Cholesterol is found in every cell of the body in the form of a fat-like, waxy substance. Cholesterol is essential in making hormones, vitamin D, and aiding the digestion process. Although all of this needed cholesterol is produced naturally by the body, specific food sources also provide additional cholesterol to the body.
Cholesterol is broken down into two sub-groups by the way cholesterol is travels through the body. These two sub-groups are LDL cholesterol, often referred to “bad cholesterol” and HDL cholesterol, often referred to “good cholesterol”.
What Are The Effects of High Cholesterol?
Although low levels of HDL cholesterol can lead to some health issues, high levels of cholesterol in the blood is more common, and can lead to more severe health conditions. The most common health concern associated with high cholesterol is an increased risk of heart disease. High levels of cholesterol cause plaque buildup in coronary arteries, which limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This lack of oxygen to the heart can lead to a higher risk of having a heart attack.
What Are The Best Cholesterol Lowering Foods?
Lowering cholesterol levels can be as simple as altering your diet and choosing more cholesterol lowering food options. Cholesterol issues often arise when a diet consists of high levels of saturated fats, which are found in red meat and dairy products, and trans fat, which are found in fried foods and many packaged foods. Replacing these saturated fats and trans fats with healthier fat options such as monounsaturated fats will help in lowering cholesterol. Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet is also linked to having lower cholesterol. Including these 7 foods in your diet can decrease cholesterol and lead increased heart health.
Oatmeal contains soluble fiber which reduces your LDL, “bad”, cholesterol. Soluble fiber does this by reducing the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream.
2. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish such as salmon, halibut and mackerel provide a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which can increase “good” cholesterol and reduce the risk of developing blood clots. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be supplemented through fish oil pills.
Walnuts, almonds, and other tree nuts are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Replacing saturated and trans fat with these healthier fat options can decrease cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Avocados provide beta-sitosterol, which is a plant-based fat that reduces the amount of cholesterol the body absorbs from food.
Spinach contains lutein, a pigment found in dark green leafy vegetables, decreases the risk of heart attack by fighting the plaque buildup in arteries caused by high cholesterol.
Beans provide an abundance of fiber, which decreases the rate at which the body absorbs cholesterol from food. Adding beans to a diet has been shown to decrease total cholesterol by up to 8%.
Dark chocolate and cocoa powder in moderation provide powerful antioxidants that decrease LDL cholesterol while also increasing HDL cholesterol. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder provide more than 3 times the antioxidants than milk chocolate.