High cholesterol is one of the major causes of heart attacks and coronary heart diseases, and some foods may help you eliminate it naturally.
When the cholesterol is accumulated in high levels, the arteries become narrow causing restriction in blood flow. Reducing the intake of fatty food in the diet helps manage cholesterol levels. Unhealthy eating habits are a major factor determining cholesterol levels in a human body, Dr Tarun Sahni, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.
To manage cholesterol levels one has to limit intake of food that contains saturated fat (meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, deep-fried, and processed foods), trans fat (fried and processed foods) and cholesterol (present in animal foods, meat and cheese). Obesity/uncontrolled weight and other genetic factors also contribute to high cholesterol.
For people with heart disease, dietary control is imperative to keep their cholesterol levels in check, apart from timely medications. Some superfood that can naturally help cut down cholesterol and keep it in check, are:
1. Whole grains
These are rich sources of fibre and other vital nutrients, which help regulate blood pressure and maintain a healthy heart. Avoid white, refined products low in nutrition and bad for overall health and the heart.
2. Low-fat protein
Lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, low-fat dairy items and eggs comprise some of the best protein sources. For example, some fish are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids that lower blood fats termed triglycerides. Walnuts and soya beans are also good sources. Coming to eggs, while being good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, the latest research indicates they do not impact cholesterol levels.
3. Fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are also high in fibre, and some types of fibre can help to lower your cholesterol. Fibre helps block some cholesterol from being absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream. Pulses such as beans, peas and lentils are particularly high in this kind of fibre. Sweet potato, aubergine, okra (ladies’ fingers), broccoli, apples, strawberries and prunes are also good options. Fresh, seasonal varieties are always best rather than canned or non-seasonal ones.
Nuts are good sources of unsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats, a mix which can help to keep your cholesterol in check. They contain fibre which can help block some cholesterol being absorbed into the blood stream from the gut. Plus, protein, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, natural plant sterols and other plant nutrients which help keep your body healthy. They’re also filling, so you’re less likely to snack on other things.
5. Oats and barley
Oats and barley are grains which are rich in a type of fibre called beta glucan – 3g of beta-glucan daily, as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, can help to lower cholesterol. When you eat beta glucan, it forms a gel which binds to cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestines. This helps limit the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed from the gut into your blood. Your liver has to take more cholesterol out of your blood to make more bile, which also lowers your blood cholesterol.
6. Healthy oils
Olive oil and Mustard oils are some of the healthiest forms of oils that have unsaturated fat and helps in lowering cholesterol. Avoid coconut and palm oil as, unlike other vegetable oils, they are high in saturated fat. The key to reducing cholesterol levels is curbing intake unhealthy fats. Consume less butter, cheese and saturated or refined oils. Avoid hydrogenated oils. Instead, choose foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish and flaxseeds.