Cholesterol is important for the healthy functioning of your body's cells. Yet, excess levels of low density lipoproteins, or bad cholesterol, can lead to cardiovascular diseases. Reduce bad cholesterol by maintaining a healthy diet low in saturated fat while consuming foods that lower cholesterol levels, including high-fibre foods, oily fish, nuts and plant-sterol fortified foods.
Foods that have a high soluble fibre content help reduce the absorption of LDL in the bloodstream. Oatmeal, kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes are some foods that contain high soluble fibre. According to the Mayo Clinic , consuming five to 10 grams or more of soluble fibre daily can decrease your cholesterol. Eating 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal porridge provides you with six grams of fibre. If you add a soluble fibre fruit like a banana or apple to this porridge, the fibre content is increased by four or more grams.
Oily fish is a rich source of omega-3, a polyunsaturated fat that helps lower blood triglyceride levels, regulates the heart rhythm and prevents blood from clotting. Oily and fatty fish like mackerel, sardines, lake trout, herring, albacore tuna, salmon and halibut contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Eat at least two servings of fish a week; bake or grill the fish to avoid adding unhealthy fats to the dish. While you can also substitute the fish with omega-3 or fish oil supplements, you tend to miss out on the various other nutrients like selenium that eating fish offers.
Several studies have demonstrated the powerful cholesterol-lowering effects of nuts, which are high in protein, fibre, healthy monounsaturated fats, minerals and other nutrients. The Food and Drug Administration issued a qualified health claim for almonds, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, some pine nuts and pistachios. However, certain nuts like Brazil, macadamia, cashew and some varieties of pine nuts were excluded from the FDA's qualified health claim list owing to their high fat content. Omega-3 rich walnuts and vitamin E enriched almonds have proven in research studies to reduce LDL levels and reduce the risk of heart diseases. Consume around a handful of healthy nuts, or 42.5 grams daily.
Plant Sterol Fortified Foods
Sterols and stanols are substances that help block the absorption of cholesterol and occur naturally in a variety of plant sources like vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts, grains, seeds and legumes. While a healthy diet provides a modest intake of 160 to 400mg of sterols and stanols a day, research studies show that you should consume around two grams of plant sterols and stanols daily to reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 10 to 15 per cent. In order to meet the two grams per day recommendation, consume foods like yoghurts, margarines, juices, spreads and soft cheeses, which are fortified with plant sterols and stanols.