Foods to Lower Cholesterol
Get ready to learn all that’s worth knowing about foods to lower cholesterol! Cholesterol is one of the main causes of heart problems in people around the world, and many people are dismayed when they hear the words “You have high cholesterol” coming from the mouths of their doctors.
And yet, what is cholesterol? What produces it, and how can one avoid consuming high cholesterol foods?Are there foods to lower your cholesterol levels?How does cholesterol harm the human body, and what can be done to avoid it? The subject of cholesterol is a complex one, and there is a lot that you need to know about it.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance similar to fat, and it is produced in certain cells in the body as well as the liver. It is also found in food, particularly animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy. Cholesterol is needed by the body to function, but the amount needed by the body is minimal compared to the amount of cholesterol consumed by the average person who is not careful of what he or she eats.
Cholesterol is needed by the body to produce certain hormones, create Vitamin D, and the fat-digesting bile acid. It is utilized by the cell membranes of the body, and low levels of cholesterol in the body are beneficial to the overall function. However, heart problems result from high levels of cholesterol, which is why it is so essential for every person around the world to be wary of their cholesterol levels when eating.
The foods that are consumed should not be the foods high in cholesterol, but the low cholesterol foods will be the best choice for those who are trying to stay healthy. There are also foods that will lower the cholesterol levels, and these foods help to control the levels of cholesterol in the body in order to keep them normal.
Types of Cholesterol
Before you can understand the different types of cholesterol, you need to understand how they affect your body. The cholesterol is carried through the blood stream by attaching itself to a protein. This package containing protein and cholesterol is called a lipoprotein. There are a number of different types of lipoproteins, and these different types of lipoproteins are the different type of cholesterol that will damage your body if you don’t eat the right foods to lower cholesterol.
- Low density lipoproteins, or LDL, are the main form of “harmful” cholesterol, and this type is responsible for plaque buildups on the walls of your arteries. The higher the levels of LDL, the higher the chance that you will have heart problems.
- High density lipoproteins, or HDL, are the form that is considered “good”, due to the fact that it gets rid of the LDL floating through the body. The more HDL cholesterol you have in your body, the lower your risk of heart disease as a result of harmful cholesterol.
- Very low density lipoproteins, or VLDL, are another harmful form of cholesterol that contains very little protein and a lot of fat.
- Triglycerides are also a form of fat that is carried by VLDL. Any excess sugar, calories, and alcohol remaining in the body are converted to triglycerides and stored in the body in the cells of the fat deposits.
The various types of cholesterol are important to understand, and you should know that your doctor will usually be speaking of the LDL or VLDL when he says gravely, “You need to watch your levels of cholesterol.”
What Factors Affect Cholesterol?
There are a number of factors that can affect your high cholesterol, and understanding these various factors can help you in your efforts to exercise, watch your diet, and eat the right foods:
Diet – Diet is one of the main factors in the levels of harmful cholesterol in your body, and the foods high in cholesterol will be the main cause of elevated levels of the LDL and VLDL. The saturated fats that are consumed cause the levels of cholesterol to rise, and thus should be reduced in your diet for lowering cholesterol.
Weight – Those who are overweight will usually have higher levels of cholesterol in their body, as being overweight usually indicates that you are eating foods high in cholesterol.
Exercise – Those who have a sedentary lifestyle will usually have high levels of LDL and low levels of HDL.
Gender and Age – As we age, the levels of cholesterol in our body naturally rises. Prior to menopause , women have the lower levels of LDL in their body than men, but once they have passed through menopause they have higher LDL levels.
Diabetes – Diabetes, if not controlled properly, causes an increase in the levels of LDL in the body. The more controlled the diabetes is, the lower the levels of cholesterol will fall.
Heredity – If your parents had problems with high cholesterol, it is likely that you will have problems with it too as it can be passed down from parent to child.
Medication – There are a number of drugs that can cause the levels of cholesterol in the body to become elevated or even out of control.
Ethnicity – Those fromIndia,Sri Lanka,Bangladesh, andPakistanhave a higher susceptibility to having elevated levels of cholesterol compared to other races.
All of these factors will be directly related to the level of cholesterol in your body. As mentioned above, diet is the main factor in your your attempt to lower your levels of cholesterol, and it is essential to find which are the best foods for that.
Where Does Cholesterol Come From?
Saturated fat is directly responsible for high cholesterol, and trans fats also play a large role in elevating the levels of cholesterol in your body.
