Five Super Foods for Lower Cholesterol
Cholesterol, a type of fat in the blood produced naturally by the body. It is also found in some foods like eggs, offal (such as kidney and liver portions of meat), and shellfish. For your body to work properly, it needs some cholesterol, but only the good cholesterols.
High cholesterol levels in the blood, also known as hyperlipidemia, speeds up the process of atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries. This plaque build-up in the artery walls, make them narrow which in turn makes it difficult for the blood to flow through the artery walls, and over time this may lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Eating certain types of foods can help improve cholesterol levels in the body and maintain overall heart health. Eating a wide variety of plant foods like vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, nuts, lentils, seeds and more are one of the best ways to keep the heart-healthy. Consuming a sufficient amount of plant foods helps get an abundance of nutrients, heart-healthy fats, and fiber into the body which further help promote optimal heart health.
Let’s know more about the kinds of cholesterol and ways to keep it under control.
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Types of Cholesterol
Cholesterol levels in an individual can be found via a blood test, as there aren’t any symptoms of high cholesterol levels. Through the blood test, one can determine the levels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood.
There are various carriers for transporting cholesterol around the body, also known as lipoproteins. The two most common carriers are:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: It is also known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol or the LDL cholesterol as high contents of it in the blood, can get stuck to the walls of your arteries. These clogged arteries starve the tissues of blood and oxygen which can result in tissue damage or tissue death. This in turn may lead to heart attack and stroke.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: It is also known as the ‘good’ cholesterol or HDL cholesterol as it gets rid of the ‘bad’ cholesterol from the blood vessels.
The energy from food that is not needed by the body is turned into triglycerides, the most common form of fat in the body. They store and transport fat in the blood. Total blood cholesterol which is high is a measure of all the cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and is a risk factor that may lead to heart diseases.
Foods that can help lower LDL levels
There are some foods that can help lower cholesterol levels. It is wise to include these foods in your meals or diets whenever possible.
Legumes and Beans
Legumes like chickpeas and lentils are a great source of soluble fiber and plant-based protein. Consumption of lentils and beans instead of meat protein may help lower the LDL levels in the blood. Choose canned legumes or 100% natural packed lentils for better results. Use them in salads, sauces, casseroles, or simply prepare lentil soup or dips like hummus.
Foods with Healthy Fats
Eating foods consisting of heart-healthy mono and poly-unsaturated fats helps increase the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, and such contain heart-healthy fats. Consuming these foods instead of foods that contain high saturated fats like butter, cream, meat, and fats, helps improve good cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart diseases as well.
Barley, oatmeal, and brown rice have a lot of soluble fiber, which helps lower LDL levels in the blood. This is done by reducing the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Try switching your regular pasta with whole-grain pasta, or use brown rice instead of white rice, or top oatmeal with high-fiber fruits like bananas to reduce cholesterol in the body.
There is a high amount of flavonoids and antioxidants in dark chocolate that helps lower LDL levels. But do make sure to eat in moderate amounts, as chocolate is also high in saturated fat and sugar. Dark, unsweetened cocoa powder can also be used in cooking to get similar heart-healthy effects.
Natural chemicals called sterols are found in plant foods which help the body absorb less cholesterol. Several foods starting from granola bars and yogurt to orange juice are fortified with plant sterols, which may help reduce cholesterol levels by 6% to 15%. Helpful Tip – do check the number of calories on the label before purchasing it.
There is no one single food item that can help lower bad cholesterol levels but a combination of superfoods, plant-based foods, and other nutritious ingredients can help manage cholesterol levels and further reduce the risk of heart diseases.