The key component of a diet to lower cholesterol is a plant-rich eating plan. Include plenty of whole fruits and vegetables, unrefined whole grains, and protein mostly from plants. Aim for at least 75% plants and no more than 25% animals. This style of eating is anti-inflammatory as well, and will decrease your risk of chronic disease.
Be adventurous and expand the variety of foods you put in your shopping cart and mouth. It may take some time to get used to new textures and flavors. But it’s a “natural” way to reduce cholesterol, and it avoids the risk of muscle problems and other side effects that affect some people who take statins.
Just as important, fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds are good for your body in ways beyond lowering cholesterol. They are natural anti-inflammatory foods that help keep blood pressure in check, support a healthy weight, and help arteries stay flexible and bones strong. These foods are good for digestion, vision, and mental health as well.
9 FOODS THAT HELP LOWER CHOLESTEROL AND DECREASE INFLAMMATION –
1. Oats. An easy first step to improving your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. This will gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber which has been shown to lower bad LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber attaches to cholesterol-rich bile and blocks it from being absorbed in the intestines. Fiber-rich foods have other heart-health benefits such as reducing blood pressure and decreasing inflammation.
2. Barley and other whole grains. Like oats, barley and other whole grains such as quinoa, rye, brown rice, bulgur (cracked wheat), and millet can help lower the risk of heart disease – mainly via the soluble fiber they contain.
3. Beans. Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take a while for the body to digest, keeping you full for longer after a meal. There are many choices – navy, kidney and butter beans, lentils, garbanzos, and black-eyed peas. Beans are a very versatile food that can be prepared in many ways.
4. Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, kale, okra, and sweet potato. These vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber as well as prebiotics. Prebiotics serve as food for the beneficial bacteria that live in the human gut. When these bacteria ferment the fiber, gas and short-chain fatty acids are produced. These SCFAs have been linked to a reduction in blood cholesterol levels.
5. Nuts and Seeds. Studies show that eating nuts and seeds is good for the heart. They contain omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Eating just 2 ounces (1 ounce = about a handful) of nuts a day can lower LDL by about 5%. Nuts and seeds have additional nutrients that protect the heart such as vitamin E which stops the development of arterial plaques.
6. Vegetable oils. Use monounsaturated olive and canola oil in place of butter, lard, and shortening to help lower bad LDL cholesterol. Limit corn, sunflower, safflower, soy, and cottonseed which are highly refined, used excessively in processed foods, and cause inflammation when consumed in excess.
7. Apples, grapes, citrus fruits, and berries. These fruits are rich in pectin, a water-soluble fiber. Pectin is sticky and lowers bad LDL cholesterol by attaching to cholesterol-rich bile within your intestines and carrying it out before it’s absorbed.
8. Fatty fish. Eating salmon, sardines, trout, and mackerel at least two times a week can lower bad LDL cholesterol by replacing saturated fat in meat and by providing omega-3 fats. Omega-3s increase good HDL cholesterol and reduce triglycerides, inflammation, blood pressure, and the formation of arterial plaques.
9. Avocados. Rich in monounsaturated fat, avocados help to raise levels of good HDL cholesterol while lowering bad LDL cholesterol when consumed in moderation. In addition, avocados are a good source of heart healthy potassium, B- vitamins, and fiber.
FOODS TO LIMIT/AVOID –
Saturated fats. Typical sources of saturated fat include animal products, such as red meat, whole-fat dairy products and also a few vegetable oils such as palm oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter. Saturated fat can increase your levels of bad LDL cholesterol.
Trans-fats. The right amount of trans-fats to consume is zero! Trans-fats are a byproduct of the chemical reaction that turns liquid vegetable oil into solid margarine or shortening and that prevents liquid vegetable oils from turning rancid. These fats have no nutritional value – and we know for certain they are bad for heart health. Trans-fats increase bad LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while reducing levels of HDL cholesterol.
Recently, the FDA banned trans-fats from the U.S. food supply. The phasing-out process will begin in 2018 and is expected to take three years. The encouraging news is that many major food suppliers and restaurants have already substituted healthier fats for trans-fats.
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS –
Salt and sodium: excess sodium consumption can increase blood pressure and cause the body to hold onto fluid. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems. Cut back on salt and limit sodium to no more than 2300 mg per day; and even less if you have pre-hypertension or hypertension.
Weight and exercise: being overweight and not exercising can affect fats circulating in the bloodstream. Excess weight may boost harmful LDL cholesterol, while inactivity depresses protective HDL cholesterol. Losing weight (if needed) and exercising more can reverse these trends.
Do you need help creating a better eating plan so you can get to your personal best weight and optimal health? CALL ME.
I help chronic dieters with busy schedules find simple ways to eat better so they can achieve their personal best weight and maintain it with ease, have more energy and better health, enjoy eating again, and stop dieting once and for all.
PS…HEART-HEALTHY RECIPE: White Bean Kale Salad with Tahini Dressing