There are two kinds of cholesterol – good and bad. LDL is the bad cholesterol, while HDL is the good cholesterol. What we eat can directly affect our cholesterol levels, which is why it is so important to avoid foods that are high in cholesterol. There are foods that help reduce cholesterol, so they should be consumed regularly in decent quantities. Two strategies can be followed to reduce cholesterol levels:
- Adding food that lower LDL or low-density lipoproteins
- Cutting back on foods that boost LDL levels
Reducing bad foods
- Harmful LDL is found in saturated fats and trans fats.
- Saturated fats are found in animal products like red meat, eggs, whole-fat dairy products and some vegetable oils like coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter. Saturated fat can increase the LDL cholesterol levels.
- Trans fats should be completely avoided as the body does not need them at all. A lot of food containing trans fats have been banned in the country.
- Trans fats are a byproduct of the chemical reaction that converts liquid vegetable oil into solid margarine or shortening. This helps prevent liquid vegetable oils from turning rancid and getting spoilt. These fats have no nutritional value and have been scientifically proven to be bad for heart health. They increase LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They are so bad for the health that they even reduce the good HDL cholesterol.
- Weight and exercise also affect the number of fats circulating in the bloodstream. A sedentary lifestyle reduces HDL and extra weight increases LDL levels.
How to reduce cholesterol with foods
Soluble fiber is delivered by certain foods that bind cholesterol in the digestive system along with other precursors. This fiber pushes the cholesterol out of the system before it gets into the circulatory system. Others may contain plant sterols and stanols that block the body from absorbing cholesterol. Here are some foods that help to reduce cholesterol.
- Vegetable oils
Vegetable oils like sunflower oil, canola oil, safflower oil and olive oil instead of using lard, butter shortening for cooking purposes also is known to help lower LDL levels.
- Eggplant and okra
Okra and eggplant are two low-calorie vegetables that are good sources of soluble fiber.
2 ounces of nuts every day is a good measure to reap multiple benefits. Multiple studies have shown time and again that eating a handful of nuts like walnuts, almonds, peanuts and others is a good practice for the health of the heart.
For people trying to lose weight, this makes beans a good food ingredient. Beans come in a variety of shapes and sizes and boast of different nutrients – lentils, kidney beans, navy beans, black-eyed peas, and garbanzos can be prepared in different ways to make for versatile eating options. Beans are rich in soluble fiber and since they take some time for the body to digest, consuming them makes a person feel full for longer after eating a meal.
The current day nutrition guidelines recommend the intake of 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, out of which at least 5 to 10 grams comes from soluble fiber. Oats provide 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber and adding a banana or a handful of strawberries can make up for another half-gram. A bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal for breakfast is a good first step towards improving ones cholesterol levels.
Apples, citrus fruits, grapes, strawberries etc are rich in pectin. Pectin is a type of soluble fiber that helps to reduce cholesterol.
- Barley and other whole grains
Similar to oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains also help lower the risk of heart disease through the soluble fiber they deliver.
- Fortified foods
About 10% decrease in LDL has been observed upon consuming 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols in a day. Stanols and sterols that are extracted from gum of plants increase the ability of the body to absorb cholesterol from food. Soya beans and soya based foods like soy milk and tofu has shown to reduce LDL levels by 5% to 6% when consumed at a rate of 25 grams of soy protein per day. These are now being added to a whole range of foods like orange juice, margarine, granola bars and chocolates, and are also available as supplements.
- Fatty fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream, apart from protecting the heart from irregular arrhythmia. Fatty fish can also help to reduce cholesterol since consuming those means reducing the intake of meat which has LDL-boosting saturated fats, and also by delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats.
- Fiber supplements
Fiber supplements are perhaps the least favourite method of getting soluble fiber and two teaspoons a day of psyllium is found in Metamucil and other bulk-forming laxatives, provides about 4 grams of soluble fiber.
If you are wondering how to reduce cholesterol, add these foods to your diet.