Most people keep in mind that there are two types, which we commonly know as “good” (HDL) and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. Cholesterol is a type of fat – specifically lipoproteins: a combination of lipids and proteins – essential for the functioning of the body, for the manufacture of hormones and cell membranes.
The cholesterol is a substance found in the body, and it uses as regulating functions such as the formation of bile acids or some types of hormones. Although it is necessary, if its presence in the blood is above the levels considered normal, it produces hypercholesterolemia, a risk factor for certain heart diseases.
Experts point out that this disease can be avoided if you lead a healthy lifestyle, which includes sports, and a balanced diet, such as the Mediterranean diet. One of the first indications that usually give when a patient has high cholesterol is to change the diet. The most effective foods to reduce blood cholesterol levels are those that have a high amount of soluble fiber and peptein because they bind to cholesterol in the intestine favoring its elimination through feces.
Foods must be rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, since these lower cholesterol levels, they must have stanols and sterols, which are plant compounds that prevent the absorption of cholesterol at the intestine level. Finally, they must contain anthocyanins that favor a lower production of cholesterol in the body.
1) Whole grains
Whole grains also help regulate cholesterol. Caja mentions that there are several research papers in which the consumption of whole grains has been related to the reduction of cholesterol levels. And what cereal is better to take? The expert recommends oatmeal since it is the most effective and after consuming it six weeks, lowers LDL cholesterol.
The incorporation in the diet of about 70-100 grams of oatmeal every day, for example, at breakfast, provides 63 percent of the recommended daily dose of fiber, which very significantly favors the reduction of cholesterol levels. Also, other whole grains must be incorporated into the diet, such as whole-wheat bread, pasta or rice
It is exciting those plant foods with a high percentage of fat can regulate the cholesterol profile as well as nuts. Among nuts such as nuts, almonds, pistachios, or Brazil nut highlights macadamia nut.
Nuts contain not only heart-healthy fatty acids but also minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and proteins”, in addition to a lot of fiber, even essential in cholesterol reduction.
On the one hand, this tasty dried fruit reduces LDL levels by 4 percent, while increasing HDL cholesterol by 7 percent after four weeks of taking it in the diet. Daily consumption of a handful (about 40 grams) of roasted nuts without salt is recommended.
Avocado contains a series of fatty acids that improve our body lipids. Nine clinical studies have observed that including avocado in the diet, especially in those who have hypercholesterolemia, favors the decrease in total cholesterol levels between 9 and 45 percent, as well as LDL cholesterol.
Although the reason is not very clear, it is known that they have a high fiber content, which decreases their absorption. Since Avocado is very rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, they reduce LDL levels. On the other hand, avocado is the fruit that has more stanols and sterols, which favors a lower intestinal absorption of cholesterol. Eating half an avocado and half a day during the main meal can be a handy tool if you want to lower cholesterol.
Legumes are very rich in fiber, which favors a decrease in the absorption of LDL cholesterol. In addition to reducing LDL, lentils increase HDL, which is very beneficial for heart health.
Other legumes, such as peas, are used to lower total cholesterol levels by 5 percent, and LDL levels by 8. However, soybeans are the legumes that most reduce cholesterol levels. Its consumption mainly in the form of a bean or as a derived product ( milk or tofu) can lower total cholesterol by 11 percent and LDL between 5 and 25 percent, which, together with its ability to increase HDL levels, favors heart health very positively.
The general recommendation is to eat at least 11 to 50 grams of legumes such as soybeans, peas, or lentils (which provide 60 percent of the recommended daily dose of fiber) about three times a week.
5) Red pepper
Red pepper is one of the foods with more vitamin C on the market (139 mg per 100 g, more than double that of orange, with 51 mg), whose consumption is impressive because it helps prevent plaques in the arteries. Although the pepper is one of the star foods in vitamin C, Branco points out that it is difficult to reach the recommended amounts. Since it is usually taken as a garnish and encourages taking whole oranges and other fruits with vitamin C, from kiwi to strawberries or tomatoes. In general, they not only contain vitamins that help us regulate cholesterol, but also displace the consumption of other foods.
Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, reduce cholesterol levels, especially when the diet is very high in fat since they favor a more significant elimination of cholesterol in the stool.
