High cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and diabetes. There are two forms of cholesterol – Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL/bad cholesterol) and High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL/good cholesterol). While LDL is the main cause of increased risk, HDL acts by reducing the level of LDL in the blood.
Including foods that are rich in good cholesterol will lower the bad cholesterol level, protecting you from potent diseases.
13 Cholesterol-lowering Foods To Include In Your Diet
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and fiber, which lower the LDL levels. A study conducted on overweight and obese individuals showed that consumption of one avocado every day, brought down their LDL levels significantly when compared to people who didn’t eat any.1 The LDL-reducing effect is also attributed to the presence of a plant-based compound called beta-sitosterol. This reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food in the body.
2. Whole Grains
As against refined grains which lose their nutritional value considerably during processing, whole grains have all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber intact. This property is beneficial for lowering your cholesterol levels. Barley and oats are two whole grains which have abundant of beta-glucans, the soluble fibers which help reduce LDL. Research indicates that consuming three servings of whole grains, daily, reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 20%.2
Lentils, peas, and beans contain high amounts of proteins, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. They are healthier compared to any animal-based protein like meat and poultry and are easier to digest. Including half a cup of beans in your diet, every day, reduces LDL levels by up to 80%. This is due to the presence of fibers which slow the amount and rate of absorption of cholesterol in certain foods.
[Read More: Lower Your Cholesterol Levels Naturally]
From lowering bad cholesterol to regulating blood pressure levels, nuts like walnuts and almonds are packed with nutrients. Walnuts contain omega-3, a polyunsaturated fatty acid that boosts cardiovascular health. Nuts also have polysterols which block the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. L-arginine, an amino acid present in most of the nuts plays a role in maintaining normal blood pressure. Eating one serving of nuts every day lowers the risk of any type of cardiovascular disorder.
5. Cocoa And Dark Chocolate
Cocoa is the primary ingredient of dark chocolate. Unlike milk chocolates which are high in sugar, dark chocolate doesn’t have high sugar content and has more than 70% cocoa. Both cocoa and dark chocolate lower LDL levels due to the presence of flavonoids. Studies show that the levels reduced by 6.5 mg/dl, when an individual consumed cocoa beverage daily, twice a day, for a month. It also reduces the blood pressure.3
6. Fatty Fishes
Fishes containing high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by enhancing the HDL levels. They subside inflammation, preventing one from a stroke. Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and tuna are some of the examples. Studies show that the peptides in these fishes could also be one of the reasons why they are healthy for heart.
It is important to know that fried fish can enhance the risk of heart diseases. All other forms like baked, broiled, or grilled promote health benefits.
7. Berries And Fruits
Owing to the presence of soluble fiber called pectin, fruits and berries promote a healthy heart. Pectin prevents the liver from producing cholesterol and gets rid of the existing buildup. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties prevent inflammation and fight the free radicals, thereby lowering the risk. Eating fruits like grapes, apple, pear, and citrus fruits; berries like strawberries, blueberries, and cranberries increase HDL and decrease LDL levels.
Soy products have been gaining a lot of importance in today’s time due to their high-protein and low-fat content. They act by scavenging LDL out of the body and increasing HDL levels. Especially in people with high cholesterol, soy can act as an effective alternative to dairy.
Due to the presence of a natural compound called allicin, garlic has been used since ages to treat heart ailments. It is the most effective when raw and has the capacity to lower your blood pressure and reduce LDL levels. Garlic supplements are a go-to option if you find the flavor of garlic too strong. Check with your physician about the dosage of these supplements before you consider taking them.
While most of us know the cancer-fighting properties of tea, not many know that it also fights LDL. A study conducted showed a drastic reduction in LDL by 10% in 3 weeks, when the subjects consumed black tea. Green tea also had similar positive effects. This is due to the presence of quercetin and catechins which improve the functioning of blood vessels, reduce inflammation, and obstruct the production of cholesterol. The antioxidant properties further protect the heart tissues from oxidative damage.
Veggies do more than just providing us with the necessary minerals and vitamins. The high fiber content avoids cholesterol formation and helps maintain a healthy weight. Carrots, okra, potatoes, and eggplants are the must-include veggies in your everyday diet.
Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale have an abundance of carotenoids and lutein. They fight free radicals and speed up the process of cholesterol excretion by binding to the bile acids.
12. Red Wine
What better than knowing that a glass of red wine does more than just relaxing you? A study showed that people with high cholesterol levels, after consuming a glass of wine every day, showed 12% reduction in their LDL levels. Yet again, antioxidants play a role here.
13. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Being rich in MUFA and polyphenols, extra virgin olive oil reduces inflammation, LDL levels and increases HDL levels. Replacing other vegetable oils with olive oil is the best bet. Be it salad dressings, roasting vegetables, or marinating chicken or fish, olive oil adds flavor and health in equal proportions.
What you eat can make a huge difference in how you fight diseases or keep them at bay. Including these foods in your diet is the first step.
|↑1||Wang, Li, Peter L. Bordi, Jennifer A. Fleming, Alison M. Hill, and Penny M. Kris‐Etherton. “Effect of a moderate fat diet with and without avocados on lipoprotein particle number, size and subclasses in overweight and obese adults: a randomized, controlled trial.” Journal of the American Heart Association 4, no. 1 (2015): e001355.|
|↑2||Aune, Dagfinn, NaNa Keum, Edward Giovannucci, Lars T. Fadnes, Paolo Boffetta, Darren C. Greenwood, Serena Tonstad, Lars J. Vatten, Elio Riboli, and Teresa Norat. “Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies.” bmj 353 (2016): i2716.|
|↑3||Tokede, O. A., J. M. Gaziano, and L. Djoussé. “Effects of cocoa products/dark chocolate on serum lipids: a meta-analysis.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 65, no. 8 (2011): 879-886.|