Whether you’ve been told that you have particularly high cholesterol levels, you’ve suffered from illnesses related to high cholesterol, or you’re simply looking to change up your lifestyle and get healthier, it’s important that you know which foods you should be consuming to lower cholesterol.
In this article, I’m going to share with you the top 8 superfoods that are proven to lower cholesterol, as well as let you know which types of foods you should be avoiding.
But first, let’s talk about why having high levels of cholesterol is bad for you, so you understand why you need to keep them low.
Why Is Having High Cholesterol Levels Bad For You?
Cholesterol is a substance found in your blood, and the body actually needs a certain level of cholesterol to build cells and make hormones. Cholesterol is made in the liver and comes from the foods that you eat.
There are two types of cholesterol, HDL and LDL. HDL (high-density lipoproteins) cholesterol is the healthy and ‘good’ type of cholesterol that your body needs, as it reduces the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or the ‘bad’ cholesterol in your bloodstream.
However, if you have high levels of LDL cholesterol for a prolonged period of time, you begin to develop fatty deposits in your blood, and if this high level of cholesterol isn’t lowered, these fatty deposits will grow and make it hard for blood to properly flow throughout the body. This can then potentially cause serious health issues such as strokes and heart attacks.
So, obviously, it’s essential that you constantly keep your levels of LDL cholesterol low to reduce the likelihood of serious illnesses occurring. You can keep this level low by consuming certain foods that we’re going to take a look at below.
8 Superfoods Proven To Lower Cholesterol
Although avocados do contain fats, these fats are unsaturated fats (both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats) that are healthy types of fats needed for optimum health!
The types of fats within avocados and are linked with lowering LDL cholesterol levels and increasing HDL cholesterol levels in the blood, therefore benefitting blood and heart health.
Barley grass is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and soluble fiber. The antioxidants in barley grass will help to stop cholesterol in the blood from blocking the artery walls and stopping blood flow.
The soluble fiber (also known as beta-glucan) in barley grass also soaks up liquid in the digestive system and blocks the absorption of bad cholesterol. So, as a whole, barley grass is a powerful food to help you lower cholesterol!
Kale contains carotenoids that stop cholesterol from hardening artery walls in the way that antioxidants do, and it contains bile acid sequestrants, which support the body with excreting cholesterol.
In addition, kale contains lutein, which is linked with lowering the risk of heart-related illnesses such as heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. So, kale not only lowers cholesterol levels, but it actively protects the heart too!
Spinach, another dark leafy green, helps to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Spinach has over 6 grams per cup of insoluble fiber that pulls fats and cholesterol from the small intestines and secretes it. This, therefore, means that this cholesterol isn’t being absorbed into the blood, so it doesn’t have the chance to block up the arteries.
Spinach also contains lutein, just like kale, which reduces the risk of heart-related illnesses.
Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help to increase HDL cholesterol in the body and reduce LDL cholesterol. Chia seeds are also a great source of soluble fiber, meaning they absorb liquids in the digestive system and therefore promote the excretion of cholesterol.
Berries, in particular blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, help to lower levels of cholesterol. This is because these berries are packed with pectin, a soluble fiber that is proven to lower cholesterol by up to 10%, and because they have high levels of antioxidants that inhibit cholesterol from blocking up artery walls.
Legumes, Including Lentils, Chickpeas, And Beans
Legumes, including lentils, chickpeas, and beans, are great to eat if you want to lower cholesterol. The soluble and insoluble fibers in these legumes lower the cholesterol that’s absorbed by the body and support the excretion of cholesterol.
Research has shown that if you have ¾ cup of legumes daily, your LDL cholesterol levels may decrease by up to 5%.
Nuts, specifically walnuts, almonds, and peanuts, help to lower cholesterol levels. This is because nuts contain plant compounds called phytosterols that act like HDL cholesterol and therefore reduce levels of LDL cholesterol. Nuts are also rich in soluble fiber, lowering the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the body.
In addition, nuts, specifically walnuts, contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that boost HDL cholesterol and reduce LDL cholesterol.
Which Types of Foods Do You Need To Avoid?
Now you know which foods you should be consuming to keep your cholesterol levels low, you obviously also need to know which foods you should be avoiding, because otherwise, your consumption of avocados, legumes, nuts, and leafy greens won’t really make a huge difference.
So, let’s take a look at some of the foods, or types of foods, that you should be avoided if you’re trying to keep your cholesterol low.
Fried food, for example, fried chicken, french fries, and fried fish (although pretty much anything can be fried) increase cholesterol levels and should be avoided as much as possible. This is because fried foods are high calorie and high in trans fats, which increase levels of LDL cholesterol and lower levels of HDL cholesterol.
Processed foods, particularly processed meat, often have high cholesterol and should be avoided if you’re trying to keep your cholesterol low. Processed foods are also typically higher in calories, additives, sugar, and salt, increasing inflammation and causing havoc to the overall health of the body.
Fatty meats, such as beef, pork, and lamb, contain high levels of saturated fats which cause the level of cholesterol in the body to rise, and over time stops the body from working properly to excrete cholesterol, meaning it promotes cholesterol to block the artery walls.
Most red meats are also high in saturated fats, particularly feedlot beef, meaning that consuming this type of meat will increase cholesterol levels, and over time this cholesterol may block artery walls and cause serious illnesses.
Sugary foods, such as cakes, sweets, and chocolate, increase LDL cholesterol levels, lower HDL cholesterol levels, and increase triglycerides, all of which will increase the likeliness of the artery walls becoming blocked, or becoming hard.
The Bottom Line
We should all be keeping a check on the types of foods that we’re consuming in relation to cholesterol. You should be consuming much more low cholesterol foods in comparison to high cholesterol foods, and simply giving high cholesterol foods a miss altogether can do wonders for your health.
If you’re suffering from high cholesterol levels or you’ve experienced heart-related illnesses in the past, it’s imperative that you pass on the high cholesterol foods and start incorporating at least some of these 8 superfoods that lower cholesterol into your diet.
If you’re looking to lead a healthier lifestyle, incorporating a supplement into your diet might also be a good idea.
If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough nutrients, a superfood powder could be a great option for you, and on Lifehacker Guy, I have a myriad of recommendations and product reviews, so feel free to take a look at those!