We all know high cholesterol levels are bad for us – and that there are certain foods we should avoid if we want to lower levels of this waxy substance, which can clog arteries and cause heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses. But what about foods that can fight high cholesterol? The good news is there are some foods that help to decrease the build-up of unhealthy LDL cholesterol in our blood. Here are five foods to include in your diet:
These are a great source of soluble fibre, which binds itself to bad LDL cholesterol in the blood and stops it from being deposited in arteries. Eating a bowl of porridge made with around 1½ cups of oats will give you about 6g of soluble fibre and if you have that every morning your LDL cholesterol should drop. Add a banana or strawberries for even more fibre. If you can’t face oats, other foods high in soluble fibre include kidney beans, apples, pears and prunes. Sprinkling oat bran on cereal can also help.
Studies show that people who have diets high in omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in oily fish, have higher levels of good HDL cholesterol. It’s thought that omega 3 may be able to lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart attacks. The best sources of omega 3 are salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring.
Walnuts and other nuts, such as almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, pinenuts, pistachios and peanuts, can also reduce high LDL cholesterol thanks to the polyunsaturated fatty acids they contain. One handful a day can help keep cholesterol under control, but they are high in calories, so don’t overindulge. Avoid salted and sugary nuts.
This oil is rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that can lower LDL cholesterol without diminishing levels of good HDL cholesterol. It can be used for cooking or mixed with lemon juice for a dressing. Olive oil is high in calories, so don’t overdo it. Two tablespoons per day is recommended.
FOODS WITH ADDED PLANT STEROLS OR STANOLS
Sterols or stanols (also called phytosterols) are substances found in plants that help block the absorption of cholesterol by the body. Some foods have been fortified with these substances, including margarines and orange juices. It’s thought consuming 2-3g of phytosterols a day may help to reduce LDL cholesterol by more than 10%.
FOODS TO AVOID
To steer clear of high LDL cholesterol, cut down on:
Saturated fats like those found in red meat, full-fat dairy products and some oils.
Trans fat. These chemically-altered fats are found in some margarines and processed products such as biscuits, pastries, cakes and some fast foods. Read the labels to check levels.