There is no doubt about the fact that in the recent past, cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke has become one of the leading causes of death in the world. “World Health Organization” recorded that around 17.5 million people died of cardiovascular diseases in the year 2012. So what is the cause behind the increasing heart diseases? Besides, smoking, alcohol, high blood pressure and other unhealthy lifestyle practices, several researches found increase in cholesterol levels to be one of the leading causes that constantly put our heart at risk. Therefore, keeping the level of bad cholesterol at check is the need of the hour. There are many suffering from increased level of bad cholesterol and if you are one among them, then you can’t afford to miss today’s post. Today in this post, we’ll learn about some of the best foods to lower cholesterol fast and easily. We’ll also learn about causes of cholesterol and apart from eating cholesterol friendly foods, what else once should do to get rid of bad cholesterol.
Well, you have to agree with me that the discipline is the key to successful and healthy life. By eating healthy food, exercising everyday and getting rid of your unhealthy habits like smoking, you will be able to battle against high cholesterol.
Cholesterol, a natural substance that is made by the liver is important for the proper functioning of our nerves, cells and hormones. There are three lipoproteins in human body, namely high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low density lipoproteins (LDL) and triglycerides.
HDL contains high protein and less cholesterol and is the good cholesterol. However, it is the increase of LDL or bad cholesterol that has less protein and high cholesterol, which causes a severe risk to your heart. Triglycerides on the other hand are separate lipid that helps in storage of excess energy, excess of which may also affect your health.
Generally, cholesterol is found in moderate amounts but when it increases, it builds up in the walls of the arteries, resulting to decrease in blood flow to the vital organs of the body. If this process continues for long, it increases the chances of heart attack or stroke largely. But thankfully, blood cholesterol levels can be regulated and checked by eating right and adopting healthy living habits.
Now that you have realized how important it is to maintain blood cholesterol level, let us know some of the most important causes behind the increase in the cholesterol levels.
Causes behind high cholesterol levels
High blood cholesterol is very risky for our heart. But what causes it to increase on an alarming level? Obesity, unhealthy diet, genetics are said to be some of the common causes but there are other factors as well which affect your cholesterol levels. So let’s discuss all of them.
- Obesity or being overweight
- Unhealthy oily foods especially foods containing saturated fats and trans fats
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Age (it begins to rise after 20 years)
- Gender (men are said to be more prone to it)
- Lack of any physical activity
- Chronic kidney disease
- Liver diseases
- Some medicines (for example thiazide diuretics, beta-blockers, estrogen, and corticosteroids)
What is the normal range of blood cholesterol?
By the time, we all know that high levels of cholesterol are a threat to our wellbeing, but do you know what is the normal range of it? Well, according to studies, the following levels are said to be favourable:
- Total cholesterol:Levels below 200 mg/dL (5.2 mmol/L)
- LDL cholesterol:Levels below 130 mg/dL (3.4 mmol/L)
- HDL cholesterol:Levels above 40 mg/dL (1 mmol/L) in men and above 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) in women
However, the most important thing that you must keep in mind is that the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol which should be around 2:1.
Best foods to lower cholesterol level
The increasing risks of cardiovascular diseases make it necessary for you to maintain your cholesterol levels. As we all know, most of our diseases start with an unhealthy diet regime; therefore, in order to maintain cholesterol levels, it is important for you to know what foods are important for you to eat and what should be avoided. This is the most important and the primary way to lower your cholesterol levels easily. Check the list of some of the best foods to lower cholesterol fast and easily.
The healthy nuts like almonds and walnuts are not just good to taste but also helps to lower your cholesterol levels. According to “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” 1.5 oz of walnuts if eaten 6 days a week for about a month, can reduce the total cholesterol levels by 5.4 % and LDL or bad cholesterol levels by 9.3 %. Therefore, make the nuts your favorite snack and enjoy the taste as well as the health benefits. However, you must keep in mind that they are also rich in calories, so make sure you do not over-eat them.
Many people think oats to be an ideal breakfast to start the day with a bang and I must say that it is totally worth it. These delicious oats not only are good to taste but also helps in lowering the bad cholesterol in your body. Beta-glucan, the substance present in oats absorbs LDL that is the bad cholesterol and eventually flushes it out from your body through excreta. It is believed that two servings of these healthy oats for 6 weeks can lower LDL by 5.3 %. So why wait, start eating oats now and check your LDL Cholesterol levels easily.
While excessive alcohol intake can cause your cholesterol levels to increase, drinking it in moderate amounts can help you to lower it. The red grapes used to make red wines for eg Rioja contains high fiber that is helpful in lowering the cholesterol levels in blood. A study conducted at “Universidad Complutense de Madrid” in Spain proved that when individuals consumed the same grapes with which red wine is made, their cholesterol levels decreased by 9%. Also, there was a 12 % decrease in cholesterol levels in individuals already having high cholesterol. Therefore, drink red wine, but only in moderate amounts.
