There’s enough proof that following a heart-healthy diet can improve your blood cholesterol and overall heart health. It is no doubt that heart disease is the leading cause of death globally and maintaining a lower cholesterol level is paramount. Cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood produced naturally in the body. It is also found in certain foods such as eggs, shellfish, and offal. Cholesterol is vital for proper body functioning. However, high cholesterol also referred to as hyperlipidemia, speeds up the atherosclerosis process. Plaque builds up in the artery walls and narrows them, making it hard for the blood to pass freely, and over time it can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
Types of Cholesterol
It is important to note that there are no symptoms of high cholesterol. This means you need to have a blood test to determine if you have it. cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is conveyed around by different carriers known as lipoproteins. The main ones are:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: Also known as “bad cholesterol,” LDL is harmful in large amounts, and it builds up in the artery walls.
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: This is the “good” cholesterol as it eliminates the ‘bad” cholesterol from the body.
Triglycerides are the most common fat forms in the body, and they transport and store fat in the body. The extra energy from the foods that are not needed by the body is converted into triglycerides. High total blood cholesterol is the measure of all the triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood and is a risk factor for developing cardiovascular diseases.
Foods for Lower Cholesterol
Also known as pulses, legumes are a group of plant foods, including peas, beans, and lentils. They are high in protein, minerals, and fiber. So, replacing processed meat and some refined grains with legumes in the diet can reduce heart disease risk. Studies also connect legumes to weight loss, even in diets that do not restrict calories.
Avocado is one of the most nutrient-dense fruit. They’re high in monosaturated fiber and fats, which are the two primary nutrients that help reduce “bad” LDL and increase the “good” cholesterol. Medical research has backed up the cholesterol-lowering effect of avocados.
Nuts, especially walnuts and almonds, are another high nutrient-dense foods. They’re high in monosaturated fats. Walnuts are high in plant variety of omega-3 fatty acids associated with heart health. Almonds and other nuts are high in L-arginine, an amino acid that helps the body produce nitric oxide responsible for regulating blood pressure. Besides, nuts have phytosterols, a plant compound similar to cholesterol that helps lower the cholesterol level by blocking its absorption in the intestines. Nuts also contain potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which reduces blood pressure and lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Fatty fish like mackerel and salmon are a great source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help strengthens the heart by increasing the “good” HDL cholesterol and lowering the risk of stroke and inflammation. Note that the best and healthiest way of cooking fish is stewing or steaming. Fried fish can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Other Foods to Lower Cholesterol
- Whole grains such as oats and barley
- Berries and fruits
- Cocoa and dark chocolate
- Soy foods
- Dark leafy greens
- Extra virgin olive oil
Foods to Avoid
- Fried foods
- Fast food
- Processed meats