The best foods to lower cholesterol are those that are high in unsaturated fats and fiber, and it is essential to eat as much of these foods as possible to keep cholesterol levels normal.
There are a number of other causes of high cholesterol:
- Smoking is one of the main contributors to high cholesterol levels, as smoking causes damage to your arterial walls. This damage increases the likelihood that they will accumulate deposits of fat. Smoking also lowers your HDL levels.
- High blood pressure is another cause of high cholesterol levels, as the pressure placed on the walls of your arteries by the hypertension will damage them in the same way that smoking will.
- Lack of exercise contributes to elevating the levels of LDL in your body, while simultaneously lowering the HDL levels that could help to combat the harmful cholesterol.
What Are Normal Cholesterol Levels?
There is a specific test that can be taken to determine what the level of cholesterol in the body is, and this test is called the lipoprotein profile. The test determines if you have low, normal, or high levels of the four lipoproteins in your body, and this test is the best way to find out if your cholesterol is normal or dangerously high.
Total cholesterol level:
- The most desirable number is lower than 200
- Between 200 and 239, the cholesterol is considered borderline high
- If the number is higher than 240, you have high cholesterol
- The optimal number is lower than 100
- Between 100 and 129, the cholesterol level is considered near optimal
- Between 130 and 159, the cholesterol level is considered borderline high
- Between 160 and 189, the cholesterol level is considered high
- If the number is higher than 190, you have very high cholesterol
- The most desirable number is higher than 60, as that will help to reduce the risk of your having heart disease.
- If the number is lower than 60, you are a major risk factor and you will have a much higher chance of developing heart disorders.
- The most desirable number is lower than 150, as it indicates that you are at a low risk of heart disease
- Between 150 and 199, the cholesterol level is considered borderline high
- If the number is higher than 200, you have high levels of cholesterol and may even require treatment
Understanding the numbers from your lipoprotein profile can help you to realize whether or not you are at a serious risk, and can help you to understand the deathly pallor on your doctor’s face when he tells you your cholesterol levels are 250 (LDL), 20 (HDL), and 300 (triglycerides).
The National Health Service states that any reading of cholesterol that is higher than 6 mmol per liter of blood is too high, and most people tend to have between 3 and 7 mmol per blood. The NHS states that the optimum levels of cholesterol are usually below 5 mmol per liter, though the majority of the adults in the US and UK have levels higher than that.
Is there Good and Bad Cholesterol?
LDL is the bad cholesterol that should be avoided at all costs, as it increases the risk of arterial disease when the levels get too high.
The average person has a blood LDL content of roughly 70%, though that number will be different according to the person in question.
LDL is responsible for carrying the cholesterol to the cells from the liver, but too much LDL will cause a buildup of the cholesterol that can cause blockages in the arteries.
Most of the foods to lower cholesterol have plenty of HDL, and the foods low in cholesterol will usually have high levels of HDL.
HDL takes the cholesterol away from the cells to the liver, and thus ensures that they are eliminated from the body in your urine and excrement once it has been broken down by the liver.
High Cholesterol Symptoms
There are no high cholesterol symptoms per se, as the cholesterol itself doesn’t harm your body due. However, when there is too much cholesterol in the body, it will collect in the arteries and other blood vessels. This buildup of cholesterol forms plaque, a brittle, hard substance that is responsible for causing the blood vessels to narrow. When the blood vessels narrow, the blood flow through your body is reduced, and thus vital organs like your brain and heart are not able to receive sufficient amounts of blood.
When the blood vessels are blocked, the result is that the blood is unable to pump through the vessels. The heart has to work overtime to pump the blood, and there is a high risk of a heart attack when the vessels near the heart are blocked. If the blood vessel that is blocked is located near your brain, then there will be insufficient blood flow to your brain. This will usually result in a stroke, which can be fatal.
While there are no “symptoms” of cholesterol, the results should be taken seriously and efforts should be made to lower cholesterol symptoms and return the body to healthy cholesterol levels. By eating the best foods, doing exercise, and having a more active lifestyle, you can restore good cholesterol levels in your body.
Recent studies have indicated that the reduction of cholesterol can result in a 2% reduction of the number and risk of heart attacks if the cholesterol level can even be lowered by 1%. Lowering the cholesterol levels doubles the reduction of risk of your having a heart attack, meaning that you can reduce your risk of heart attack by 50% just by lowering your cholesterol levels 25%.
