How This Helps

Various studies have shown that diet can play an essential role in lowering your cholesterol levels. Just a few small tweaks to your meals, along with some healthy lifestyle habits, can help you reduce the levels of bad 'LDL' cholesterol. Here are some foods that should be a part of your shopping list if you want to lower your cholesterol.  But first, let us understand why high cholesterol may be harmful to your health.

Why is high cholesterol harmful?

Cholesterol is found naturally in the body as well as in animal products such as dairy, eggs, and meat. While cholesterol is an integral part of every cell in the body, but excess cholesterol that is introduced through the consumption of animal products, it can throw off the balance of cholesterol in the body.[1]

LDL or low-density lipoprotein is often referred to as bad cholesterol. When your intake of animal products increases, the body tries to compensate for the excessive levels of cholesterol by lowering the amount of naturally produced cholesterol. On the other hand, when your consumption of dietary cholesterol is low, the body will automatically increase the production of cholesterol to make sure that there are sufficient levels of cholesterol that are needed by the cell membranes to maintain their flexibility and strength.[2]

Research has shown that while the consumption of dietary cholesterol does not make a considerable impact on the body's cholesterol levels, however, it is known to increase the risk of heart disease and other lifestyle diseases, including cancer.[3, 4, 5] Your diet is the easiest way in which you can lower the levels of LDL cholesterol and also reduce the risk of heart disease.[6]  There are several foods that should definitely be a part of your low cholesterol food list. These foods are not only beneficial for your overall health, but they actively work to lower your cholesterol as well. So as part of a healthy diet, here is a low cholesterol food list that you can refer to while you are out shopping for groceries.

See: How To Lower Blood Pressure Naturally

Low Cholesterol Food List: Fruit and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are very important when it comes to your overall health, not just for reducing cholesterol levels. Fruits and vegetables are also known to lower the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and even some cancers. 

Fruits and vegetables are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and plant chemicals. The wide variety of fruits and vegetables enable you to prepare them in different ways, thus preventing boredom from setting in. 

Eating five types of vegetables and two fruits every day is known to be excellent for maintaining good health.[7]

Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, contain almost no fat, and they also help you maintain a healthy weight.[8] Consider this as well that if you are binging on fruits and vegetables, then the chances are that you automatically have lesser time to binge on unhealthy, processed foods. 

Since fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, they are especially helpful in reducing cholesterol.[9] Certain types of fiber are known to lower cholesterol by blocking it from being reabsorbed into the bloodstream.[10, 11]

Your low cholesterol food list from fruits and vegetables can include the following:

·        Leafy green veggies: Spinach, lettuce, kale, silverbeet[12]

·        Marrow: Cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin

·        Cruciferous: Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts

·        Root: Sweet potato, yam, potato

·        Edible plant stem: Asparagus, celery

·        Allium: Garlic, shallot, onion

·        Fruits: apples and pears

·        Citrus fruits: grapefruits, limes, oranges, mandarins

·        Stone fruit: Apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines

·        Tropical and exotic fruits: mangoes and bananas

·        Berries: Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, passionfruit, kiwifruit

·        Melons: Honeydew melons, rockmelons, watermelons

·        Tomatoes and avocados

See: Heart healthy diet plan to prevent heart disease

Low Cholesterol Food List: Legumes

Also known as pulses, legumes are plant foods that include peas, beans, and lentils. Legumes are a powerhouse of fiber, minerals, and protein. Replacing some processed meats from your diet as well as cutting down on some refined grains with legumes can significantly lower the risk of heart-related conditions. 

A review of several controlled studies found that consuming just half a cup of legumes per day is highly effective in lowering LDL cholesterol by nearly 6.6 mg/dl.[13]

Legumes are not only a great source of plant-based protein, but some studies have also found that legumes are great for weight loss.[14]

See: Strawberries nutrition health benefits

Low Cholesterol Food List: Fatty Fish

Fatty fishes are some of the greatest sources of omega-3 fatty acids that enhance heart health, lower inflammation, increase the levels of good cholesterol, and also reduce the risk of heart disease. These include mackerel, tuna, and salmon.

A 25-year study on adults found that those who consumed the most amount of non-fried fish were least likely to develop metabolic syndrome, which is a condition marked by symptoms such as high blood pressure or hypertension.[15]

However, this does not mean that you start having fried fish every day. The healthiest way to cook fish to retain their nutrient content is by stewing or steaming.

See: How long does it take to reduce cholesterol

Low Cholesterol Food List: Whole Grains

Whole grains are well-known to reduce the risk of heart disease and also provide more fiber than refined grains. They provide you with vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds. A review of many studies found that consuming at least three servings of whole grains every day helps lower the risk of stroke and heart disease by 20 percent.[16]

Whole grains such as oats and barley are rich in beta-glucan, which is a type of fiber. Try to include at least 3 grams of beta-glucan daily to your healthy low cholesterol diet.[17]

See: Ayurvedic Diet

Summary

Adding a diverse range of foods to your diet will help you lower cholesterol. Adding these foods to your shopping list will ensure that you are focusing on lowering cholesterol in different ways, which increases the chances of reducing your risk for heart disease as well.  Apart from the foods mentioned here, there are also many other options you can include in your low cholesterol food lists such as almonds, walnuts, dark chocolate, cocoa, soy foods, tea, extra virgin olive oil, foods fortified with stanols and sterols such as granola bars, chocolate, and orange juice, and many others. A diet heavy in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts will be good for not just lowering cholesterol, but for your overall health.

