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Cholesterol at normal levels is an essential substance for the body. But excess cholesterol in your body gets deposited on the inner walls of blood vessels, reducing and restricting the blood flow and increasing the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular conditions.
There are two cholesterol types, namely, LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins, bad cholesterol) and HDL (high-density lipoproteins, good cholesterol). A high level of LDL cholesterol is medically known as hypercholesterolemia. This type of cholesterol increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack and heart disease.
An unhealthy lifestyle of eating out too often, not exercising, consuming an excess of fat-rich foods, etc. increases one's risk of having high cholesterol levels . Apart from cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol levels can lead to obesity, paralysis stroke, high blood pressure, etc.
A blood test can determine whether you have high cholesterol, and your doctor may recommend exercise or medication in addition to adopting a healthier diet to improve your overall health.
Read on to know about foods to lower cholesterol.
Diet And Cholesterol: The Direct Relation Between The Food You Eat And Your Cholesterol Levels
The food you eat is directly linked to your cholesterol levels . That is, lowering your cholesterol through your diet is actually pretty straightforward. All you have to do is add more veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish, and whole grains to your diet, helping lower your cholesterol levels and reduce plaque build-up .
While avoiding foods with high cholesterol content may be beneficial for some, the best and most effective way to reduce cholesterol levels is to choose foods that contain unsaturated fats over those containing saturated or trans fats . Make sure to pay attention to the quantities of fat in the diet and which types are entering the body. Your diet has a powerful effect on your cholesterol and other risk factors.
Different foods help in lowering cholesterol levels in various ways. Some deliver soluble fibre that binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and ‘drag' these out of the body before they get into circulation. Some veggies that contain sterols and stanols will help block the body from absorbing cholesterol.
Let's take a look at some of the foods that help lower cholesterol levels.
Almonds are packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and fibre that help increase the good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol. A study found out that daily consumption of almonds will help to reduce the LDL cholesterol levels by 3 to 19 per cent . Almonds are a great snack food, and you can add it in salads and oatmeal.
People who suffer from high cholesterol can add soybean to their diet, as it is rich in plant protein. It contains high levels of polyunsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and fibre that can help lower bad cholesterol. Eating 1 to 2 servings of soybean daily can help protect you from coronary heart disease . Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils are also good for cholesterol.
Flaxseeds contain soluble fibre, lignans, and omega 3 fatty acids. According to a study in Nutrition and Metabolism, flaxseed drink can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol by 12 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively . Several studies show that consuming flaxseed daily can reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.
4. Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek seeds, also known as methi seeds, have medicinal properties and are a good source of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-diabetic properties. The main compound in fenugreek called saponins plays a role in lowering LDL cholesterol . Consume ½ to 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds daily.
5. Coriander seeds
Coriander seeds or dhaniya seeds have been used in Ayurvedic medicine since ancient times . According to studies, coriander seeds can help lower bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels significantly. Boil 2 tablespoons of coriander seeds in a glass of water, strain the decoction after cooling and drink it twice a day.
6. Psyllium husk
Psyllium husk is a rich source of soluble fibre which helps lower LDL cholesterol significantly. According to a study, people with LDL cholesterol concentrations between 3.36 and 4.91 mmol/L were given 5.1 g psyllium husk for 26 weeks. The result showed lower LDL cholesterol concentrations . The amount needed to lower cholesterol is 10 to 20 grams of psyllium husk a day.
Note: Psyllium is generally taken three times a day, just before each meal, either in a capsule or as a powder that you mix with water or juice.
Out of the plethora of health benefits, this spice/herb has, one of the primary health benefits of garlic in lowering cholesterol. Garlic extract can help decrease total cholesterol, and LDL levels and studies have proven that consuming garlic daily for two months will lower cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease risk . Have ½ to 1 garlic clove every day; you can add it to curries, stir-fried veggies or soups.
Note: Garlic and garlic supplements should be avoided before surgery and should not be taken along with blood-thinning medicines.
8. Holy Basil
Holy basil, commonly called tulsi in India, has a myriad of medicinal properties, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-hypercholesterolemia anticarcinogenic, and so on. Study shows that tulsi prevents atherosclerosis in the blood vessels, which is caused due to high cholesterol . Drink tulsi tea daily or chew a few tulsi leaves.
People who suffer from high cholesterol levels can eat grapefruits. They contain soluble fibre and are rich in pectin that is a cholesterol-reducing component. Studies have shown that eating one red grapefruit daily for a month can help lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 20 per cent . Consuming berries and grapes are also a good way to reduce cholesterol levels.
Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats that can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. Avocados are rich in B-complex vitamins, vitamin K, and several minerals. The fruits also contain plant sterols with cholesterol-lowering properties . Add ½ an avocado to salads, toast or eat the fruit as it is.
