Cholesterol refers to a waxy substance that your liver produces. It is mainly produced as you eat more animal products such as eggs, meat, and dairy. Eating lots of saturated fats can put you at risk of an increased cholesterol.
Before you term cholesterol as a perpetually dangerous ingredient, bear in mind that it is of different types.
The good cholesterol or the HDL cholesterol can be beneficial for your overall health whereas the bad type i.e. the LDL cholesterol can be dangerous. In oxidized form, LDL cholesterol can increase the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.
This is because LDL cholesterol in oxidized form can stick with the walls of your arteries and develop into plaques. These plaques can completely clog your blood vessels.
Wondering how to reduce cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart diseases? Keep reading.
- Eat More Soluble Fiber
You can get soluble fiber in large amounts from legumes, beans, flaxseeds, whole grains, citrus fruits, and apples.
Humans do not have the enzymes required to break down this fiber hence, it keeps moving through your digestive system and absorbs water on its way to form a thick paste. As it travels, the soluble fiber also absorbs bile, a substance that your liver generates to help digest fat. Eventually, fiber attached with the bile gets excreted in the stool.
Bile consists of a high amount of cholesterol. So, when your liver produces bile, it must pull out a lot of cholesterol out of your blood. This helps lower down the cholesterol levels naturally.
Consuming fiber on a regular basis is linked with a reduction in the total cholesterol as well as the LDL cholesterol up to 5 to 10 percent. This effect can be seen in about four weeks or so.
You are recommended to eat up to 10 grams of soluble fiber every day to experience the maximum cholesterol-lowering effects. Benefits can even occur at lower intakes of 3 grams on a daily basis.
- Consume Fruits and Vegetables
Eating lots of vegetables and fruits is a confirmed way to get rid of excess LDL cholesterol circulating in your blood. Studies have indicated that consuming four servings of fruits every day are able to lower their LDL cholesterol levels by 6 percent as compared to the people eating less than two servings per day.
But why does this happen?
Both vegetables and fruits consist of a high number of antioxidants. These agents stop the LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and converting into plaques. In this way, the risk of clogged arteries is greatly reduced.
The antioxidant effect together with the cholesterol-lowering properties of veggies and fruits can drastically reduce the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular complications. This extremely healthy habit can even reduce the risk of heart diseases by 17%.
- Use Spices and Herbs
Spices and herbs are referred to as the nutritional powerhouses that are packed with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Human studies have indicated that ginger, turmeric, and garlic can be particularly useful in lowering the cholesterol levels if you eat them on a regular basis.
In fact, eating only one clove of garlic on a daily basis for three months can help reduce the cholesterol levels by 9 percent.
In addition to reducing the total cholesterol, spices and herbs are rich in antioxidants that stop the LDL cholesterol from oxidizing. In this way, these spices can reduce the formation of plaques in the arteries.
Herbs and spices are not usually eaten in larger quantities. However, they can significantly contribute to the number of antioxidants consumed on a daily basis.
What are some of the herbs and spices that may benefit you maximally?
Sage, dried oregano, clove, thyme, mint, cinnamon, and allspice contain the highest levels of antioxidants. Other than this, you can try eating cilantro, dill, marjoram, and fresh oregano.
- Go for Unsaturated Fats
There are two main types of fats found in your food: saturated and unsaturated.
Saturated fats do not have any double bonds and are usually straight. This allows them to get packed together and exist in a solid form at room temperature.
Unsaturated fats consist of at least one double bond. They are present in the form of a bent shape which does not let them join tightly. This is why such fats exist in the form of liquids at room temperature.
Research has shown that replacing a major part of your daily intake of saturated fats with the unsaturated ones can decrease the total body cholesterol by 9 percent. At the same time, this can also cause 11 percent reduction in the LDL cholesterol in eight weeks only.
It has also been found that people concentrating more on the unsaturated fats and less on the saturated ones tend to decrease their total cholesterol levels over the time.
You can get an ample amount of heart-healthy unsaturated fats from different food items such as nuts, fatty fish, olives, and avocados, so remember to eat them regularly.
- Say No to Artificial Trans Fats
Trans fats naturally tend to occur in a lot of food items such as red meat and dairy. However, for most of the people, the main source is the artificial trans fat that is commonly used in a lot of processed foods.
Artificial trans fats are usually produced by hydrogenation or adding hydrogen to the unsaturated fats, for example, vegetable oils. This alters their structures and solidifies them even at the room temperature.
Trans fats are considered as a cheap alternative to the natural saturated fats. Hence, they are broadly used by different food manufacturers and restaurants. However, it has been proven that this artificially produced trans fat can be dangerous for you.
The artificial trans fats can greatly increase the levels of LDL cholesterol and lower the amount of HDL cholesterol in the blood. Such types of fats can even increase the risk of heart diseases.
While you are out shopping for grocery, watch out for the words “partially hydrogenated” in the list of ingredients. This term is used when the food contains trans fat which must be avoided for a good heart health.
Trans fats occurring naturally in dairy and meat products are also not good for your body. They can increase the LDL cholesterol levels and the risk of heart diseases.
- Cut Back on Added Sugars
It’s not only trans and saturated fats you must avoid to decrease your cholesterol levels. Eating too much sugar can do the same thing.
One study has established that the adults who consume 25 percent of their calories from beverages made using high-fructose corn syrup tend to experience a 17 percent increase in their LDL cholesterol levels in a matter of two weeks only.
Whats even more troubling is that fructose directly increases the number of oxidized LDL cholesterol particles. These particles then increase the risk of heart diseases to a great extent.
As per the American Heart Association, women must not eat any more than 100 calories of 23 grams of added sugar on a daily basis. For men, this criterion is set at 150 calories or 37.5 grams per day.
So, be careful while shopping and don’t forget to pay attention to the labels to make sure that you are getting products without any added sugars.