Dangers of High Cholesterol
As mentioned above, stroke and heart attack are the two main dangers of high cholesterol. However, those are not the only dangers of high cholesterol, and reading some of the risks below may just have you running to the kitchen to find the best low cholesterol foods in your pantry:
- Atherosclerosis is the medical name given to the narrowing of the arteries that is the result of high cholesterol, and this narrowing of the arteries is responsible for the impeded blood flow that can cause the stroke or heart attack.
- Coronary disease is the result of an abnormal blood flow to the heart, as the heart is unable to receive sufficient oxygen that is carried by the blood. When cholesterol blocks the arteries and impedes the flow of oxygen-rich blood, the risk of coronary disease increases.
- Heart attacks are usually caused by blockages or clots in the coronary artery specifically, and these blockages can actually result in the death of your heart muscles.
- Angina is a discomfort in the chest that is felt when the muscles in the heart are unable to receive sufficient flow of blood.
- A number of cardiovascular conditions are the result of blood vessels blocked by cholesterol, and these diseases of the blood vessels and heart can range from mildly serious to fatal.
- Strokes occur when the cholesterol forms a blood clot near the brain, and the flow of blood is prevented from reaching the brain or an area in the brain. This also happens when one of the blood vessels burst, but basically the brain cells start to die as a result of not being able to get enough oxygen and blood.
- When the muscles in the leg are blocked by clots of blood, you may feel pain in your legs as you do exercise.
- Ruptured vessels are the result of blood clots, as the blood pushes against the clot until it stretches the blood vessel and finally ruptures it.
- Ruptured plaques can often result in coronary thrombosis, which is a blood clot in the arteries feeding blood to your heart. This causes serious damage to your heart muscles, and can lead to total heart failure.
- Xanthomas are yellow patches on your skin, usually present around your eyes. These patches are basically cholesterol deposits, and are usually found on people who inherited the susceptibility to high cholesterol.
These dangers of high cholesterol are no joke, and, while there may be no physical symptoms that you can recognize, it is essential to find the best ways to lower cholesterol to ensure that none of these dangers actually come to pass.
Foods High in Cholesterol
There are a number of specific foods that are high in cholesterol, foods that should be avoided at all costs . The foods that are best to be avoided are usually high in saturated and trans fats, and you should eliminate them and follow a lower cholesterol diet in order to know how to lower cholesterol naturally. Some of the worst foods to eat when you have high cholesterol include:
- Fatty meat
- Hard cheese
- Processed and red meats
- Coconut Oil
- Palm Oil
All of these foods are high in both trans fats and unsaturated fats, and thus should be avoided to ensure that you can lower your cholesterol naturally.
Foods to Lower Cholesterol
If you want to know how to lower cholesterol, you will find that these foods will be the best solution for you. A good low cholesterol diet plan will contain most of the following foods due to their ability to lower cholesterol:
- Oats are high on every the list, thanks to the simple fact that they are rich in fiber. The soluble fiber contained in oatmeal will reduce the LDL levels in your body, and even 5 or10 gramsof this fiber will be instrumental in helping lower your cholesterol. You can make your bowl of oats tastier and more effective by adding a banana to it, which contains additional fiber that will help lower your cholesterol even more. Oats also contain beta-glucol, which helps to absorb the LDL, process it, and expel it from the body in your excrement.
- Red wine has been found to help reduce the levels of LDL in the body. A study in Spain showed that the levels of LDL decreased by 9% in those who consumed a supplement found in red wine.
- Fish is one of the best to lower cholesterol, as it contains Omega-3 fatty acids that will be instrumental in improving your overall heart health. Eating fish that contain Omega-3 fatty acids helps to lower your blood pressure and prevents clots from forming. Those who have already suffered heart attacks from high cholesterol will find that the Omega-3 fatty acids prevent sudden death from heart problems. Omega-3 fatty acids also increase the levels of HDL in the body, thus helping to combat the LDL more effectively. The best fish to eat include mackerel, salmon, albacore tuna, halibut, sardines, herring and lake trout.
- Nuts are some of the best cholesterol lowering foods, as they are rich in polyunsaturated fats. Walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, and peanuts are some of the nuts that are top foods, so long as they aren’t salted. It is important to only eat a small amount of nuts every day, and you should eat no more than a handful or a shot glassful of nuts. You can use the nuts as a replacement for foods that contain high amounts of saturated fats, such as for cheese and meat.
