Whether we realize it or not, as a result of our modern and fast-paced world, we may not be getting the best nutrition or having enough daily physical activity.
These lifestyle choices can lead to poorer health and sometimes even common afflictions known as having high cholesterol.
In North America, cardiovascular diseases claim more lives every year than cancer. Cholesterol has become the common enemy. But the truth is, we all need some cholesterol to help create new cells and keep us healthy. The problem isn’t cholesterol itself, but how much of it is in the bloodstream.
According to Dr. Khoi Nguyen, Cholesterol is a type of fat or lipid that circulates in your blood. It helps make cell membranes, key hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, and vitamin D and helps in the digestion and absorption of fats from foods.
There are two types of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the so-called good cholesterol.
- LDL carries cholesterol in the blood, delivering it to cells. Too much LDL can lead to the creation of a harmful waxy, fat plaque that grows on the inside walls of arteries. This plaque increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.
- HDL can carry excess cholesterol out of the arteries to the liver to be eliminated from the body.
To lower bad cholesterol in the body, here are 8 heart-healthy foods to help lower bad cholesterol:
In a study from Mexico’s Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, women and men who ate one avocado per day for a week had a reduction in total cholesterol of 17 percent.
The amazing details: While their levels of unhealthy LDL and triglycerides fell, good HDL levels actually rose—thanks, perhaps to the avocado’s high levels of “good” monounsaturated fat.
This fatty fruit is also full of cholesterol-cutting beta-sitosterol. Check out the more impressive health benefits of avocado.
Whether they’re fresh, sun-dried or in sauce, tomatoes are one of the best foods to lower cholesterol. Eating seven or more tomato servings per week cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30 percent in a study of more than 35,000 women conducted by doctors at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The heart-smart factor? It could be the antioxidant lycopene or the tomato’s stellar levels of vitamin C, potassium, and fibre. Cooking tomatoes for 30 minutes or longer raises levels of available lycopene. And 1/4-cup of sun-dried tomatoes has more blood pressure-lowering potassium than a medium banana.
Among omega-3-rich fatty fish, salmon is king: One serving contains about 1.8 grams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), important omega-3s that help cut your risk of deadly out-of-rhythm heartbeats, reduce bad cholesterol, cool inflammation, and may even discourage atherosclerosis and the formation of blood clots.
It turns out good old-fashioned oatmeal is one of the best foods to lower cholesterol. Beta-glucan, the soluble fibre found in oats, acts like a sponge, trapping cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestines and eliminating them.
The result is lower “bad” LDL because there’s less cholesterol to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
A big bowl of oatmeal per day (about 1-1/2 cups) could cut cholesterol an extra 2 to 3 percent, suggests a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Roasted almonds—with the skins—are one of the best foods to lower cholesterol. Just a fistful of almonds packs a whopping 9 grams of monounsaturated fat, helping slash bad cholesterol while boosting the good kind.
Opting for almonds instead of a doughnut, chips, or pretzels for two snacks a day could cut your “bad” cholesterol by nearly 10 percent.
Natural vitamin E in the almond’s “meat” plus flavonoids in this nut’s papery skin also help halt the development of artery-clogging plaque.
Olives and Olive Oil
“Various studies have shown that olive oil or an olive oil-rich diet lowers the levels of total blood cholesterol,” says Amy Riolo, author of The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook.
In a study of people with high cholesterol, blood samples taken just two hours after subjects ate a meal with olive oil showed less potential for harmful clotting compared to subjects who ate a meal cooked with corn oil.
That may explain the low incidence of heart problems in countries where olive oil is the main cooking fat.
No more tears—this culinary staple has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels, and it’s likely due to a flavonoid is known as quercetin, which acts as an antioxidant that helps prevent cholesterol from clogging arteries.
Raw onions may not be quite as effective, though: Some research indicates that onions in cooked dishes had a more profound impact on blood cholesterol.
Onion’s culinary cousins, including garlic and leeks, have a similar effect. “Mediterranean lore is full of tales about leeks, most of which have recently been proved to be true,” says Riolo. They can reduce bad cholesterol, increase good cholesterol, and maintain healthy blood pressure levels.”
The list of foods that lower cholesterol includes a sweet surprise! Dark chocolate has large amounts of flavonoids, which are antioxidant compounds that help fight inflammation and can lower LDL, says Dr. Vojdani.
In one study, participants who consumed both dark chocolate and cocoa daily for four weeks watched their cholesterol drop by roughly four percent.
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