Contributed by: Nancy Dixit
Before starting with cholesterol-lowering foods, let’s begin with a basic understanding of cholesterol and its effect on our bodies.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is basically a waxy substance which is naturally found in our blood. The liver makes most of the cholesterol in your body. The rest comes from the foods you eat.
Our body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high cholesterol levels can also increase the risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is found in two forms, namely:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
Is the “bad,” unhealthy cholesterol. LDL cholesterol can build up in your arteries and form fatty, waxy deposits called plaques.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
Is the “good,” healthy kind of cholesterol. It transports excess cholesterol from your arteries to your liver, which removes it from your body.
There’s good evidence that following a heart-healthy diet can improve your blood cholesterol and heart health. Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways.
Some deliver soluble fibre, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation.
Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL.
And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.
In the article, we will be discussing certain foods that are delicious and easy to incorporate into your everyday meals without sacrificing flavour or fun.
Oats are a well-known cholesterol-lowering superfood. The soluble fibres present in oats lower LDL cholesterol levels and can improve cardiovascular risk as part of a heart-healthy diet.
A person can add oats to their diet by eating porridge or oat-based cereal for breakfast, it helps in reducing your cholesterol level. You can also add a banana or strawberry to enhance its taste.
Barley and other whole grains
Like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fibre they deliver.
Barley is a healthy grain that is rich in vitamins and minerals and rich in fibre.
Beta-glucan, a type of soluble dietary fibre found in barley, as well as in oats, helps in lowering LDL cholesterol.
Avocados are exceptionally rich in heart-healthy nutrients. Avocados may help some people with cholesterol levels.
As per studies, when consumed regularly, can improve cardiovascular disease risk, specifically by lowering LDL cholesterol without lowering HDL cholesterol.
Nuts – almonds and walnuts
Nuts are another exceptionally nutrient-dense food. Nuts are also rich in fibre, which helps keep the body from absorbing cholesterol and promotes its excretion.
Almonds and other nuts are particularly rich in L-arginine, which is an amino acid that helps your body make nitric oxide. This, in turn, helps regulate blood pressure.
Along with this, nuts provide phytosterols. These plant compounds are structurally similar to cholesterol and help lower cholesterol by blocking its absorption in your intestines.
Soybeans and soy products, such as tofu, soy milk, and soy yoghurt, are suitable for a cholesterol-lowering diet.
It has been shown that regularly eating soy products can help to slightly reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Also, it reduces heart disease risk factors, especially in people with high cholesterol.
Choose soy products that are close to how they are found in nature, like soybeans, plain unsweetened soy milk and unflavoured tofu.
Legumes and beans
Legumes like beans, peas and lentils can help lower “bad” LDL levels and are a good source of plant-based protein.
They work by blocking some cholesterol from being absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream.
Legumes contain a lot of fibre, minerals and protein. It is advised to replace some refined grains and processed meats in your diet with legumes, it can lower your risk of heart disease.
Rinse and drain the salty brine before using legumes. Use them in salads, sauces, casseroles and when making legume-based dips like hummus.
Dark chocolate and cocoa
Flavonoids in dark chocolate and cocoa can help lower blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol while raising “good” HDL cholesterol.
As per studies, dark chocolate and cocoa can lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Cocoa and dark chocolate also seem to protect the “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood from oxidation, which is a key cause of heart disease.
However, chocolate is often high in added sugar which negatively affects heart health. Therefore, you should use cocoa alone or choose dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 75 to 85% or higher.
People can use garlic in a wide range of dishes, and it has many health benefits.
Allicin and other plant compounds in garlic may help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce other heart disease risk factors.
As per studies, garlic lowers blood pressure in people with elevated levels and may help lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Vegetable oils are often labelled “heart-healthy” and recommended as an alternative to sources of saturated fat, such as butter, lard, and tallow.
Using liquid vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, and others in place of butter, lard, or shortening when cooking, helps in lowering LDL.
Eggplant and okra
These two low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fibre.
Okra, or lady’s fingers, is a warm-season vegetable. It helps lower cholesterol by binding to it during digestion. This helps cholesterol leave the body through the stool.
Eggplant is high in dietary fibre that helps improve blood cholesterol levels.
It also reduces the risk of developing certain medical conditions like obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes etc.
High levels of circulating cholesterol can trigger higher health risks.
To stay healthful, most people need to limit or reduce their levels of LDL and increase their HDL levels.
There is no single food that will help to lower your cholesterol and it’s important to focus on the quality of your overall diet.
Here we have mentioned a few best, easy and most popular cholesterol-lowering foods you can try.
However, there might be chances that you are allergic to any of the food or might have an undiagnosed medical condition that can be aggravated by any of this food.
In such a situation, you can also opt for genetic testing, which is a cutting-edge predictive health tool to ascertain your predisposition towards certain foods; that can have a positive or negative impact, depending from person to person.
Also, it is advised to have frequent preventive health check-ups to keep an eye on overall health, especially your cholesterol levels.