Your top 3 foods for lowering your cholesterol include foods that are amongst the tastiest in your diet. For the most part, LDL cholesterol (the “bad” one) can be controlled by diet fairly well. But you can raise it by eating too much of three different kinds of foods:
- The first is trans-fatty acids. These are originally unsaturated fats that have been heat treated, such as margarines, oils that have been used in deep frying, or heat treated to stabilize them on the shelf. Many packaged food has trans fats in them. Read the labels, these fats are the most dangerous! Butter is much healthier than margerine, despite what you’ve been hearing, because it has many good fatty acids not found in other foods.
- The second is saturated fat, that is, fat that is found mostly in foods that come from animals, this includes fat in milk and cheese and the fat in meats. Some plant-based foods are high in saturated fats, such as coconuts, but coconut fat is shown to be healthy because the fatty acid chains are shorter than those found in animal products.
- The last is dietary cholesterol, which is found in animal products. Barring heat treated fats, too much saturated fat raises your LDL much more than cholesterol in your diet. Your liver will make up for too large a deficit of cholesterol in your diet because cholesterol is necessary for survival.
Now that we know what foods can raise cholesterol, let’s talk about some super foods that actually lower cholesterol.
- Foods, such as nuts, which are high in polyunsaturated fats, help reduce your serum cholesterol: the oil in whole raw nuts is stabilized compared to extracted oils, meaning they are much healthier. Especially good are walnuts and almonds, but could also include other nuts.There are other benefits of nuts: walnuts are known to help keep blood vessels healthy decreasing your risk of heart disease. According to the Food and Drug Administration, eating about a handful (1.5 ounces, or 42.5 grams) a day of most nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts, may reduce your risk of heart disease. But, this does not include nuts that are salted or coated with sugar. Plus, make sure that you limit yourself to just a handful because all nuts are high in calories. Try replacing foods that are high in saturated fat with nuts. An easy way to this is to add a handful of walnuts or almonds instead of using cheese, meat or croutons in your salad. Sounds delicious.
- Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are important to have in your diet, especially for controlling your cholesterol. Fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, have the highest concentrations. Flax seed is another source. Not only do they control cholesterol, but help reduce your blood pressure, help relieve arthritis symptoms, and are great for your skin. For those that have suffered heart attacks, increasing omega-3 fatty acids in their diet helps reduce the risk of sudden death. It is recommended to eat at least two servings of fish a week. The highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, salmon and halibut. In order to avoid adding unhealthy fat you should bake or grill the fish. If you do not like fish, you can also get small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from foods like ground flaxseed. Or alternatively, take krill oil or cod liver oil caps.
- Soluble fiber. Although there is some controversy due to recent reports, 5 to 10 grams or more can make an impact on your LDL as well as your total cholesterol. Foods high in soluble fiber are also delicious: oatmeal (especially oat bran), apples, bananas, pears, barley, pinto beans and prunes.
So, not only do these top 3 foods lower cholesterol, they are also delicious and can add a lot of variety to your diet. I know that we tend to like routines and favorite foods, me included, but reading things like this inspires me to go out and try new things. I think I’ll go make some fish with nuts on top tonight. What about you?