Cholesterol is a tricky thing because we often don’t know what causes high cholesterol levels and what we can do to lower it. It’s not like calories and weight, where you know if you eat more calories than you need, you put on the pounds. What we do know is that high cholesterol is bad for you.
It increases your risk for heart disease and stroke and is responsible for fatty deposits that can form clots in your arteries.
Basically, we really really want to do everything we can to avoid cholesterol.
Fear not, here we have 11 foods that if introduced into your diet will help you reduce your cholesterol once and for all.
1. Oats and barley
A bowl of oatmeal or oat-based cereal gives you 1-2 grams of soluble fiber to improve your cholesterol. Toss in a banana or some strawberries to get even more added benefits and taste oat bran. Besides oats, other whole grains like barley, and oat bran also contains healthy soluble fiber.
2. Legumes like beans
Beans are not only full of soluble fiber, they also make you feel full longer as they take some time to digest. Three bean salads or adding then to soups is a great way to introduce them into your diet. minestrone is a personal favorite.
Studies show that eating nuts like walnuts and almonds are good for the heart. They are a good source of monounsaturated fats and eating 1 ounce a day for a month can lower your LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by 8 to 20%.
Also a great source of energy to keep you alert and awake during the day. Eat them whole or chopped with salads, yogurt or pasta.
4. Vegetable oils
Instead of lard, butter or shortening, use liquid vegetable oils like sunflower or safflower while cooking as its unsaturated fats lower cholesterol levels. As oil is still high in fat and calories, eat moderately, about a teaspoon for each meal.
5. Stanol fortified foods
Stanols from plants improve the body’s absorption of cholesterol from food and is added in foods like granola bars and chocolates.
A quick list of foods that contain plan sterols are: wheat germ, vegetable oils, almonds, brussels sprouts. It also comes in supplement form.
Soy is the only complete plant-based protein high in fiber and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. This means by eating soybeans and its food derivatives like tofu every day can reduces cholesterol levels by 8 to 10%.
Add tofu to smoothies and salads, drink soy milk or use as a meat replacement in salads and stir-fries.
7. Fatty fish
Eating fish twice or three times a day reduces LDL by replacing meat and its LDL-boosting saturated fats, and by providing the body with LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. This reduces the blood’s triglycerides and prevents abnormal heart rhythms.
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8. Fiber supplements
Fiber supplements like psyllium provide the most efficient, concentrated means of fiber.
Two teaspoons of psyllium provide 4gms of soluble fiber which reduces LDL cholesterol by 5 to 10%. Just mix with water and drink.
9. Fruits and vegetables
Fruits like apples, grapes, citrus fruits and strawberries are rich in pectin, a soluble fiber which lowers LDL and cholesterol levels. Vegetables like brussel sprouts and baked potato with skin also reduce cholesterol.
Find some products you like and try to include 3-5 vegetable servings and 2-4 fruit servings in your diet every day.
10. Red wine and grape juice
One 5-oz glass of wine for women and two for men a day helps raise the levels of good HDL cholesterol by 5 to 15%. Red wine is better as its polyphenol antioxidants reduce LDL levels.
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If you don’t drink wine, grape juice also helpful. However look for 100% fruit juice and not the sugar-added types. Purple or red grapes also contain similar antioxidants with the added benefit of fiber.
Chocoholics will be happy to know that cocoa helps lower LDL cholesterol by more than 5 mg/dL in people with heart disease risks. However, as chocolate products also contain lots of sugar and saturated fat; they are not ‘health’ foods.
Instead, nibble on one or two pieces of dark chocolate containing 60% cocoa or mix 2 tablespoons of natural cocoa powder to milk.
There you go!
These foods promote healthy eating, and in addition to lowered levels of cholesterol, you might notice you’ll be feeling a couple of pounds lighter as well. Say goodbye to expensive medication and opt for some tasty fruits, nuts, fish, and others on the list of goodies above.
Photo by: Börkur Sigurbjörnsson, CC