The human body contains biochemicals necessary for its metabolism. Many of them come from the degradation of foods from the diet, but there are 3 “basic nutrients” called carbohydrates (sugars), proteins and fats. Within the latter, there are different types that perform specific functions as a source of energy needed for metabolism. One of them is cholesterol responsible for hormone production, vitamin D production and other fundamental functions. So, the body needs cholesterol. But when your cholesterol levels are far beyond the normal ranges, it accumulates in the arteries and can cause heart problems among other conditions because the blood circulation is slower.
The most common cause for which a person has high cholesterol is poor diet, and other factors such as lack of exercise, obesity, alcohol, smoking… In short, some bad habits and a sedentary lifestyle are the main causes of hypercholesterolemia. To reduce cholesterol or prevent it to rise above normal levels, you must change your lifestyle and adopt new habits that will lead you to a better and more pleasant life.
Changing eating habits
To start lowering your cholesterol, you have to change eating habits. You can start by cooking grilled, roasted, baked or grilled instead of fried. Your diet must be based on natural, healthy and nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains (oats, rice, pasta, bread, etc.), white and blue fish, white meat with little fat, nuts and extra-virgin olive oil. All these foods will provide quality nutrients such as soluble fiber and omega-3 that help lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL).
As you need to include all those foods in your diet, you also need to remove from your diet certain foods that are totally detrimental to your health and especially for your cholesterol levels. These foods are hydrogenated vegetable oil, fried foods, pastries and industrial confectionery, industrial sauces, fast food, pre-cooked and ready meals, sweet and savory snacks, sugary drinks, high fat meats. These foods provide trans fats, which are hydrogenated fats made from hydrogenated oils, and this increases the bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good cholesterol (HDL).
Let’s see now a list of foods that will help lower the LDL levels
- Extra-virgin olive oil: this is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. The best way to consume it is raw, to accompany your meals and dressing salads.
- Fruits and vegetables: they provide large amounts of fiber which slows the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine.
- Nuts: they provide omega-3 fatty acids and phytosterols, both help lower cholesterol. Especially walnuts, try eating a handful of nuts a day (four or five units). You can eat them alone or add them to your main dishes.
- Whole grains: these foods are rich in fiber slows the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine, like fruits and vegetables. Especially oats, you can eat at breakfast with fruit, yogurt or milk for example.
- Legumes: besides being rich in fiber and isoflavones, legumes provide several substances as sterols and stanols that contribute to blocking cholesterol absorption in the intestine.
- Oily fish: rich in omega-3, which contributes to lower LDL and triglycerides. Salmon or tuna are the most appropriate.
The best way to maintain normal levels of cholesterol or lowering them if it is necessary, is to keep a healthy lifestyle basing your diet on healthy products rich in quality nutrients, get some exercise daily, avoid obesity, not smoking or abusing alcohol. In short, adopt all healthy habits that will lead you to enjoy a better quality of life. Although obviously if your cholesterol level is very high, you should talk to your doctor because it may also have a genetic cause and in that case you probably need medical treatment with drugs that help you lower levels to a more stable point.