Not everyone is aware that not all cholesterol is detrimental. Good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein or HDL) exists, as does bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL). Foods rich in good cholesterol are known to reduce bad cholesterol and the reverse is also true. The liver creates most of the cholesterol in the body, but 15 percent is impacted by what we eat. This is why it is important to include food high in good cholesterol in your diet regularly.
If you want to keep your heart and cardiovascular system in top condition, here are some of the best foods to eat to lower your bad cholesterol:
Potatoes have higher potassium content than bananas- a medium spud contains 620 mg of the mineral compared to a banana’s 420 mg. Potassium serves to inhibit the accumulation of plaques of fat, cholesterol, and other substances in the arteries. This is important to prevent the onset of conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.
Refrain from adding butter, sour cream, and milk to your mashed potatoes. Consuming them plain is the healthier option as these ingredients can contribute to excess calories and bad cholesterol.
Tomatoes contain two significant nutrients that make them an ideal food for cardiovascular health. These are potassium and lycopene. Potassium helps prevent arteriosclerosis by widening and relaxing the walls of blood vessels. Lycopene is an extremely potent antioxidant which not only gives tomatoes their red color but also provides many health benefits. It helps protect cells from damage and reduces the risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions.
It’s a popular saying for a reason- apples keep cardiologists away! A research study done by Florida State University found that consuming two to three medium-sized apples a day can lead to a decline in older women’s LDL cholesterol levels.
Apples boast a rich fiber content, but it is not solely responsible for the cholesterol-lowering benefits. Pectin and polyphenols are also abundant in apples, substances that can aid lipid metabolism, allowing the body to absorb cholesterol more efficiently, as well as reducing inflammation.
4. Olives and Olive Oil
Olives are a key element in the Mediterranean diet, due to their abundance of vitamin E, antioxidants, and beneficial monounsaturated fatty acids. These nutrients are beneficial for your heart health, plus they can increase your HDL levels. Instead of using animal-based fats like butter or margarine, try substituting extra virgin olive oil.
5. Dark Chocolate
Indulge in dark chocolate without worrying about your heart health! Pure cocoa, the main ingredient of dark chocolate, is abundant in flavonoids which possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties beneficial to your heart. These compounds improve blood circulation, reduce blood pressure, and reduce the risk of stroke. A 2015 study showed that participants who consumed a beverage with cocoa flavanols twice a day had lower LDL cholesterol levels and higher HDL levels.
Dark chocolate should be consumed in moderation, due to its high calorie count and potential for high levels of sugar and saturated fats. To maximize flavonoid intake, opt for a dark chocolate bar with 70% cocoa or above.
If you crave something sweet, swap out the sugary snacks for a bowl of berries. Raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries are all low in sugar and high in dietary fiber and antioxidants. Plus, strawberries are high in polyphenols, which have been linked to a decrease in heart disease. Research also suggests that blueberries may help reduce blood pressure due to their vasodilative effect.
7. Whole Grains (Oatmeal, Quinoa, Barley, Etcetera)
Whole grains refer to edible grains that still have their three components- the bran, germ, and endosperm- intact. These are high in fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and selenium, and all of them are beneficial for the body. For improved heart health, oats, quinoa, and barley are especially helpful.
With lots of fiber, oats make you feel full quickly. Beta-glucan, a special type of fiber, is what makes them beneficial to your body; it has the ability to get rid of extra saturated fat in the digestive system before it can get into the bloodstream. Reduced saturated fat leads to lower LDL levels.
Quinoa boasts ample fiber, as well as a high percentage of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory plant compounds. It can be used to substitute rice in many dishes, or added to salads, soups, and other recipes.
Barley, with its chewy texture and nutty flavor, is not as widely eaten as oats, yet it holds three times more fiber. It is a great addition to curries, stir-fries, salads, and soups.
If you care for your heart, nuts are a must! All year round, they are easy to store and come in a wide array. Replace your chips with them and your body will thank you. You don’t even need to eat a lot of them to gain their health advantages. One serving of walnuts weekly can reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases by 19 percent!
Pistachios, proven to significantly increase the good cholesterol HDL while reducing the bad LDL, are great nuts to snack on. Peanuts, loaded with plant-based anti-inflammatory compounds that impede cholesterol absorption, are also beneficial. Almonds, rich in fiber and antioxidants, provide the same benefits as pistachios, while helping to combat the oxidative stress that leads to plaque build-up in the arteries.
9. Soy Foods
What makes soy so beneficial? Soy products are packed with antioxidants which are great for your health, and they also provide plenty of complete proteins without any of the saturated fat usually found in animal proteins. Furthermore, soy has isoflavones, a natural compound which helps reduce inflammation in the blood vessels and increases their flexibility.
Also, soy-based products tend to make delicious alternatives in dishes that are normally cooked with animal products. Soy milk can be employed instead of regular cow’s milk if a dairy-free choice is desired, and tofu is an excellent substitute for meat that takes on the flavor and taste of the ingredients it is cooked with.
Don’t underestimate garlic. Hippocrates, known as the father of Western medicine by many historians, prescribed it as a remedy for various illnesses and conditions centuries ago, and current research has verified that garlic does indeed have numerous beneficial health effects and medicinal attributes.
The health advantages of garlic are mainly attributed to a compound known as allicin. This antioxidant has been associated with reduced blood pressure in people. It is essential to remember that allicin is only effective when a clove of garlic is freshly chopped or crushed, so it is advisable to consume garlic as soon as it is cut and prepared. Besides this, garlic itself is loaded with nutrients, including manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and selenium, and has an incredibly low calorie count.
11. Chia Seeds
Though tiny, chia seeds have a tremendous effect on overall health; they have been celebrated for centuries for their medicinal properties. As a staple of Mayan and Aztec diets, these seeds have been treasured for their immense benefits.
Chia seeds boast antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and even omega-3 fatty acids. Their small size makes them extremely versatile: just add to breakfast oats, smoothies, baked goods, casseroles, stir fries, and other savory dishes. Or mix with milk and enjoy chia pudding for a low-fat snack.