More than one third of adults in U.S. suffer from hypercholesterolemia, or more known as high LDL cholesterol, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and heart disease.
There are three main types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). While HDL is good for your health, LDL and VLHL aren’t.
Although high cholesterol doesn’t recognize gender, age, or ethnicity, there are certain factors that do increase the risk, including: obesity, excessive smoking, poor diet, large waist circumference, hypothyroidism, lack of exercise, and diabetes. Although most of them are within your control, genetics isn’t.
Since high cholesterol doesn’t show any symptoms, it’s important you do checkups from time to time. You can measure your total, HDL and LDL cholesterol, and your triglycerides with a lipid panel test. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are the healthy levels of cholesterol:
- Total cholesterol – less than 200 mg/dL
- HDL cholesterol – 40 mg/dL or higher
- LDL cholesterol – less than 100 mg/dL
- Triglycerides – less than 150 mg/dL
If you don’t control your high cholesterol early enough, it can cause serious health problems like heart attacks, chest pain, and strokes.
Luckily, there are natural ways that can help you reduce your cholesterol levels, and here we present 10 foods that will help you do that.
Top Ten Superfoods to Reduce Cholesterol
Almonds contain fiber, heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats, all of which lower the bad LDL cholesterol, and increase the good HDL cholesterol. Nutrition Review published a 2011 study which shows that eating 3 almonds or other nuts a day, help lower the bad cholesterol levels by 3 to 19%.
What’s more, the Journal of American Heart Association published a 2015 study which says that consuming almonds on a daily basis can be a simple, yet effective strategy to prevent cardio-metabolic diseases. Let a handful of these nuts combined with yogurt, cereal, or salad topping become your favorite, healthy snack. However, don’t forget that moderation is key.
An easy way to reduce your high cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, thanks to the high soluble fibers it contains. They decrease the absorption of cholesterol in the bloodstream, and help you avoid mindless eating as they fill you up quickly.
Moreover, consuming oats on a regular basis is related to decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A bowl of oatmeal should be enough for breakfast, or you can also use it in baked goods, or add it to smoothies.
Salmon contain EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids which prevent high cholesterol levels. It also helps reduce triglycerides and slightly increase the good cholesterol, thus reducing the chances of heart disease. Salmon is as well low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
It’s recommended consuming at least two servings of grilled, or baked salmon per week. One serving is about 3 ounces. If you want to take fish oil supplements, consult your doctor.
4. Orange Juice
The American Society for Clinical Nutrition journal published a 2000 study which shows that orange juice improves the levels of blood lipid in hypercholesterolemia patients, thanks to the presence of folate, vitamin C, and flavonoids like hesperidin in the content of oranges.
The recommended daily amount of freshly extracted or plant sterol-fortified orange juice is two to three cups. Another option is consuming a few oranges a day.
5. Green Tea
One of the simplest way to lower the total and bad cholesterol levels is drinking several cups of green tea per day. In 2011, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a meta-analysis of 14 randomized controlled trials, which showed that this tea reduces fasting serum total and bad cholesterol levels in adults.
Green tea includes few compounds which help the excretion of cholesterol, as well as prevent its absorption in the digestive tract. Moreover, green tea lowers the risk of stroke and heart attack, as it prevents buildup of plaque in the arteries.
Consume three to four cups of this tea a day, either hot or iced. Consult your doctor if you consider taking supplements.
6. Soybeans and Soy Products
The plant-based protein in soy products such as soybeans is excellent for treating high cholesterol levels. Soy might not reduce your total cholesterol significantly, but it can still reduce your LDL cholesterol. It is rich in protein, polyunsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and low levels of saturated fat.
The Journal of American College of Nutrition published a 2011 study according to which consuming 15 to 30 grams (1 to 2 servings) of soy protein a day, highly affects the serum lipoprotein risk factors for heart disease.
If you like to reduce your cholesterol levels, consume more soybean, edamame, soy flour, tofu, and enriched soy milk.
The high amount of monounsaturated fats helps lower the LDL cholesterol in obese or overweight people, as well as increase the levels of HDL, or good cholesterol. The plant sterols in avocados also help reduce cholesterol levels.
Moreover, avocados are high in fiber, protein, vitamin K, B-complex vitamins, and some minerals that are beneficial for your overall health. Consume one avocado a day. You can add it to sandwiches and salads, or eat avocado slices as a side dish.
8. Olive Oil
The high level of monounsaturated fat in olive oil helps reduce LDL cholesterol, which in turn reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. What’s more, olive oil is high in vitamin E which is good for your overall health, including the heart.
Replace the less healthy oils you use with two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil a day. Use it as a dip for bread, to make salad dressing, or to sauté vegetables. However, avoid excessive use as this oil is high in calories.
9. Dark Chocolate
This is another excellent food to reduce the LDL cholesterol levels, and increase the HDL cholesterol. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published a 2013 study, saying that theobromine in dark chocolate is the component that makes this food effective in increasing the HDL cholesterol.
Dark chocolate is also rich in flavonoids and antioxidant which prevent blood platelets from sticking together, thus preventing clogged arteries. This in turn lowers the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
The daily recommended amount of dark chocolate is one or two small pieces, making sure it is at least 60% cocoa.
Not only that it helps lower cholesterol, garlic also lowers blood pressure, and prevents blood clots and heart disease.
In 2013, the National Institute of Integrative Medicine stated that garlic extract is effective and safe alternative to pharmaceutical cholesterol and blood pressure-lowering medications. For this purpose, consume two to three cloves on an empty stomach every day. You can also use fresh garlic in cooking various dishes, stews, and soups, as well as in salad dressings. If you consider taking garlic supplements, consult your doctor for the proper dosage.
- Quit smoking
- Try to keep a healthy weight
- Exercise for at least half an hour, five days a week
- Eat a diet low in saturated fats
- Avoid, or reduce the consumption of alcohol
- Avoid fatty or fried foods, and excessive processed sugars and carbohydrates
- Follow a low-saturated fats diet
- Avoid red meat, egg yolks, full-fat dairy products, processed foods, and other foods which contribute to bad cholesterol