseases such as atherosclerosis, fatty liver disease, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.
Controlling your cholesterol level is mandatory for a healthy life. Apart from being physically active, you need to watch what you eat. Knowing what you eat and how many calories and cholesterol your food contains can make a significant difference for your health.
Here are seven simple yet nutritionally beneficial cholesterol-lowering foods that can cut down the amounts of LDL or bad cholesterols, and can also increase the quantities of HDL or good cholesterol.
Olive oil tops the list of the foods that can lower cholesterol naturally. It is a trusted member of the Mediterranean diet, which is considered a heart-healthy diet. Rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, olive oil helps reduce bad cholesterol levels.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil in your food every day, instead of other fats, to maximize its benefits. The PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) and MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids) – natural compounds in olive oil — neutralize the harmful effects of bad cholesterol in your body.
Munching on a handful of raw unsalted nuts can help lower LDL cholesterol in your body. Nuts are natural stress-busters; people who eat nuts regularly can escape the risk of getting heart disease, according to this study.
The National Health Service (NHS) supported the benefits of eating nuts on a daily basis for achieving good cholesterol levels. In the pooled analysis, it was noted that people who ate 67g of nuts daily had a 5.1% reduction in total cholesterol level.
Scientist believe that nuts work on blood lipid levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
That’s why we say you should go nuts this year! Get the energy crunch from almonds, walnuts, cashews and other nuts by adding them to your life.
Despite containing the word “fatty”, there is nothing fishy about fatty fish. Latest research reveals that fish contains omega 3-fatty acids that are good cholesterol-lowering compounds. They do so by minimizing plaque deposition within the arteries which can cause blood clots leading to heart attacks. Therefore, eating two servings of fatty fish can increase your heart health.
Not just that, omega-3 fatty acids also prevent and reduce the risk of a hoard of diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, depression, and schizophrenia.
Still contemplating about what type of fish is considered a fatty fish? Don’t wreck your nerves, we’re simply talking about common cold-water fishes such as salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, and mackerel.
Experts recommend you should go fishy twice a week.
Oats are considered to be one of the best cholesterol-lowering foods on the planet. These contain soluble fibers which reduce cholesterol levels and prevent heart diseases.
Eating one and a half cup of oats per day can lower cholesterol by 5-8%. Cholesterol-lowering properties of oats were backed up by a study conducted by Lund University, Sweden. It was revealed that oats lower the level of LDL and increased the amount of HDL in the blood.
At Body Breakthrough, we recommend you consume about a 1/2 cup of rolled oats per day if you are consuming a moderate amount of carbohydrates. Eating one and a half cups is quite a lot, and you will still benefit from having a 1/2 cup in your diet.
Legumes including beans, lentils, and chickpeas are natural cholesterol fighters. They are also the best source of trans-free fat. They are rich in soluble fibers which help lower transfat and triglyceride levels in the blood. They are a good source of resistant starch which helps lower the LDL levels. They also contain phytosterols, which are natural and healthy plant cholesterols.
You should eat a ½ cup of cooked beans per day for 2-4 weeks to reduce the cholesterol level by 20 points.
Food Containing Sterols and Stanols
Besides nuts, oats, butter and fatty fish, there are other foods that contain plant sterols and stanols such as vegetable oils, wheat bran, etc. These compounds, called phytosterols, have a natural ability to fight body cholesterol. Sterols are cholesterol-like molecules that work by minimizing the cholesterol absorption in the intestine thereby reducing the levels of bad cholesterols in the body. Sterols and stanols are also present in fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and vegetables. They have been studied for centuries and are regarded as safe for human health. The Heart UK recommends taking 2-3 grams/day of sterols and stanols to reduce the LDL level from 5% to 15%.
An interesting fact about these plant sterols and stanols is that manufacturers have started adding them into their products such as margarine, yogurt, and vegetable oil spreads, due to their nutritional benefits.
Last but not least, the avocado is one of the best cholesterol-lowering foods. It is a great source of heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fatty acids. The avocado contains cholesterol smashing beta-sitosterol that increases the good cholesterol levels in the body. Since, avocados and olive oil are high in caloric content, it is advisable to eat them in poise.
All of the above mentioned heart healthy foods are better than common cholesterol-lowering medications – the statins – which can cause health complications like liver damage and anxiety in patients.
If you are seeking natural remedies to lower your LDL levels, switch to a healthy, cholesterol-lowering diet today.
Unlike statins, these foods have no side effects. So, start including these 7 superfoods into your diet to fight high cholesterol and get off medications!