See: Hiatal Hernia Diet

References

1. Huff, T., and Jialal, I., 2019. Physiology, cholesterol.

2. Brown, M.S., and Goldstein, J.L., 1984. How LDL receptors influence cholesterol and atherosclerosis. Scientific American, 251(5), pp.58-69.

3. Vance, J.E., 2012. Dysregulation of the cholesterol balance in the brain: contribution to neurodegenerative diseases. Disease models & mechanisms, 5(6), pp.746-755.

4. Liu, J.P., Tang, Y., Toh, B.H., Zhou, S., McLean, C., and Li, H., 2010. Cholesterol involvement in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases. Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, 43(1), pp.33-42.

5. Asia Pacific Cohort Studies Collaboration, 2003. Cholesterol, coronary heart disease & stroke in the Asia Pacific region. International journal of epidemiology, 32(4), pp.563-572.

6. Authors/Task Force Members: Perk, J., De Backer, G., Gohlke, H., Graham, I., Reiner, Ž., Verschuren, M., Albus, C., Benlian, P., Boysen, G. and Cifkova, R., 2012. European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in the clinical practice (ver 2012) The Fifth Joint Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology & Other Societies on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice (constituted by representatives of nine societies & by invited experts) Developed with the special contribution of the European EACPR (Association for Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation). European heart journal, 33(13), pp.1635-1701.

7. Ruel, G., Zhen, S., Shi, Z., Zuo, H., Kröger, E., Sirois, C., Lévesque, J.F., and Taylor, A.W., 2014. Association between nutrition & the evolution of multimorbidity: the importance of fruits & vegetables and whole-grain products. Clinical Nutrition, 33(3), pp.513-520.

8. Kader, A., 2001. Importance of fruits, nuts, and vegetables in human nutrition and health. Perishables handling quarterly, 106(4), p.6.

9. El-Arab, A.E., 2009. A diet rich in leafy-vegetable fiber improves cholesterol metabolism in high-cholesterol fed rats. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 12(19), p.1299.

10. Jenkins, D.J., Kendall, C.W., Mehling, C.C., Parker, T., Rao, A.V., Agarwal, S., Novokmet, R., Jones, P.J., Raeini, M., Story, J.A. and Furumoto, E., 1999. The combined effect of vegetable protein (soy) and soluble fiber added to a standard cholesterol-lowering diet. Metabolism, 48(6), pp.809-816.

11. Anderson, J.W., Smith, B.M., and Gustafson, N.J., 1994. Health benefits & practical aspects of high-fiber diets. American journal of clinical nutrition, 59(5), pp.1242S-1247S.

12. Agte, V.V., Tarwadi, K.V., Mengale, S., and Chiplonkar, S.A., 2000. Potential of traditionally cooked green leafy vegetables as the natural sources for the supplementation of eight micronutrients in the vegetarian diets. The Journal of Food Composition & Analysis, 13(6), pp.885-891.

13. Ha, V., Sievenpiper, J.L., R.J., Jayalath, De Souza, V.H., Mirrahimi, A., Agarwal, A., Chiavaroli, L., Mejia, S.B., Sacks, F.M., Di Buono, M. and Bernstein, A.M., 2014. Effect of dietary pulse intake on the established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review & meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Cmaj, 186(8), pp.E252-E262.

14. Kim, S.J., De Souza, R.J., Choo, V.L., Ha, V., Cozma, A.I., Chiavaroli, L., Mirrahimi, A.,  Di Buono, M., Blanco Mejia, S., Bernstein, A.M. and Leiter, L.A., 2016. Effects of dietary pulse consumption on the body weight: a systematic review & meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. American journal of clinical nutrition, 103(5), pp.1213-1223.

15. Kim, Y.S., Xun, P., Iribarren, C., L., Steffen, L., Van Horn, Daviglus, M.L., Siscovick, D., Liu, K. and He, K., 2016. Intake of fish & long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids & incidence of metabolic syndrome among American young adults: a 25-year follow-up study. European journal of nutrition, 55(4), pp.1707-1716.

16. Aune, D., Keum, N., Giovannucci, E., Fadnes, L.T., Boffetta, P., Greenwood, D.C., Tonstad, S., Vatten, L.J., Riboli, E. and Norat, T., 2016. Whole-grain consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer cause-specific mortality: systematic review & dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ, 353, p.i2716.

17. Braaten, J.T., Wood, P.J., Scott, F.W., Wolynetz, M.S., Lowe, M.K., Bradley-White, P., and Collins, M.W., 1994. Oat beta-glucan reduces blood cholesterol concentration in hypercholesterolemic subjects. European journal of clinical nutrition, 48(7), pp.465-474. 

See: Garlic Health Benefits, Nutrition & Side Effects

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