Using food to help reduce cholesterol.
A diagnosis of high cholesterol isn’t something to ignore. The risk of heart attack and stroke is much higher for people with too much bad cholesterol circulating in their blood vessels. While often caused by a variety of factors including genetics, being overweight, certain health conditions (hypothyroidism or diabetes), and a lack of physical activity, cholesterol levels can also fluctuate based on the foods you eat. Too much saturated fat found in packaged foods and foods from animals (eggs, cheese, butter, beef, and pork-think of your favorite breakfast) can contribute to high cholesterol levels.
If food is the primary cause of your high cholesterol, then it makes sense that the foods you eat from here on out can be the primary cause of lowering your cholesterol to a safe and healthy level. Reach your LDL (bad) cholesterol goal faster with these simple dietary changes.
How does fish lower LDL cholesterol? For one, when you eat fish you eat less meat, which is high in saturated fats. Second, many fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids that protect the heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of blood clots.
Fish highest in omega-3s include lake trout, sardines, herring, mackerel, Albacore tuna, halibut, and salmon. Aim to eat at least two servings of fish each week and keep in mind that baking or grilling fish is the healthiest way to prepare it.
Don’t care for fish? Omega-3 can also be taken in fish oil supplement form, but be sure to limit your consumption of meat at the same time you’re taking the supplement.
Foods high in soluble fiber are another weapon against high cholesterol. The soluble fiber acts like a sponge that soaks up extra cholesterol in the digestive system before it enters the blood.
Oatmeal or other oat-based cereals contain two grams of soluble fiber per serving, making them an excellent choice for breakfast. The daily recommended amount of soluble fiber is 5 to 10 grams, so don’t give up after breakfast. Other foods high in soluble fiber include fruits (particularly citrus fruits, apples, strawberries, and grapes), vegetables (especially okra and eggplant), dried beans, and barley.
Can’t seem to get enough fiber? Taking a supplement that contains psyllium is another way to get enough soluble fiber.
Sterols and Stanols
You may not of heard of these plant extracts, but an increasing number of foods are being fortified with sterols and stanols in an effort to help people lower cholesterol levels. Just two grams of these substances each day can lower your LDL cholesterol by around 10 percent. Like soluble fiber, these ingredients help prevent the body from absorbing cholesterol.
Look for foods like margarine, orange juice, yogurt drinks, granola bars, and
chocolate fortified with plant sterols or stanols or try them in supplement form.
Nuts are good for your heart. Period. The polyunsaturated fats found in nuts also protect the health of your blood vessels. Studies show just two ounces or a small handful of nuts a day can reduce your LDL cholesterol by five percent. To keep full until your next meal try a handful of walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, or pistachios.
One last effective dietary change to make in your battle against high cholesterol is switching to olive oil in place of butter, shortening, or lard. Use olive oil to sauté vegetables, combine it with vinegar and spices for a healthier salad dressing, or dip your bread in olive oil rather than slathering on butter. Extra-virgin olive oil is especially high in the antioxidants that work to lower your LDL cholesterol.