You might be eating plenty of the following foods that naturally lower cholesterol already, so keep up the good work. However, if your idea of eating well is to choose the ‘light’ tub of chocolate ice cream instead of the full fat variety, you might want to add these to your diet.
If you have high cholesterol, the simple solution could be changing what you have for breakfast. It’s said that two servings of oats in the morning can lower your ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) by 5.3 per cent over six weeks. The key is in the beta-glucan — the substance in the oats that absorbs LDL — which is then excreted by your body.
Salmon and fatty fish
When it comes to the natural health wonders of the world that are proven to ward off heart disease, dementia and other diseases, omega-3 fats is a big one. By replacing saturated fats with omega-3s such as those found in salmon, sardines and herring you can improve your cholesterol by up to 4 per cent according to research published in 2009.
Read more: There’s a secret to reducing your risk of a fatal heart attack
In addition to fatty fish, nuts are also a good source of omega-3s and if you’re looking for a quality snack that can lower your cholesterol you should direct your attention to almonds, cashews, walnuts and brazil nuts. Here’s the trick though, while nuts are great for your cholesterol, they are also high in calories and this mightn’t be too good for your waistline if you don’t practise portion control. You shouldn’t be having any more than 42.5g of nuts (about the equivalent of a shot glass full) in a day.
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Olive oil is one of the most common cooking ingredients and can have a great benefit to your health. It’s full of the heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids that lower LDL cholesterol. As a bonus, olive oil also trims your belly fat. You can use it to make salad dressings, marinate chicken and fish, and even roast vegetables.
Read more: How my husband’s heart attack changed both our lives
Good news for the chocaholics among you! Chocolate is a powerful antioxidant that helps build your ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) levels. While this might be the case, the news is not the green light you can have chocolate for every meal. Dark chocolate has much better results on your cholesterol than standard milk chocolate because it has more than three times the antioxidants that prevent blood platelets from sticking together.
Remember those healthy monounsaturated fats? Avocados are a great source and might help raise your HDL cholesterol while lowering your LDL. Here’s a fun fact, avocados are actually fruits, and more than any other fruit they have cholesterol-smashing beta-sitoserol, which is a beneficial plant-based fat that reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food. A bit like nuts, avos are high in calories (roughly 300 calories and 30g fat per avocado) so you should use them in moderation.
Read more: How to stop your avocados from going brown
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Using a margarine with plant sterols, like Pro-Activ or Benecol, could help lower your cholesterol. According to the Heart Foundation Australia the plant sterols are a naturally occurring part of all plants, especially in vegetable oils, and in small amounts of nuts, legumes, grains cereals and leaves. It’s said they can reduce blood cholesterol levels by around 10 per cent. In Australia, 51 per cent of adults have high blood cholesterol and it is recommended that to lower your cholesterol you need to consume 2g to 3g of plant sterols from plant sterol enriched foods, such as margarine spreads.
“Beans, beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat the more you…” Researchers at Arizona State University Polytechnic found that adding 1/2 cup of beans to your soup you lower your total cholesterol, including LDL, by up to 8 per cent. It’s that they are full of fibre that makes beans such a heart-healthy food. Not sure where to start? Try black, kidney or pinto beans because each has about one-third of your daily fibre needs.
Okay, not technically a food, but black tea has been shown to reduce blood lipids by up to 10 per cent in only three weeks. This information comes from a study out of the United States that concluded tea is not only good for its cancer-fighting antioxidants but can also help reduce your risk of coronary heart disease.
Spinach has become a popular food because it contains lots of lutein (the sunshine-yellow pigment found in dark green leafy vegetables and egg yolks). It has a solid reputation for protecting you against age-related macular degeneration and research now suggests that a 1/2 cup of lutein rich foods also guard against heart attack because it helps your artery walls defend against the cholesterol invaders looking to clog the system.
More good news! Scientist are giving you another reason to toast to good health, with wines like Temperanillo and Rioja found to significantly reduce cholesterol levels. This research was conducted in Spain and found that when you consumed the same grape supplement found in red wine your LDL level decreased by around 9 per cent. Those participating in the study with a high cholesterol reading had a 12 per cent drop in LDL.
Have you had your cholesterol checked lately? How many of these foods are included in your diet?