Changing what foods you eat can help prevent high cholesterol levels and improve overall health. Eating foods that lower LDL (the harmful cholesterol carrying particle that contributes to atherosclerosis), is the best way to a low cholesterol diet. Here, we will enumerate 10 foods that you can eat to help prevent high cholesterol.
What is Cholesterol?
The body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But when you have very high cholesterol levels in the blood, it can stick to the walls of the arteries, narrowing or even blocking them. That will put you at risk for coronary artery disease and heart disease.
Cholesterol is carried in the bloodstream as spherical particles called lipoproteins. One type, LDL (low-density lipoprotein), is known as “bad” cholesterol. A high LDL level results in a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. Another type, HDL (high-density lipoprotein), is known as “good” cholesterol. It carries cholesterol from other areas in the body back to the liver. The liver then removes the cholesterol from the body.
What Should You Eat to Avoid High Cholesterol?
Foods can lower cholesterol in different ways. Some have soluble fiber that binds cholesterol in the digestive system and drags it out before it can circulate in the body. Some have polyunsaturated fats that directly lower LDL. And some contain plant sterols and stanols that block the body from absorbing cholesterol. Here are some foods that can help lower cholesterol:
An easy step to lower your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. It contains 1-2 grams of soluble fiber. Nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20-35 grams of fiber a day, with 5-10 grams coming from soluble fiber.
Eating soybeans, tofu, and soy milk was considered a good way to help lower cholesterol, but recent research shows that the effect is more modest. Consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day (2 1/2 cups of soy milk or 10 ounces of tofu) can still help lower LDL by up to 5% to 6%.
Eating almonds, walnuts, and other nuts is good for the heart. Two ounces of nuts per day can help lower LDL slightly. Also, nuts have additional nutrients which protect the heart in other ways.
Avocados are rich in nutrients and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Adding avocado to your diet can help improve LDL cholesterol levels, especially if you are overweight or obese. Try adding avocado to salads and sandwiches. You can also eat this fruit as a side dish. MUFAs are what make a Mediterranean diet heart-healthy.
5. Apples, strawberries, grapes, and citrus fruits
These fruits contain pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL. Soluble dietary fiber may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases.
6. Barley and other whole grains
Like oats, barley and other whole grains can help reduce the risk of heart disease, mainly because of the soluble fiber they contain. Also, it encourages the body to get rid of cholesterol and stop the liver from producing this compound.
7. Vegetable oils
Using liquid vegetable oils such as canola, safflower, sunflower, and others in place of butter or lard when cooking can help lower LDL.
8. Fatty fish
Eating fish can lower LDL in two ways: by replacing meat, which has LDL boosting saturated fats, and by delivering LDL-lowering omega 3 fats. Omega 3s reduce triglycerides and protect the heart by helping prevent abnormal heart rhythms.
9. Foods fortified with sterols and stanols
Plant sterols and stanols are substances which help block cholesterol from being absorbed in the small intestine. They are sometimes added to foods such as granola bars, orange juice, and chocolate. They are also available as supplements. Getting two grams of plant sterols or stanols per day can lower LDL cholesterol by around 10%.
Beans are rich in soluble fiber. They also take a while to digest, meaning you’ll feel full for longer. That’s why beans are useful for people who are trying to lose weight. Beans are a very versatile food. There are different types of beans (navy beans, lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, etc.), and so many ways to prepare them.
A largely vegetarian diet consisting of cholesterol-lowering foods can lower LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure. Eating more fruits and vegetables, plant proteins, and whole grains will not just help lower cholesterol, but also improve your overall health.
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