On the other hand, these vegetables contain a high percentage of stanols and sterols, which also causes a lower intestinal absorption of cholesterol. Other plants, such as broccoli, have a very beneficial effect on hypercholesterolemic agents, among other things, due to their high levels of fiber.
7) Foods rich in anthocyanins
Finally, Caja specifies that some fruits, vegetables, and other products of plant origin contain a high concentration of certain pigments called anthocyanins, which give colors of red to orange and blue to purple.
The exciting thing is that some studies have observed that incorporating anthocyanins can lower LDL cholesterol levels between 16 and 25 percent in individuals with hypercholesterolemia, and this effect is only specific in these individuals.
In other words, the body in the presence of anthocyanins produces less cholesterol. Some foods that contain these compounds are raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, acai, or eggplant skin. Hypercholesterolemic should consume about 100 grams per day of foods rich in anthocyanins.
8) Natural HMG-CoA inhibitors
The production of cholesterol in our body depends on the activity of an enzyme called HMG-CoA. Foods very rich in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, also called omega-3s, have functions in inhibiting this enzyme, which favors a decrease in cholesterol production.
Some foods very rich in omega-3 are flax seeds, or chia seeds, spinach, radish, sprouted alfalfa, some germinated legumes, and of course, seed oils or nuts, to name a few examples. Ground or hydrated flax or chia seeds are fascinating when it comes to preventing cholesterol. They contain not only omega-three fatty acids but also fiber.
Other inhibitors of the enzyme that is responsible for the production of cholesterol are lycopene, or a series of chemical compounds that are part of some foods such as guava, watermelon, tomato (especially in sun-dried tomatoes) or grapefruit. These reduce cholesterol levels by around 10 percent. Therefore, the recommended amount of lycopene is between 25 and 35 milligrams per day (one hundred grams of dried tomatoes, for example, contain 45 milligrams).
9) Fatty Fish
Fatty fish, a term referring to fish species that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, are a valuable addition to a heart-healthy diet and play a significant role in lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol.
Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), present in fatty fish, are known to reduce levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in your bloodstream. While they don’t directly lower LDL cholesterol, these fatty acids increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, and can reduce inflammation and blood clotting, thus lowering the risk of heart disease.
Fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, albacore tuna, and trout are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish per week. One serving is 3.5 ounces of cooked fish or about ¾ cup of flaked fish.
Incorporating fatty fish into your diet is one part of a comprehensive approach to reducing LDL cholesterol, which should also include reducing intake of saturated and trans fats, increasing physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight. It’s always best to consult with a healthcare provider or dietitian for personalized dietary advice.
10) Garlic and Onions
Garlic and onions, common ingredients in many culinary traditions, have long been associated with a myriad of health benefits, including the ability to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol.
Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which is released when garlic is crushed or chopped. Studies have suggested that allicin can help lower LDL cholesterol levels by inhibiting the liver’s ability to produce LDL cholesterol. This potent compound also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which further contribute to cardiovascular health.
Onions, particularly red and yellow varieties, are rich in quercetin, a type of flavonoid with antioxidant properties. Research has indicated that quercetin can help lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation in the body.
Incorporating garlic and onions into your diet is a flavorful way to contribute to a heart-healthy diet. However, while they offer significant health benefits, they should not replace medical treatment for high cholesterol. Rather, they should be part of a balanced, nutrient-rich diet combined with regular exercise. As always, for personalized dietary advice, it’s best to consult a healthcare provider or dietitian.
11) Green Tea
Green tea, native to China and India, has been consumed for centuries and is praised globally for its wide array of health benefits, one of which includes the potential to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol.
Green tea is rich in polyphenols, particularly a type known as catechins. These antioxidant compounds have been found to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol during digestion and facilitate its excretion from the body. This action can help reduce the overall levels of LDL cholesterol.
Moreover, studies have shown that green tea may help increase the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol. The balance between LDL and HDL is a crucial factor in maintaining heart health.
Drinking a few cups of green tea a day could be a useful addition to a heart-healthy diet. However, green tea should be part of a broader strategy for managing cholesterol levels, which includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and consultation with a healthcare provider for personalized advice.
Lowering cholesterol can be achieved through a balanced diet consisting of various nutrient-rich foods. Whole grains such as oats and barley are rich in soluble fiber which can reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Regularly incorporating these foods into your diet can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.