Cholesterol is a substance that helps the body build healthy cells but can be dangerous at high levels. While the liver produces enough cholesterol for the body every day, most people add even more to the body by eating foods that contain the substance, like dairy products, eggs and meats.
Once cholesterol is created or digested, it combines with proteins that help transport it to different body parts. Cholesterol and proteins can combine to form high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or low-density lipoproteins (LDL). These two types of lipoproteins have very different effects on health. LDL cholesterol is more likely than HDL cholesterol to clog blood vessels and lead to stroke or heart attack. HDL cholesterol is actually good for the body because it removes harmful cholesterol from the bloodstream and takes it back to the liver, where it is processed for elimination.
High LDL cholesterol levels are cause for concern. High levels of this type of cholesterol form plaque deposits on the body’s arterial walls. Eventually, the build up of plaque narrows and hardens the arteries, reducing blood flow. When this occurs in the coronary arteries, an individual is at greater risk for having a heart attack. The condition can also affect the brain’s blood vessels and increase the risk of having a stroke. Plaque build-up can additionally affect the blood’s ability to reach other organs like the intestines and kidneys.
Although it may not seem like much, an increase of just 100 additional milligrams of cholesterol each day can lead to dangerous levels of LDL cholesterol. All foods that come from animals contain cholesterol. For instance, one serving of braised beef contains over 50 milligrams of cholesterol; one serving of liver contains 325 milligrams of cholesterol; one large egg contains approximately 185 milligrams of cholesterol, and one-half of a roasted chicken breast contains 75 milligrams of cholesterol.
The good news is that there are also foods that can lower the level of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Studies suggest that following a healthy diet that consists of cholesterol-lowering foods can reduce LDL cholesterol by 13 percent. Many study participants saw significant results by making only small changes in their diets. If you have high cholesterol, adding the following foods to your diet can help lower levels of LDL, the harmful type of cholesterol that can cause heart disease and other problems.
You can start your day by lowering cholesterol through eating a bowl of oatmeal or oat-based cereal. Oats are a great source of soluble fiber, a nutrient that removes cholesterol from the body before it enters the bloodstream. Try topping your oatmeal with strawberry or banana slices for even more cholesterol-lowering fiber.
Beans are another good source of soluble fiber. They can also help you lose weight because digesting them takes longer than other foods. This means that you will feel fuller for longer after eating a meal that contains beans. Try adding black-eyed peas, lentils, garbanzo beans or kidney beans to a salad or soup.
Eating peanuts, walnuts, almonds and other nuts can also lower your cholesterol. Eating just two ounces every day can lower LDL by five percent. Grab a handful of nuts instead of potato chips for a delicious and nutritious snack.
Although soybeans and soy products do no lower cholesterol as much as was once believed, they do lower LDL by about five to six percent when consumed regularly. If tofu is too exotic for your taste, try adding one cup of soy milk to your cereal each morning.
Consuming fatty fish two to three times a week can lower LDL cholesterol by replacing meat and by giving the body a good dose of omega-3 fats. These fats combat cholesterol and contribute to a healthy cardiovascular system. Instead of dining on beef or chicken, try substituting the meat for mackerel, halibut, salmon, herring, albacore tuna or sardines.
According to the medical journal Diabetes Care, consuming just half a teaspoon of cinnamon each day can reduce both blood sugar levels and levels of LDL cholesterol. Adding this small amount of the spice to your morning oatmeal can also reduce the level of triglycerides in the blood stream, leading to better heart health.
Eating an apple a day may not keep the doctor away entirely, but it can lower levels of LDL cholesterol. The soluble fiber found in apples can draw cholesterol out of the bloodstream. These fruits make a delicious topping for oatmeal or can be enjoyed on their own as a sweet and crunchy snack.
Brown rice is packed with fiber, B vitamins, magnesium and oil that can lower cholesterol. Try substituting brown rice for white and topping it with beans for a double dose of cholesterol-lowering power.
While the American Dietetic Association stops short of calling this foods ‘magic,’ the association does admit they are pretty close to it. The foods have also been endorsed as cholesterol-lowering by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Making simple changes to your diet by consuming these foods can have a significant impact on your cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of developing heart disease and keep you healthier. As an added plus, dining on fatty fish, oatmeal, apples and nuts is far more delicious than taking a cholesterol medication with a glass of water.
- 11 Foods that Lower Cholesterol. Harvard Medical Center
- Cholesterol-Lowering Foods Reduce LDL Levels More than Low-Fat Foods. ABC News
- Cholesterol: Top 5 Foods to Lower Your Numbers. The Mayo Clinic
- Top 10 Cholesterol Lowering Foods. BlissTree
- What is Cholesterol? TeensHealth