Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is found in every cell of your body. It is made by your body and is required by your cells to make hormones, Vitamin B, and other key substances that help in food digestion. Some major external sources of cholesterol are eggs, meat, cheese, milk, and yogurt.
Excessive cholesterol in your body can form plaque when combined with other substances in your blood, which sticks to your arteries and leads to coronary artery disease.
What Causes High Cholesterol in Your Body?
The primary cause of high cholesterol in your body is your unhealthy lifestyle, which includes the following:
- Unhealthy Eating Habits
These include eating unhealthy fats – both saturated (e.g. meats, dairy products, deep-fried foods, chocolates etc.) and unsaturated (fried and processed foods) fats, which raise your LDL (good cholesterol).
- Lack of or Almost Zero Physical Activities
A sedentary lifestyle lowers the HDL (good cholesterol) in our body.
- Excessive Smoking
Smoking habit causes reduced HDL cholesterol and raises LDL cholesterol in your body.
Elevated LDL cholesterol levels directly link to an increased risk of heart problems. However, your diet can have some magical effects on your cholesterol levels and other health risks. Here are some magical foods that help lower your LDL cholesterol levels:
Nuts – Almonds and Walnuts
As you probably already know, nuts are exceptionally rich in nutrients and monounsaturated (healthy) fats. Walnuts are full of the omega-3 fatty acids (the plant variety) and a specific type of polyunsaturated fat that is directly associated with your heart health.
On the other hand, almonds are extremely rich in L-arginine that enables your body to generate nitric oxide that regulates blood pressure.
These nuts also provide phytosterols – a plant compound that is similar in structure with cholesterol. It helps lower the absorption of cholesterol in your intestines.
Magnesium, calcium, and potassium found in nuts also reduces your blood pressure and prevents the risk of a heart attack.
Whole Grains – Oats and Barley
Multiple researches have directly associated whole grains with a lower risk of heart diseases. These researches include those 46 studies that concluded eating 3 meals of whole grains a day leads to 20% lower heart disease risk.
People who consumed up to 7 servings of whole grains a day would reap even better health benefits.
As whole grains keep almost all parts of the grain intact, they provide plant compounds, fiber, and minerals to your body. You may have seen all whole grains promoting heart health in general, these two grains are very efficient and noteworthy:
- Oats – Oats are rich in beta-glucan, which is a type of soluble fiber and help reduce cholesterol. If you consume oats regularly, chances are they reduce your overall cholesterol level by 5% and LDL by up to 7%.
- Barley – Barley has similar properties as Oats and helps lower LDL cholesterol.
Dark Chocolate and Cocoa
Dark chocolates are dark because of cocoa as the main ingredient. Believe it or not, but dark chocolates can actually reduce your LDL cholesterol – verified by various studies.
A study involved healthy adults drinking cocoa drinks twice a day over a month. The study concluded a reduction in LDL cholesterol of 6.5 mg/dl, increased HDL cholesterol and reduced blood pressure.
Dark chocolate and cocoa also prevent LDL oxidation in your blood and thus reduce the chances of heart diseases. However, dark chocolates with high added sugar must be avoided, as they have negative effects on your health.
Legumes or pulses are a group of plant-extracted foods, such as lentils, beans, and peas, which contain high amounts of fiber, proteins, and minerals. You can gain health benefits by simply replacing some processed meats and refined grains in your food by legumes.
This will lower your LDL cholesterol, typically up to 6.5 mg/dl as compared to others who avoid legumes.
Also, pulses are directly linked to weight loss.
Fruits and Berries
Fruits are great for your overall health and must be included in your diet for many reasons. Most fruits contain soluble fiber that helps reduce LDL cholesterol in your body.
The soluble fiber in fruits encourages your body to eliminate cholesterol and prevents the production of this compound by your liver.
Pectin is another type of soluble fiber, which lowers your cholesterol by up to 10%, and is found in fruits like apple, strawberries, grapes and citrus fruits.
Bioactive compounds in fruits also help prevent heart disease because of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
You can eat grapes and berries, as they can lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol in your body because of their rich plant compounds.
Garlic is a well-known ingredient used in cooking and has medicinal properties. It contains various powerful plant compounds, such as allicin that helps lower down blood pressure and reduces cholesterol levels in your body.
Since garlic is needed in large amounts to achieve its heart-health-protective properties, various studies prefer using aged supplements because of their more effective properties.
Avocadoes are known for their properties that help in weight loss. They are exceptionally rich in nutrients as well as in both unsaturated fats and fiber. These two nutrients help reduce LDL and HDL cholesterol levels.
Various clinical studies also support the cholesterol-lowering properties of avocados. One study that involved an overweight adult eating one avocado every day resulted in lowered LDL cholesterol in that person.
An analysis of 10 such studies concluded that avocados can be substituted in your diet for other fats in order to lower total cholesterol – LDL and triglycerides.
High levels of cholesterols (both LDL and HDL) increase the risk related to heart problems. You can lower this risk by simply incorporation these healthy foods and supplements into your diet.
Make small changes in your existing lifestyle and include some physical exercises to stay active. Start with a balanced diet today for a healthy body that can ensure good health of your heart.