Cholesterol is a type of fat in your blood that is produced naturally by your body. Your body needs some cholesterol for it to work properly. When you have high cholesterol levels in the blood, it speeds up the process of atherosclerosis. This makes it hard for blood to flow through them, and over time it can cause a heart attack or stroke. Here are some of the best foods that help lower cholesterol and they all work in different ways.
Best Foods That Help Lower Cholesterol
Nuts are good sources of unsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats, a mix which can help to keep your cholesterol in check. They contain fibre which can help block some cholesterol being absorbed into the bloodstream from the gut. Plus, protein, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, natural plant sterols and other plant nutrients which help keep your body healthy. They’re also filling, so you’re less likely to snack on other things.
2. Oats and barley
Oats and barley are grains which are rich in a type of fibre called beta-glucan – 3g of beta-glucan daily, as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, can help to lower cholesterol.
When you eat beta-glucan, it forms a gel which binds to cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestines. This helps limit the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed from the gut into your blood. Your liver has to take more cholesterol out of your blood to make more bile, which also lowers your blood cholesterol.
3. Vegetables and fruit
Vegetables and fruit are the best foods that help lower cholesterol. Eating a variety of colourful vegetables and fruit every day can help protect you against heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Many vegetables and fruit are high in soluble fibre which helps to reduce the absorption of cholesterol and lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in your blood.
Leave the skins on vegetables like pumpkin, kūmara and carrot to maximise your intake of fibre. Use orange and lemon peel in dressings and sauces.
4. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids
Fatty fish has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce your triglycerides — a type of fat found in the blood — as well as reduce your blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. In people who have already had heart attacks, omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of sudden death.
Omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL cholesterol levels. But because of those acids’ other heart benefits, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week. Baking or grilling the fish avoids adding unhealthy fats.
Foods such as walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil also have small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Tea harbours many plant compounds that improve your heart health. While green tea gets a lot of attention, black tea and white tea have similar properties and health effects.
Two of the primary beneficial compounds in tea are:
- Catechins: Help activate nitric oxide, which is important for healthy blood pressure. They also inhibit cholesterol synthesis and absorption and help prevent blood clots.
- Quercetin: May improve blood vessel function and lower inflammation
6. Olive oil
Try using olive oil in place of other fats in your diet. You can saute vegetables in olive oil, add it to a marinade or mix it with vinegar as a salad dressing. You can also use olive oil as a substitute for butter when basting meat or as a dip for bread.
7. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa
Cocoa is the main ingredient in dark chocolate. It may seem too good to be true, but research verifies the claims that dark chocolate and cocoa can lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.
In one study, healthy adults drank a cocoa beverage twice a day for a month. They experienced a reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol of 0.17 mmol/l (6.5 mg/dl). Their blood pressure also decreased and their “good” HDL cholesterol increased.
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.
Garlic has been used for centuries as an ingredient in cooking and as a medicine. It contains various powerful plant compounds, including allicin, its main active compound.
Studies suggest that garlic lowers blood pressure in people with elevated levels and may help lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol — although the latter effect is less strong