- Beans are excellent for your heart, though all legumes will help lower your high cholesterol. Beans are high in fiber, and they contain a lot of protein that is low in fat. Studies have shown that beans can help to lower cholesterol by as much as 8% with only half a cup of beans eaten regularly. Beans help to slow the body’s absorption of cholesterol, and black beans and kidney beans are two of the foods near the top of this list.
- Tea is rich in antioxidants that help to fight cancer, but these antioxidants also prevent LDL levels from getting too high. Black tea can reduce LDL in the body by as much as 10% in roughly 21 days in a study conducted by the USDA.
- Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats that fight high LDL cholesterol levels, and they even help you to lose weight. You will find that using olive oil to dress your salads, marinate your meats, and cook vegetables will help you to lower your levels of cholesterol, all without altering your HDL levels. Extra virgin olive oil will have the most benefits, but virgin olive oil will be nearly as good and not as costly.
- Garlic helps to prevent blood clots, lower cholesterol, and stop anyone from getting too close to you. Despite the powerful smell of the garlic, it will also help to lower your blood pressure, and will fight infections in your body. Garlic also fights the plaque that would clog your arteries by preventing the cholesterol particles from clinging to the arterial walls. No more than four cloves is necessary, though two per day is the minimum amount to experience the amazing benefits of the garlic.
- Avocadoes are rich in monounsaturated fats that help to elevate HDL levels in your body while lowering LDL levels. Beta-sitosterol is also contained in avocadoes, and this fat helps to reduce the amount of cholesterol that your body absorbs from the food you eat. Avocadoes should be eaten in moderation, as they are fairly high in fat.
- Spinach is one of the top foods to lower cholesterol, as it contains lutein. Lutein is regarded as one of the best nutrients to protect the walls of your arteries against the cholesterol that would cling to them and form blockages.
- Margarine that is infused with plant sterols help to lower the levels of LDL cholesterol in your body, as the sterols reduce the amount of cholesterol that your body absorbs from your food. A study indicated that women who consumed more plant sterols were able to reduce cholesterol levels in their body by as much as 3.5%.
- Chocolate, still one of the most popular foods for any dieter or health food expert, is excellent at helping to lower cholesterol. The darker the chocolate, the more beneficial it will be in helping to prevent the platelets in your blood from clumping together and forming clots. Cocoa powder can help to elevate HDL cholesterol levels by as much as 24% in just over 3 months.
These are the best foods to lower your cholesterol levels naturally.
Other Ways to Lower Cholesterol
Do Exercise – Having an active lifestyle is one of the best ways to lower cholesterol levels in your body, and you will find that doing even 2 ½ hours of moderate exercise per week will help to raise HDL levels and lower LDL levels. Moderate exercise means breaking a sweat and elevating your heart rate, and doing any number of physical exercise programs will be a good way to lower your cholesterol.
Eat Right – Aside from all of the foods that are listed above you will find that nearly all natural foods will be beneficial in helping you reduce your levels of cholesterol. All raw vegetables and fruits contain fiber, and fiber is one of the main nutrients you need to reduce LDL. Whole grains are also rich in fiber and minerals that help to lower LDL levels and elevate HDL levels, and eating healthy natural fats that are unsaturated and polyunsaturated will help you control your cholesterol.
Sleep Well – Sleep is believed to be related to lowered levels of HDL and elevated levels of LDL, but there is no clear link that has been proven conclusively that lack of sleep causes high cholesterol. Still, it can’t hurt to use your high cholesterol as an excuse to get an hour or two of extra sleep.
Lose Weight – Losing weight is one of the best ways to lower your high cholesterol levels naturally. Seeing as losing weight involves eating a balanced diet and doing exercise, you will find that shedding unwanted pounds will be a good way to help you lower your cholesterol levels.
Reduce Drinking – Alcohol, particularly red wine, can be beneficial for your body, but in incredibly small quantities. Drinking less than5 ounces of wine per day can help your body function better and actually improve your heart health. Drinking more than that amount of alcohol per day will cause problems and elevate your cholesterol by increasing the levels of triglycerides in the body. Cut back to improve your health.
Quit Smoking – Smoking is one of the primary causes of high blood pressure that damages the walls of the arteries, thus making it easier for the cholesterol to cling to the arterial walls. If you want to lower your LDL levels, stop smoking completely.
