Having an unhealthy diet and lifestyle for too long can lead to many health problems, one of which is high cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is found in our cells – our bodies do need some cholesterol to regulate our hormones and to produce vitamin D. However, too much cholesterol can trigger health problems such as heart disease. Fortunately, there are many ways to lower cholesterol naturally.
It’s quite common for those with high cholesterol to be prescribed medications to lower their numbers. Medications can help, but unfortunately in most cases they do not address the underlying issues of what lead to high cholesterol in the first place: for most people, the cause is an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle. Fortunately, in those cases where food gets someone into the mess, food can also help them get out; There are certain foods that help lower cholesterol naturally.
Foods to Eat if You Have High Cholesterol
If you are hoping to lower cholesterol naturally by choosing healthy foods, here are 9 to consider:
- Oat bran – While it’s not a magic bullet and has been subject to a lot of hype, oat bran is a high-fiber food that helps lower cholesterol. Oat bran is not only high in fiber, but it also contains beta-glucans which are the keys to its cholesterol-lowering ability.
- Barley – Another high-fiber food, barley is rich in beta-glucans as well. In fact, it has as much as three times the amount of beta-glucan as oat bran.
- Beans – Once again, the combination of high fiber and beta-glucans comes together, this time in the humble bean. Beans also have lecithin, which is a cholesterol-lowering nutrient.
- Garlic and onion – It seems there are few conditions that garlic can’t help. In Europe, garlic is “officially” approved as a treatment for high cholesterol. A clove of garlic a day is said to lower cholesterol by as much as 15 percent. Half an onion a day has a similar effect.
- Sesame seeds – These tasty little seeds are not the only foods with phytosterols – all plant foods have phytosterols to some degree – but they are unusually high in these compounds. Phytosterols are absorbed into the blood, pushing cholesterol out of the way, so to speak.
- Lettuce – Also fairly high in phytosterols, leafy green lettuce is a good food for lowering cholesterol.
- Avocado – Ironically, the high-fat avocado has been shown to help lower cholesterol. It is especially effective when combined with olive oil in the diet.
- Carrots – Carrots are high in pectin, which is a source of fiber that is implicated in lowering cholesterol. Eat a carrot or two a day.
- Apples -Apples are also high in pectin. An apple a day really does keep the doctor away when it comes to cholesterol.
Foods to Avoid
Just as you want to add good foods to your diet in order to lower cholesterol, you also want to avoid foods that cause it to go up in the first place! Here are some of the most common culprits:
- Red meat, especially beef.
- Dairy products, such as cheese, butter, milk and sour cream.
- Processed foods containing trans fats.
Making healthy substitutions will help you lower your cholesterol. For example, try chicken instead of beef. Swap butter for extra virgin olive oil.
Healthy Habits for Lowering Cholesterol
It’s also important to exercise regularly if you want to maintain a healthy level of cholesterol. Part of the reason for this is to promote a healthy weight, while also promoting “good” cholesterol levels with activity. According to health.harvard.edu, “Being overweight and not exercising affect fats circulating in the bloodstream. Excess weight boosts harmful LDL, while inactivity depresses protective HDL. Losing weight if needed and exercising more reverse these trends.”
Striving for a healthy level of cholesterol is a great choice to make for your health. By eating foods that are shown to lower cholesterol, while avoiding those that increase it, you’ll be seeing better numbers in no time.