Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your blood. The body needs some cholesterol, but too much can be a problem. High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. If you have other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure or diabetes, this risk increases even further.
- LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and make them less flexible.
- HDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries.
Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine both showed that lower LDL levels contributed to preventing death, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular-related problems in people with heart disease. In both studies, mega-doses of statins (medications) were used to bring LDL levels way down. But in both studies, mega-doses also caused problems such as muscle pain, memory loss, and elevated liver enzymes. The patients on the high doses stopped taking their medications at twice the rate of patients on regular doses.
So what are some ways other than, or in addition to, medication to help keep your LDL under control?
8 TIPS FOR LOWERING YOUR CHOLESTEROL
Eating a healthy diet is a main way to help lower your cholesterol. It is simple – eat less fat and more fiber. There are many good foods that can be a part of this healthy diet.
- Reduce fat and cholesterol
Avoid foods with a lot of saturated fat including butter, fatty flesh like red meat, full-fat and low-fat dairy products, palm oil, and coconut oil. If you see partially hydrogenated fat in the Ingredient List of a food label, that food has trans fats. Reduce intake of dietary cholesterol such as egg yolks, organ meats, and shellfish.
Limit your intake of meat, poultry, and fish to no more than 3.5 to 4 ounces per day. Red meats are the least desirable choice because they not only tend to have the highest proportion of saturated fats, they are also higher in heme iron, which likely raises the risk of type 2 diabetes and colo-rectal cancer.
However, omega-3 fatty acid is good. This is found in cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, halibut, trout, herring, and sardines.
- Eat more plant-based protein
Common legumes include lentils, peas, and beans, such as pinto beans, red beans, white beans, and soybeans. They’re full of nutritional riches and are a very healthy, protein-packed alternative to meat. Legumes help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin levels, and may even lower cancer risk.
Nuts and seeds have been proven to modestly lower LDL cholesterol levels. To avoid blood-pressure-raising salt, choose raw or dry-roasted, unsalted varieties. To avoid gaining weight, don’t eat more than 1 ounce daily since nuts and seeds are dense with calories (averaging about 175 calories per ounce).
- Eat more fiber
Foods naturally rich in soluble fiber have proven particularly good at lowering cholesterol. Excellent sources include oats, oat bran, barley, peas, yams, sweet potatoes and other potatoes, as well as beans and peas. Vegetables rich in soluble fiber include carrots, Brussels sprouts, beets, okra, and eggplant. Good fruit sources are berries, passion fruit, oranges, pears, apricots, nectarines, and apples.
Drink to Your Health
- Red wine
It turns out that high-fiber Tempranillo red grapes, used to make red wine like Rioja, may actually have a significant effect on lowering cholesterol levels. So go ahead and drink a glass for that lowering cholesterol benefit.
While tea has become well known for its cancer-fighting antioxidants, it is also a great defense against LDL cholesterol levels. According to research conducted with the USDA, black tea has been shown to reduce LDL by up to 10% in only 3 weeks.
Losing excess weight is beneficial for all sorts of reasons, from improving your cholesterol profile to preventing diseases, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, gout, and many types of cancer.
Sterols are naturally occurring substances found in plants. A daily intake of 1 to 2 grams of plant sterols has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Look for supplements that do not have the calories, sugar, trans fats, and/or salt of many foods enriched with plant sterols.
Yes! Chocolate is one of the foods that lowers cholesterol. This powerful antioxidant helps build the good HDL cholesterol levels. Remember to choose the dark or bittersweet kind. Compared to milk chocolate, it has more than 3 times as many antioxidants, which prevent blood platelets from sticking together and may even keep arteries unclogged.
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