There are now more reasons to drink tea besides for energizing you up. For so long, tea was believed to have anti carcinogenic properties, but now studies proved that, it is also very essential in reducing the cholesterol levels. According to USDA, there was around 6-10 % decrease in LDA in individuals who had black tea every day for 3 weeks. So drink black tea every day, and keep your blood cholesterol level in check.
Include beans in your diet chart as not only does they add taste, but also are very important to keep your heart healthy. Beans are rich in fiber that helps to lower the LDL or the bad cholesterol by 8%. In fact, Arizona State University Polytechnic researchers believe the pinto beans to be more effective in reducing cholesterol in comparison to healthy oats. So why not try them out and feel the difference.
This is one of the most enjoyable ways to lower your cholesterol levels and I know this brings a smile in the face of all the chocolate lovers. Well, yes dark chocolate contains antioxidants almost 3 times more than that of milk chocolate and is very effective in lowering your cholesterol levels. According to “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN)”, individuals who were given cocoa powder and dark chocolate showed considerable decrease in LDL while there was a significant increase in the level of HDL or good cholesterol. Consumption of dark chocolates prevents the blood platelets from getting sticked together as well as keeps the arteries unclogged. So enjoy the bitter and yummy dark chocolate and keep your heart healthy at the same time.
Turmeric has long been used for its beauty and health benefits. It is also known as the perfect cure for treating several infections and wounds. But do you know that turmeric is very healthy for heart and prevent cardiovascular diseases? Well, several animal studies have shown that it is very helping in reducing the cholesterol levels from the body. One such study on rabbits showed that turmeric could reduce the levels of LDL and triglycerides as well as prevent the bad cholesterol from getting oxidized. Therefore, as it lowers the lipids in animals, it is believed that it can also produce the same effect in human body. Moreover, curcumin present in turmeric is very beneficial for healthy being as it protects our heart, fights viruses, and prevents cancers, arthritis, blot clots and many more.
Avocadoes are very healthy for your heart. They are rich in MUFAs that helps to improve the HDL or good cholesterol levels in your body and significantly decrease the level of LDL or bad cholesterol. In addition, the presence of beta-sitosterol, a plant-based fat further aids to reduce the concentration of LDL in body. However, remember that per avocado contains 30g of fat and around 300 calories, so eat them in moderation and keep your cholesterol levels in control.
Apples have lot of beauty and health benefits with healthy heart being one of them. Dried apples are rich in fiber and hence are very effective to regulate the levels of cholesterol in your body. Although maximum fruits contain fiber, dried apples are particularly a good choice. Several studies have supported the effectiveness of apples in fighting various cardiovascular diseases. Another study, which was published in the “Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics”, found out that the individuals, who ate dried apples daily lowered the levels of bad cholesterol or LDL by 13% within 6 months. Therefore, do eat at least 2 apples a day and keep the doctor away.
As far as healthy green vegetables are concerned, no one should miss out spinach from their diet chart. Besides all the other health benefits of spinach, eating spinach in adequate amounts is one of the easy and essential ways to lower your cholesterol levels. Spinach is rich in lutein, the yellow pigment found in egg yolks. According to studies, lutein prevents the clogging of the artery walls by helping them to shrug off the cholesterol contents, thereby reducing the chances of heart attacks. Moreover, it also contains the dietary fiber that absorbs the cholesterol and hence prevents it from getting dissolved in the bile acids. This results in the liver to use its own cholesterol for the production of bile acids that eventually reduces the overall cholesterol levels. Also, the rich proteins lowers the cholesterol and other fat deposits from the blood.
Salmon and fatty fish
Salmons and other fatty fishes like sardines, herring are rich in omega 3 fatty acids that are very useful in treating various heart diseases including the ability to reduce the cholesterol levels in blood. Loma Linda University researchers have found out that eating foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids increases the level of HDL or good cholesterol by 4% and helps to prevent the occurrence of heart attacks and strokes. Therefore, include these fatty fishes in your diet chart and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The smell of garlic may offend you at times, but eating it has many benefits, with consuming garlic being one of the essential ways to lower your cholesterol levels from your body. Studies have found out that garlic does not let the cholesterol to stick to the artery walls, thereby prevents the possibility of the arteries from getting clogged. You can also control your blood pressure and prevent blood clots and other infections with garlic consumption. So do not hesitate to eat 2-3 fresh cloves daily.