Take Supplements –There are a number of supplements that you can take to improve your overall health, and supplements that contain soluble fiber will help you lose weight, strengthen your heart, and lower high cholesterol. Try to find supplements that contain garlic, calcium, lecithin, and Vitamins B and C.
Drugs for Cholesterol
Aside from diet, there are medical options for reducing LDL levels. For those who are suffering from high cholesterol, there are a number of medications that you can take to help lower levels of LDL and elevate HDL levels in your body. There are a number of side effects to the various medications, but you will find that these drugs may be an option to help you lower LDL levels that are dangerously high:
- Statins are designed to impede the production of the LDL cholesterol, and it does so directly in the source of the cholesterol: the liver. Zocor, Pravachol, and Lipitor are all examples of statins, all of which prevent the enzymes in your liver from producing cholesterol. These statins are a treatment for those who have high cholesterol.
- Niacin is a medication that contains high doses of the B-complex vitamin, and it elevates HDL levels while lowering LDL levels. There are a number of types of Niacin medications that come in many forms, and you should consult your doctor to determine which will be the best for you.
- Bile acid sequestrants work in the intestines to bind the bile that is composed mainly of cholesterol and prevent the body from absorbing it. These drugs work to reduce LDL levels, but the side effects of these can be irritating.
- Fibrates help to lower levels of triglycerides, elevate HDL levels, and reduce LDL levels. The fibrates help the body to break down the particles that are rich in triglycerides, thus reducing the body’s secretion of certain types of fats.
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors prevent the intestines from absorbing the LDL.
These are only a few of the drugs you can take to help lower your high cholesterol, but you may find that these drugs will not be as effective as eating the right cholesterol lowering foods. These drugs are mainly used when the levels of LDL is dangerously high, as they can help to lower cholesterol very quickly to prevent serious heart problems.
Tips for Cooking Cholesterol Free Foods:
Preparing healthy foods is not the only way to reduce the levels of cholesterol in your body, but you will find that preparing all of your food to be as cholesterol free as possible is essential. By taking the time to prepare your food with as little cholesterol as possible, you can do your part to help lower the levels of LDL in your body. While it may not be as tasty to set down that Big Mac or Papa John’s pizza in exchange for a nice bowl of uncooked oats or bland millet, you will find that it will be the best way to help you lower your cholesterol. Here are some great tips to help you as you strive to prepare cholesterol free foods:
- Make sure to fill your pantry with the best low cholesterol foods, preferably foods like beans, fresh produce, and whole grains. That way, when it comes time to cook, you will only have those foods to use.
- Find products that are made for those with high cholesterol, such as foods that are fortified with plant stanols and sterols.
- Buy meats that are lean or ground rather than prime steaks that are marbled with plenty of fat.
- Try eating the low fat poultry like chicken and turkey, and eat as much fish as you can.
- Use alternatives to meat for your dishes, such as bean casseroles or salads instead of meats and cheeses.
- Use olive oil to cook your foods, and avoid butter at all costs.
- Replace white rice with brown rice, white bread with whole bread, and white flour for whole wheat flour. Serve millet, quinoa, and other whole grains with your meals rather than white rice or bread.
- Use natural sweeteners like apples and bananas when making cakes, and use whole wheat flour for the cake rather than white flour.
- Always start your day with a solid bowl of oatmeal. Try making the oatmeal into muesli, raw oats, granola, or oatmeal to ensure that you don’t get sick of the oats. Adding fruits like bananas and strawberries will increase the fiber you get.
- Rather than using the whole egg, try eating egg white omelets, egg white sandwiches, and boiled egg whites.
- Cut down your sodium consumption as much as possible by eliminating canned soups, sauces, packaged meals, TV dinners, and artificial flavorings.
- Rather than making cream sauces for your pasta, why not try making Oriental style stir fried noodle dishes that contain far less saturated fats?
- White wine vinegar is an excellent alternative to butter when trying to keep your pan moist as you cook. It won’t add flavor to your food, but will be a great low fat alternative to butter.
- Try cooking vegetable together with spices rather than sauces. Spices are low in sodium and sugar free, and you may find that the unique flavors added to your food will actually be much more enjoyable than the sauces.
There are only a few ways to cook foods to avoid high cholesterol levels, but all of the tips given here will help you prepare foods that will benefit your body as much as possible by keeping LDL levels down. Taking care of your body is important, and preventing high cholesterol will ensure that you live a long and happy life.
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