Spinach contains lutein, a substance which helps to lower cholesterol in the body. This lutein also helps prevent heart attacks by helping the artery walls eliminate the cholesterol invaders that cause clogging . While all vegetables contain cholesterol-lowering fibre, but spinach is a particularly great source. Consume 1 cup of spinach every day.
12. Dark Chocolate
Did you know that eating dark chocolate can help reduce high cholesterol? It can effectively reduce bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol level in the bloodstream. A component called theobromine present in dark chocolate is mainly responsible for its HDL cholesterol-raising effect .
Oatmeal is a popular breakfast food and is advised for people with high cholesterol levels. Having it daily has been shown to lower high cholesterol level. The high soluble fibre content present in oatmeal helps lower bad cholesterol (LDL). The fibre reduces the absorption of bad cholesterol in your bloodstream, thus reducing cardiovascular disease risk . You can also add barley to your diet for cholesterol management.
Salmon has omega-3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA, which provide protection against high cholesterol. Salmon helps to lower triglycerides and boost HDL cholesterol slightly, thus lowering the risk of heart disease. Consume at least 2 servings of salmon every week to help keep your heart healthy. Fatty fish, like mackerel, is also beneficial for cholesterol .
15. Orange Juice
Orange fruit is another superfood that can help lower high cholesterol. Researchers found out that orange juice improves blood lipid profiles in people who have high cholesterol due to the presence of vitamin C, folate and flavonoids in oranges . You can drink a glass of freshly made orange juice while having breakfast.
Note: Store-bought orange juices are not beneficial for lowering cholesterol.
16. Green Tea
Drinking green tea daily will help to reduce bad cholesterol. The healthy beverage has several compounds that prevent cholesterol absorption in the digestive tract and help in its excretion. In addition, green tea has other health benefits too - like preventing plaque build-up in the arteries. Drink 3 to 4 cups of green tea daily .
17. Olive Oil
Olive oil is a healthy oil rich in monounsaturated fat which helps lower the high cholesterol levels . Adding olive oil to your diet will reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Olive oil is also rich in vitamin E that is good for your overall health. Use olive oil while cooking food or use it as a perfect salad dressing too.
18. Virgin Coconut Oil
The biologically active polyphenol components present in the oil are believed to help in reducing the total cholesterol levels, triglycerides, phospholipids and LDL. It is known to have a better effect than normal copra oil . However, always consume in limited quantities.
19. Beetroot + Carrot + Apple + Ginger
Beetroot is one of the superfoods that is loaded with lots of vitamins and nutrients. There are many health benefits of this juicy red vegetable. For example, beetroot detoxes the liver cleanses our body by flushing toxins, improves blood counts and most importantly, prevents the chances of heart strokes .
According to researchers, beetroot juice can protect you from cardiovascular diseases as it lowers the LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in the body. This red juice is also rich in iron, thus building more haemoglobin in the body.
Beetroot juice recipe to lower bad cholesterol:
Serves: 2 Preparation time: 5 minutes
- Beetroot- 1 cut into pieces (unpeeled)
- Carrots- 2-3 cut into pieces (unpeeled)
- Apple- 1 cut into pieces (unpeeled)
- Ginger- ½ inch (peeled)
- Black pepper powder- 1tsp
- Salt- 1 pinch
- Crushed ice- to serve
- Grind beetroot, carrots, ginger and apple together.
- Add little water if required.
- Strain the juice using a strainer.
- Sprinkle black pepper powder and salt. Stir with a spoon.
- Add crushed ice in a glass and then pour the juice.
- Serve it chilled.
20. Orange + Banana + Papaya
Certain fruits can help get control over your high cholesterol levels. For example, orange, banana and papaya are effective in controlling bad cholesterol levels. These fruits are a rich vitamin C source, fibre and iron that improves blood flow and burns cholesterol .
Orange, banana and papaya fruit juice recipe for high cholesterol:
Serves: 2 Preparation time: 5 minutes
- Orange- 2 (separated)
- Papaya- 1 cup (peeled and cut into pieces)
- Bananas- 2 (peeled and cut into pieces)
- Crushed ice- to serve
- Blend orange and papaya.
- Use little water if required.
- Strain with the help of a strainer or a clean muslin cloth.
- Add crushed ice in a glass and then pour the juice.
- Serve immediately.
Apart from the foods mentioned above, these vegetables, fruits, spices and herbs may help reduce cholesterol levels :
- Yarrow extract
- Artichoke leaf extract
- Collard greens
- Shitake mushroom
- Whole grains
On A Final Note...
It is recommended that every individual consume at least 300 grams of vegetables and 100 grams of fruits every day. Changing the foods you eat can help lower your cholesterol and improve the amount of fats in your bloodstream.