High cholesterol is a common condition that can affect anyone. People with unmanaged cholesterol levels have an increased risk of heart disease, which is the number one killer of American adults. Lowering cholesterol levels has become an obsession for people with high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Fortunately, there are foods that can help you lower those numbers.
It’s important to understand that not all cholesterol is bad for you. Too much LDL cholesterol, mentioned in the previous paragraph, is dangerous to your cardiovascular health. The higher your LDL levels are, the more at-risk you are for developing heart disease. HDL (high-density lipoprotein), on the other hand, is beneficial cholesterol that transports cholesterol from other areas of the body to the liver, where it gets filtered and removed from the body.
What Happens If Blood Cholesterol Is Too High?
Too much cholesterol in the blood leads to accumulation in the arterial walls. An unhealthy diet and lack of exercise causes plaque to form over time. Hardened plaque begins to harden the arteries, which can cause atherosclerosis. Finally, the limited blood flow through the arteries can lead to insufficient oxygen transportation to the heart. This is something you want to avoid at all costs, and you can if you eat the foods in this article.
Flaxseeds are fiber superstars, but they are beneficial to include in your cholesterol-lowering diet. According to several studies, consuming a quarter-cup of flaxseeds per day helps to reduce LDL levels in young adults by 8%. Studies on people with high cholesterol revealed a 14% LDL reduction after consuming 38 grams of flaxseeds per day. You can incorporate flaxseeds into baked goods, hot cereals, granola, or energy balls.
The monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados are extremely beneficial for the heart. While trans fats and saturated fats from fried, fast, or processed foods raise LDL levels, the monounsaturated fatty acids actually help lower LDL levels. Avocados also work to promote beneficial HDL levels. Because they are rich in potassium, avocados are excellent for people with high blood pressure. Make sure you put avocados in salads or eat guacamole with fresh cut vegetables. Eating guacamole with corn chips fried in high fat oils negatively impacts your health, though.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Just like avocados, extra virgin olive oil contains beneficial monounsaturated fats. Studies have shown that a diet high in these fats helps to dramatically reduce LDL cholesterol. A diet high in saturated fats, on the other hand, typically leads to high LDL levels. Diets that focus on olive oil and other foods rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can experience an 18% reduction in LDL levels.
The beauty of rolled oats or steel cut oats is that they contain a lot of soluble fiber, which works to reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the bloodstream. If you consume five to ten grams of soluble fiber each day, you can naturally decrease LDL cholesterol. One serving of oats in the morning offers three or four grams of soluble fiber. Add berries, bananas, mango, or papaya to your oatmeal for more fiber!
Dark Leafy Greens
You can never go wrong with adding more leafy green vegetables to your diet. Rich in beneficial antioxidants, dark leafy greens work to prevent oxidative stress that can cause arteries to harden. Scientists explain that leafy greens bind to bile acids, forcing the body to excrete more LDL cholesterol. Great leafy greens to consume include spinach, arugula, kale, collards, chard, and beet greens.
In general, nuts contain beneficial monounsaturated fats. Nuts also contain phytosterols, which are compounds that have a similar structure to cholesterol. What this means is that the phytosterols can block cholesterol absorption in the intestines, helping to lower LDL levels. Many studies found that two to three servings of nuts per day can reduce LDL levels by about 10.2 milligrams per day.
In addition to adding these foods to your diet, try to eliminate saturated fats from your diet. Foods that contain lots of saturated fats include meat, butter, cheese, processed foods, and full-fat dairy products. You can easily lower your LDL levels by 8-10% if you limit your consumption of saturated fats to less than 7% of your daily caloric intake.