Cholesterol is a type of fat in our blood. While our body produces all the necessary cholesterol, we also take it from the foods we consume. High cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) which is also called “bad” cholesterol, is one of the main risk factors for developing the disease. It increases our chance of developing heart disease and having a heart attack, as well as a stroke. Many factors can contribute to an increase in blood cholesterol levels, including the existence of an underlying condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, unhealthy lifestyle, unhealthy diet, smoking, lack of physical activity, lack of sleep, and constant stress.
As high cholesterol is a “quiet” condition, it has no symptoms, and most people don’t even know they have it until they develop serious diseases. Therefore, we should do a general blood test once a year to make sure we are on the safe side.
If we have high cholesterol levels, doctor will most likely prescribe medications and suggest lifestyle changes that include:
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Quit smoking
- Eating foods rich in nutrients
- Increasing physical activity
- Taking supplements
In short, trans fats are bad for you, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are good for you, and saturated fats are somewhere in-between, as reported by Harvard Health Publishing. Therefore, to lower LDL cholesterol levels, it is necessary to avoid trans fats and replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats found in extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil, or polyunsaturated fat found in walnuts, fish, and canola oil.
People who want to decrease LDL levels need to reduce their intake of saturated fats and trans fats found in foods such as:
- Ice cream
- Pastries, cakes, cookie
- Fried foods
- Frozen ready-made meals
- Potato chips
- Vegetable oils
High cholesterol foods to avoid include:
- Full-fat dairy
- Red meat
- Processed meat
- Fried foods
- Baked goods and sweets
Some of the high cholesterol foods like eggs, shellfish, and lean meats are low in saturated fat, but as they are rich in proteins, minerals, and vitamins, it is best to eat them in moderation. It is also desirable to increase the intake of healthy fiber, as a diet rich in fiber improves blood cholesterol levels. There is growing evidence that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and the development of diabetes.
How to improve HDL cholesterol level in blood:
- Eat oily fish like mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, and herrings because they contain the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids that can lower LDL and increase HDL levels if consumed as part of a well-balanced diet
- Eat brightly colored fruit and vegetables because they contain antioxidants that improve HDL levels
- Consuming garlic can help reduce LDL cholesterol if consumed regularly
- Exercise and physical activity can raise HDL levels
Other foods – dietary supplements – that can improve cholesterol include chia seeds, flaxseed, whey, and soy. Foods like onions, fruits, ginger, tomatoes, and cabbage can also help lower blood cholesterol levels. Since supplements can have similar effects as medications, it is important that you discuss your supplement with your doctor.
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➥ DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to replace medical treatment. The information provided is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.