Cholesterol is produced by the liver and is also obtained by eating animal products. When you eat more foods that are high in cholesterol, your liver produces less cholesterol. This means that dietary cholesterol does not have much of an effect on total cholesterol levels unless it is eaten in large amounts. Eating foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, and sugar can raise cholesterol levels. Remember that there are different types of cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol and LDL cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol may be beneficial for our health, but having high LDL cholesterol may increase the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Fortunately, making small changes in your diet can help control your cholesterol levels. Follow these tips to help lower, or maintain, LDL cholesterol levels and help lower the risk of heart disease. These tips are beneficial even if you are on cholesterol lowering medication.
Eat foods high in fiber. Soluble fiber can absorb cholesterol in the digestive tract and remove it from the body. It is recommended that we eat at least 5-10 grams of soluble fiber every day for the best cholesterol-lowering effects. Soluble fiber can be found in beans, legumes, whole grains, oatmeal, flax seed, apples, and citrus fruits. Having a bowl of oatmeal with apple slices for breakfast is a simple way to add more soluble fiber into your diet.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of antioxidants and fiber which both help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Eating at least four servings of fruits and vegetables every day can help lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Use more herbs and spices when cooking. Herbs and spices are packed full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Even though herbs and spices are not eaten in large quantities, they still contribute to the total amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants eaten in a day. Dried and fresh herbs and spices are both beneficial to heart health. Herbs with the highest amount of antioxidants include oregano, sage, mint, thyme, clove, allspice, cinnamon, dill, and cilantro.
Eat more unsaturated fat. Replacing most of the saturated fats with unsaturated fats in your diet can reduce LDL cholesterol in a matter of weeks. This can be done by cooking with oil instead of butter or snacking on nuts or nut butters instead of cheese. Saturated fats are found in animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs. Unsaturated fats are found in plant products such as avocados, olives, fatty fish, nuts, and oils.
Stay away from trans fats. Trans fats are fats that are manufactured and added to processed foods on the shelf and at restaurants. Trans fat can be identified by the words “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients list. Naturally occurring trans fats can be found in very small amounts in meat and dairy products. Eating trans fat is linked with high LDL cholesterol levels and low HDL cholesterol levels. Trans fats have recently been banned in restaurants and processed foods, making them easier to limit.
Drink green tea. Drinking green tea every day can lower LDL cholesterol levels. Green tea is rich in antioxidants which may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Drinking a cup of green tea with breakfast or with a mid-morning snack is a simple way to add more antioxidants to your diet. Green tea is caffeinated so be careful not to drink it too late in the day so that it will not affect your sleep.
Making small diet changes, such as eating more fiber or cooking with more herbs and spices, can help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Avoiding foods that can increase LDL cholesterol levels, such as trans fat and added sugars, helps to keep LDL and HDL cholesterol levels within a healthy range. At the end of the day, making small changes in your diet each day can significantly improve your cholesterol levels.