Top 10 Foods to Lower Cholesterol
When is the last time you actually thought about your cholesterol? Do you even know what your cholesterol is?
It can be easy to forget about unless you’ve recently been to the doctor, since high cholesterol doesn’t usually come with noticeable symptoms. But it's worthwhile to think about. The CDC stipulates that over 30% of American women have high cholesterol. This increases the risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. While high cholesterol can require medication in some situations, if you're patient and committed, simply making dietary changes is often enough to manage cholesterol naturally.
Oatmeal: Just one bowl of oatmeal a day can lower ldl cholesterol by 10%. This is mainly due to the water-soluble dietary fiber called beta-glucan, which is found in oatmeal. Beta glucan mixes with cholesterol in the small intestine, then binds to the cholesterol molecules and carries the cholesterol out of the body instead of allowing it to be absorbed into the blood.
Okra: Okra not only promotes digestive health by way of supporting intestinal function, but also good cholesterol levels due to its high fiber content. Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water, which means that it breaks down in the digestive tract. There, it also binds to cholesterol in other foods so that it can be excreted along with other wastes. In turn, total cholesterol levels plummet. It also boosts the immune system and balances blood sugar.
Almonds and Walnuts: They are rich in omega 3's, and also contain phytosterols, which are plant compounds structurally similar to cholesterol that help lower cholesterol by blocking its absorption in the intestines.
Wild Caught Salmon: Fatty fish, such as salmon are excellent sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have long been linked to healthier cholesterol levels. They increase HDL cholesterol and lower inflammation. It has also been found that those who ate the most wild caught properly prepared salmon were the least likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that includes high blood pressure and low HDL levels. By properly prepared I mean baking, grilling, steaming or broiling. Avoid farmed fish which has an altered omega balance.
Berries- particularly strawberries. Small amounts of fruit, particularly berries have been shown to have a positive impact on cholesterol levels. This is mainly due to the fiber and antioxidants. One kind of soluble fiber called pectin (found in strawberries) has been shown to lower cholesterol by up to 10%. Fruit also contains bioactive compounds that help prevent heart disease and other chronic diseases due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Eating strawberries, which are particularly rich sources of these plant compounds, can help increase HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol.
Sweet Potatoes- Sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants, fiber and pectin, the same cholesterol lowering fiber I mentioned being found in strawberries. One half of a sweet potato cooked without its skin contains 3.9 grams of fiber and if you eat the skin it contains even more rich water soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps the body excrete cholesterol by binding to bile acids.
Grapefruit- Studies have shown people can lower their LDL cholesterol by 20% by simply adding grapefruit to their diet. Grapefruit contains antioxidants and fiber (the same pectin as strawberries), as well as a unique flavonoid called naringenina which has been shown to prevent plaque buildup and lower both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Herbal Tea- especially green and white- Tea contains many plant compounds that are linked to improved heart health. Black tea is a good option but white and green are even better. If you're watching your caffeine opt for decaffeinated and you'll still reap similar health benefits. The two primary compounds in tea that deliver benefits are 1) Catechins which help activate nitric oxide, which is important for healthy blood pressure. They also inhibit cholesterol synthesis and absorption and help prevent blood clots. 2) Quercetin may improve blood vessel function and lower inflammation. It also helps boost digestive and immune system health.
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder- Cocoa is the main ingredient in dark chocolate and research does back up the claims that dark chocolate and cocoa can lower LDL cholesterol. One study found promising results after it had healthy adults drink a cocoa beverage twice a day for a month. The cocoa drinkers saw a reduction in LDL cholesterol of 0.17 mmol/l (equivalent to 6.5 mg/dl). Their blood pressure also decreased and HDL cholesterol increased.
Cocoa and dark chocolate also seem to be able to protect the LDL cholesterol in your blood from oxidation, which is a key step in the pathway towards heart disease. However, keep in mind that chocolate is really high in added sugar and often fat which negatively affects heart health. This is why I suggest unsweetened Cocoa powder not chocolate.
Whole Grains: A lot of people with high cholesterol fear consuming too many carbohydrates. This mentality stems from studies that have linked the high consumption of carbohydrates to high levels of trigylcerides (a type of fat found throughout the body), lower levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol, and weight gain. BUT these negative effects only occur when your diet is comprised of 60% or more carbohydrate. Which is a percentage I find very few people consume. What's more, the right kind of carbs, especially grains can help, not hurt cholesterol and weight management.
Sprouted grain breads in particular are a good option over refined, processed white breads. Whole wheat breads are good choices as well but I prefer sprouted because of the health benefits that result from the germinating process. The germinating process breaks down some of the starch, which makes the percentage of nutrients higher. It also breaks down phytate, a form of phytic acid that normally decreases absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body. So sprouted grains have more available nutrients including folate, iron, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and protein. Sprouted grains also may have less starch and be easier to digest than regular grains which helps if you happen to be sensitive to digesting grains.
Taking the above into consideration a great sample cholesterol lowering diet plan might be:
Egg whites scrambled with spinach (dark leafy greens contain lutein which lowered levels of oxiized LDL cholesterol and can help prevent cholesterol from binding to artety walls)
Bowl of oatmeal with a handful of sliced strawberries, and a TBSP or two of sliced almonds
1 cup hot green tea
1 scoop 22 Days Plant Nutrition Protein Powder (plant proteins have been shown to have cholesterol lowering benefits) blended with 1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa and 1 cup unsweetened almond milk.
6-8 raw walnut halves
Grilled chicken breast with tomato, lettuce and onion on two slices sprouted grain bread
Side salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (olive oil consumption reduces the inflammation that drives heart disease and in clinical studies has been shown to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke by 30%. Look for extra virgin!)
1 cup decaf white tea
Baked wild salmon with a side of okra
Baked sweet potato drizzled with olive oil
1 cup decaf green tea with lemon and 1 tsp Manuka honey (Manuka honey has been shown to have healing properties. It's an antiinflammatory and an antibiotic. It aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients as well. Look for Manuka honey with a 25+ rating!)