Olive oil, which is commonly used for cooking purposes, is very heart friendly. The MUFAs, that is the monounsaturated fatty acids present in it, lowers the levels of LDL or bad cholesterol from blood and prevent the risk of heart attacks. Besides, it also helps in shedding off fats from your belly. Therefore, use olive oil daily while cooking, starting from marinating chicken and fish, roasting vegetables to salad dressings.
Flaxseeds and chia seeds
Flaxseeds and chia seeds both are high in soluble and insoluble fiber that helps in lowering the cholesterol levels. The soluble fiber traps the cholesterol and prevents absorption of it by the body. Bile then is excreted and eventually the excess cholesterol gets used up by the body. This reduces the overall cholesterol content in body. Besides, the fiber present in them reduces body weight as well as helps in detoxification of the body. Also, flaxseeds are rich in lignans and alpha-linolenic acid that make them more nutritious for your healthy being.
If you have a weak heart do not forget to include the soy foods in your diet. Soybeans contain low amounts of saturated fat but are rich in protein and soluble fiber that makes them perfect food to regulate your cholesterol levels. Previous studies showed that they lower the total cholesterol level by 10-19 % and LDL by 14-20% from your body. Recent studies on postmenopausal women showed that they also improve the levels of HDL that is the good cholesterol in your blood.
List of foods to avoid to lower cholesterol
While certain foods can help to lower cholesterol levels, some are best avoided in order to keep your cholesterol levels in check. Here’s the list of some of the foods to avoid to keep your cholesterol level under control.
- Try to limit packaged foods of all kinds.
- The processed vegetable oils must be avoided.
- Cut off your intake of the conventional dairy products (homogenized, non-organic and pasteurized).
- Limit the consumption of animal products that are farm raised.
- Excess amount of caffeine is also injurious.
- Avoid sugar.
- Limit the intake of egg yolk.
- Limit your consumption of saturated fats like butter, bacon etc.
- Trans fats must not be eaten in excess amounts.
- Control eating fatty meats like corned beef, hot dogs, steak, sausage etc. Also, limit the organ meats like liver and kidney. Instead go for skinless turkey or chicken, lean beef etc.
- Last but not the least, say NO to all the oily junk foods. This is not just to control your cholesterol but for your wellbeing in general.
Best practices that’ll help you to lower cholesterol levels
Besides following the list of the best and worst foods to lower cholesterol, you should also make some lifestyle changes to stay fit and healthy. Sometimes, just a bit of change in eating and lifestyle habits can actually help to fight your health issues in a much easier way.
Here’re some some of the best practices that’ll help you to lower cholesterol levels easily.
- Quit smoking as early as possible. This is the most important step to keep your heart healthy and avoid the risk of cardiovascular diseases. In fact, this is not just for your own safety but also good for the people around you as well.
- Try to shed your extra pounds.
- Daily exercise is very essential as it increases HDL levels. It also keeps your body weight under control as well as facilitates optimum functioning of all your body parts and is the cure for several diseases.
- Make sure you walk for minimum 30 minutes every day preferably at a fast pace. This lowers the levels of bad cholesterol or LDL and increases longevity.
- Although red wine is good for cholesterol, please do not consume in high amounts. Alcohol if taken in excess will lead to a number of health issues.
- Balanced diet- Needless to say, the first step to maintaining a healthy life is to have a balanced diet. Therefore, include the healthy foods specially the ones good for heart and avoid the ones, which are injurious.
Over to you
Heart is the most important organ of your body and it is your duty to keep it healthy. For that, you have to keep your cholesterol level within the normal range. However, most of the people are not much aware of how to lower cholesterol. In today’s post, we have discussed extensively about cholesterol starting from the various causes behind high cholesterol, its normal range to the best foods to lower cholesterol levels easily. We have also talked about some of the foods that we must avoid to maintain proper cholesterol levels.
Whatever we eat has a good or bad effect in our body. Similarly, some foods are good for regulating cholesterol levels while others may be harmful. Consuming nuts, oats, avocado, apples etc in adequate amounts will help you control cholesterol level while the fatty foods, dairy products, oily stuffs lead to high cholesterol levels in body.
Discipline in life is also very important for healthy living. Maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly and quit the unhealthy practices like smoking, excessive alcohol to keep yourself healthy and strong. All these above-mentioned ways to lower your cholesterol levels are safe and often recommended by doctors. However, if in your case, things take a much serious turn; do directly take medical help without much delay.
Do you have high cholesterol? Are you fed up of your medicines? Well, follow some of the tricks and you will be able to regulate the cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy and strong. Also, do not forget to like, share and comment if you find this post useful.
Until then, stay hearty and do not let cholesterol take a toll on your health.
Eliana the chief editor at bodyandbeans is a professional yoga instructor and a fitness freak. She has done her master’s in history from Kolkata University. She is passionate about healthy eating and living practices.