Cholesterol Lowering Foods
Interest in cholesterol lowering foods is usually triggered when a person discovers that his or her body contains excessive amounts of cholesterol. Cholesterol can be lowered naturally with dietary changes; without resorting to medications which have some odd side effects. Cholesterol lowering foods have low amount of trans fats and saturated fats to prevent strokes and heart attacks.
Reducing cholesterol through diet involves learning and eating the kinds of foods that help normalize the cholesterol level, as well as avoidingthose that contain high amounts of cholesterol. Doing so not only spares one from developing coronary and heart diseases but alsoaids in the proper functioning of the body.
What is cholesterol?
The body actually needs cholesterol, a waxy substance produced by the liver which helps in building cell walls, Vitamin D, hormones and bile. For cholesterol to fulfill its function, it must combine with lipoproteins which transport them to their particular destinations. These proteins come in two forms – the HDL or high density lipoproteins and the LDL or low density lipoproteins. High density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol is referred to as the good cholesterol as it transports the cholesterol to its designated location and back to the liver. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol, on the other hand, is also known as the bad cholesterol as it drops the cholesterol in random regions which can cause the arteries to be clogged, therefore, impeding optimal blood flow.
Why must cholesterol be lowered?
The LDL cholesterol must be decreased because too much of it can lead to serious health problems like heart diseases and coronary complications. High amounts of LDL can cause the blockage of arteries which may result to stroke and heart attack. The high LDL cholesterol level restricts optimal flow of blood into different parts of the body, especially to the brain, and increases the possibility of developing blood clots. Inappropriate diet is the primary cause of high cholesterol along with unhealthy and bad lifestyle. On the other hand, cholesterol lowering foods together with regular exercise are the finest way to combat high cholesterol level.
How do cholesterol lowering foods help in maintaining cholesterol at healthy levels?
Cholesterol lowering foods are really helpful in keeping the cholesterol in the body at healthy levelsbecause they contain the following:
- Healthy fats
These fats could either be polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats which are rich in omega 3, 6 and 9 that help in lowering the LDL cholesterol while increasing the HDL cholesterol.
This is commonly referred to as Vitamin B3 which is often found in medicines to lower cholesterol. Niacin can be obtained through diet as well.
- Plant Sterols or plant stanols
These substances resemble animal proteins and the cholesterol produced by the liver. They not only help in lowering cholesterol levels but also prevent cholesterol absorption in the digestive system.
- Fiber-rich foods
These are excellent cholesterol lowering foods because fiber plays a vital role in preventing cholesterol absorption in the intestines by seizing it and getting rid of it from the body. Fiber also aids in eliminating toxins which are stored in fat cells that contribute to elevated cholesterol levels.
Aside from eating cholesterol lowering foods, high-cholesterol foods should,likewise, be minimized or avoided to maintain healthy amounts cholesterol in the body.
What are the different cholesterol lowering foods?
There are various sources of cholesterol lowering foods.
- Healthy fats
The best sources of healthy fats are coconuts, avocados, leafy greens, berries as well as nuts and seeds. Olive oil is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, while nuts and seeds like hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, peanuts and pecans have high contents of polyunsaturated fats. A handful of nuts weighing around 1.5 ounce lower the risk of developing heart diseases.
Niacin can be found in leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, legumes as well as nuts and seeds like pecans, sunflower seeds, flaxseed and peanuts. For instance, flaxseed containsthe polyunsaturated fat called alpha-linolenic acid which lowers the cholesterol level while providing the required soluble fiber.
- Plant Sterols and Plant Stanols
Plant sterols and stanols are widely available in most plant-based foods like apple, broccoli, blueberry, avocado, legumes, tomato as well as nuts and seeds. Canola oil, which is an excellent substitute tothe expensive olive oil, also contains these substances. There are a number of foods which are now fortified with plant sterols and stanols. The recommended daily consumption is 2grams which is equivalent to 16 ounces of plant-fortified orange juice.
- Fiber-rich foods
The best fiber-rich foods are apples, pears, carrots, prunes, celery, peaches, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole brown rice, barley, kidney beans and oatmeal. Fiber-rich foods are best eaten raw to ensure that the nutrients and enzymes are still there to be absorbed by the body.
Cholesterol lowering foods help in reducing the bad cholesterol in the blood and prevent serious health problems like cardiovascular diseases. They are best paired with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle for a healthier mind and body.