Cholesterol is a waxy material that your body needs to make hormones, vitamin D and other substances. It is produced in the liver and ingested from animal products like meat, eggs and dairy products. While we typically hear about it as a negative thing, both good and bad exist in the body.
“Bad cholesterol is called LDL cholesterol. Too much of it in the body can increase risk of heart disease,” explained Paula McIntyre, a Marshfield Clinic Health System registered nutritionist. “Higher levels of LDL cholesterol can be deposited in the arteries, which narrows them and increases heart disease risk.”
Because it can also come from foods we eat, feeding your heart the right foods is an important way to lower your levels. You can break down LDL cholesterol by eating healthy fats and soluble fiber.
Healthy fats to lower bad cholesterol
“Foods that can increase bad cholesterol have saturated fat,” McIntyre said. “This includes meat like prime cuts of beef and chicken with skin, and products like cheeses, ice cream, whole or 2% milk, butter and sour cream.”
Instead of these foods, try oily fish like salmon, trout and albacore tuna. These foods have Omega-3 fatty acids that lower triglycerides, another type of fat found in the blood. These in turn lower bad cholesterol.
Another nutrient that helps lower cholesterol is fiber, especially soluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and helps the body get rid of cholesterol. A daily intake of 5-10 grams or more of soluble fiber is recommended. Oatmeal is a great soluble fiber that can really help. Soy products like edamame and starchy beans are also high in soluble fiber.
McIntyre said another great source of fiber is nuts, especially walnuts. “Studies have shown walnuts lower LDL cholesterol levels in the body,” she said. “But be cautious of how much you consume, because they are high in calories.”
Fruits like avocados and apples, and citrus fruits like oranges and bananas also are sources of soluble fiber. Some provide folate, a vitamin that helps keep your heart healthy. Vegetables that lower cholesterol include broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, carrots, sweet potatoes and asparagus.
“You can’t expect lower levels by eating one or two of these foods occasionally,” McIntyre said. “Following a balanced low fat diet, being regularly active and maintaining a healthy weight are also important.”
|Foods that can help
lower your cholesterol