Excessive blood-cholesterol levels have been found to increase a person’s predisposition to stroke and coronary heart disease, as well as conditions like diabetes and atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).
If you have high cholesterol, it’s not too late to make a positive change. Here’s how:
You can get your cholesterol levels down by being active for at least 30 minutes per day to help you lose or maintain weight. In general, most public health organisations recommend moderate to vigorous exercise like gardening, walking, jogging and cycling.
- Increase the proportion of foods containing unsaturated fat, like nuts and fish, in your diet
- Eat more high-fibre foods, including whole grains, nuts, legumes, vegetables and fruit
- Moderate your intake of foods containing saturated fat, like fatty meats and dairy products
- Stick to a low intake of dietary fat: women = 45-75g fat/ day, or men = 60-100g fat/day
- Avoid trans fats, which increase bad (LDL) cholesterol and decrease good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Trans fats can be found in fast foods and many packaged/processed foods, which are made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or shortening
Here are some foods that can help lower cholesterol as part of a healthy, balanced diet:
Fruit and veg
Different fruits and vegetables have different functional properties that work to lower cholesterol levels:
- Blueberries, grapes and cranberries
High in the antioxidant pterostilbene, which helps metabolise cholesterol;
- Pears, aubergine and okra
High in cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre;
- Tomatoes, watermelon and papaya
Contain the antioxidant lycopene, which works to prevent the oxidisation of cholesterol, which contributes to the formation of narrowed arteries.
Consuming 7-10 125ml servings per day of a variety of fruit and veg is optimum.
Chickpeas, lentils, soybeans and kidney beans are high in soluble fibre, which prevents cholesterol from being absorbed into the body.
Just one 125ml serving of beans per day can decrease your blood-cholesterol levels by as much as 10%.
These contain a soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which binds to the cholesterol in your digestive system and works to eliminate it from your body.
A mere 3g of soluble fibre per day may help lower cholesterol levels by about 10%.
Choc-full of a perfect combination of unsaturated fats and fibre, which naturally reduce cholesterol levels, nuts also contain unique plant sterols, which mimic cholesterol and replace it in the body.
…but beware – nuts are relatively calorific, so don’t just add them to your existing diet, try replacing high-calorie snacks with them instead.
Enjoying a 70 ml serving of nuts five times a week can lower heart disease risk by 25%. Choose nuts that are raw or dry-roasted, avoiding those that are salted, roasted in oil or flavoured.
In the weeks to come, we’ll be publishing some handy healthy recipes containing the foods we’ve talked about in this post, so be sure to come back to read on…
Photo courtesy of: www.flickr.com/photos/steffenz