When it comes to managing heart health, serious lifestyle changes are often necessary. Incorporating more exercise is a great start, but diet tends to play a larger role, especially in regards to managing cholesterol and blood pressure. That means that you have to give up certain “bad” foods, some of which include pizza, burgers, bacon, fries, and sweets. In fact, a 2021 study reported that people who ate those foods regularly had a higher risk of heart disease.
What Is Cholesterol?
Found in your blood and cells, cholesterol is a waxy substance. Although the liver produces most of the cholesterol in the body, it also comes from the foods you eat. The body needs cholesterol for optimal organ function and to make hormones, digestive fluids, and vitamin D. There is low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is the unhealthy type of cholesterol that builds up in the arteries and forms plaque. And then there is high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is healthy cholesterol that transports excess cholesterol out of the arteries to the liver, where it removes it from the body. Having high cholesterol increases your risk of serious health conditions, as LDL can damage your arteries.
It’s not easy to just give up certain foods, especially if you don’t have replacements to take their place. There are smarter food choices that can satisfy certain cravings without elevating cholesterol levels. Continue reading to learn about simple food swaps that can help you manage or lower cholesterol levels.
Add Nuts To Salads, Not Croutons
The more carbohydrates you eat, especially simple carbs, the more you increase the risk of high LDL cholesterol levels. That means that you should ditch the croutons on your salad and replace them with heart-healthy nuts. According to a 2020 review of studies, regular consumption of tree nuts helped lower blood cholesterol levels. The results were consistent when the amount, type, and duration of nut consumption varied. Nuts boost HDL production and lower LDL levels due to their polyunsaturated fats.
Ditch The Store Bought Dressings
On the subject of salads, ditch your store bought salad dressings and start making your own with healthier ingredients. More often than not, they are high in saturated fats and sodium, both of which contribute to higher LDL cholesterol levels. Drenching your salads in these types of dressings is like smoking cigarettes while jogging. The health benefits of the salad ingredients lose to the bottled dressings. Instead, whip up a quick dressing using fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and spices. Click here to get more familiar with the different types of salads and dressings you can make.
Oats Instead Of Breakfast Cereal
Fiber is an essential part of the diet, and many people fail to consume the recommended daily amount. Soluble fiber, in particular, dissolves in the gut to form a thick paste that binds to cholesterol, preventing absorption. According to research, eating three grams of oat beta-glucan per day may reduce LDL cholesterol by 5-10% over one month. Ditch your sugary, processed breakfast cereal and start enjoying old-fashioned oats with grade A maple syrup and raisins.
Roast Potatoes, Don’t Fry Them
If you want to help lower cholesterol, do your best to avoid French fries, especially frozen packaged varieties. Don’t order fries when you go out because they are doused in unhealthy oils. It’s better to roast potatoes or sweet potatoes and season them with sea salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Both regular potatoes and sweet potatoes are nutritionally dense, offering potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. As long as you aren’t deep frying them, then you can reap their health benefits.
While you don’t literally have to go to a river or the ocean and catch your own fish, it’s better to enjoy fish over red meat. Swapping fish for red meat may contribute to lower LDL levels, as most fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce the risk of heart disease. Now, don’t just choose any fish at random, as some are not healthy. Swai fish, for example, is known to be quite harmful to your health. Do your best to avoid farmed fish and opt for wild caught varieties, including salmon, cod, tuna, mahi mahi, trout, and mackerel.