There’s no denying that heart disease is the world’s leading cause of death. Unfortunately, having high cholesterol levels (whether good or bad cholesterol) increase the risk of heart disease.
Your daily food intake has a big impact on your cholesterol levels. If you control what you eat, you can decrease your risk of heart disease. We have put together a list of 10 foods that can lower cholesterol.
1. Fatty Fish
Fish like salmon and mackerel are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 increases good HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and lowers inflammation and stroke risks. Studies done on adults who ate non fried (broiled or baked) fish regularly during their lives had lower rates of heart disease and strokes.
It’s important to note that, though fish is very healthy, it is important to cook it the right way, that is either steamed or stewed. If you fry fish, it might actually increase the risk of heart disease.
2. Whole Grains
Whole grains, especially oats and barley are usually linked to foods that lower heart disease risk. Having a daily serving of oats can lower the risk of heart disease and strokes up to 20%. The advantage of eating whole grains is that they keep all their vitamins, minerals and fibres as compared to refined grains.
Though the way in which whole grains protect the heart is not fully understood, the fibre in whole grains may be responsible or the other compounds present in whole grains, such as phytoestrogens and antioxidants.
Nuts are nutrient-dense foods. They are packed with monounsaturated fats and rich in omega-3 fatty acids which help with heart health. Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are rich in L-arginine which is an amino acid that helps the body make nitric oxide which in turn helps with blood pressure regulation.
Another amazing compound present in nuts are phytosterols. These are structurally similar to cholesterol but they help lower cholesterol by blocking its absorption in the intestines. Having a daily serving of nuts helps with both fatal and nonfatal heart disease.
Another nutrient-dense food is avocado. This exceptional fruit is rich in monounsaturated fat and fibre, both help in lowering bad LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) and raise good HDL. Substituting avocados for other fats helps in lowering cholesterol and improve levels of lutein, an antioxidant associated with heart health. Having one avocado daily delivers about half of the heart-disease dietary fibre that the body needs.
5. Fruits and Berries
A daily intake of fruit in your diet is an excellent addition to a heart-healthy diet. Many fruits such as citrus fruits, apples and strawberries are rich in soluble fibre which helps lower cholesterol levels. Apart from reducing cholesterol levels, these fruits help you feel fuller and reduces constipation while also lowering blood sugar levels.
Green tea usually gets a lot of attention for being good for health. But black tea also has similar properties and health effects. The teas harbor plant compounds that improve the heart’s health. Two of the primary beneficial compounds in tea are catechins and quercetin. Catechins help in activating nitric oxide in the body which is important for a healthy blood pressure. It is a type of antioxidant tea that has a cholesterol-lowering effect. Quercetin on the other hand may help in improving blood vessel function.
7. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids that help raising “good” HDL and lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol. Olive oil is naturally free of cholesterol, trans fat, sugar and gluten. It is the kind of good fat that the body needs.
8. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa
This may seem untrue but cocoa, the main ingredient of dark chocolate, can lower bad LDL cholesterol. Amazingly having cocoa drinks daily can also decrease blood pressure. The only unfortunate thing is that chocolate is often high in added sugar which can affect the heart’s health negatively. It’s good to have it daily but try to keep it moderate.
Garlic has been used for ages as a medicine. Studies have shown that garlic lowers blood pressure and also helps in lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol. Garlic contains various powerful plant compounds, the main one being allicin.
Though this one is almost obvious, it is important to mention that vegetables are a vital part of a healthy heart diet. Vegetables are rich in fibre and antioxidants and are low in calories. These properties help maintain a healthy weight and at the same time keeping cholesterol levels low. Some vegetables such as okra, eggplant, carrots and potatoes are rich in pectin, a soluble fibre found in apples and oranges. It is recommended to have a daily intake of vegetables.
Having high cholesterol levels make you at right for heart disease. Fortunately if you eat right, you can keep your cholesterol levels under control. Try to incorporate the foods above in your diet and see the changes over time.