Cholesterol can be a tricky thing to wrap your head around. It’s hard to keep up with what you’re supposed to be eating and what you’re supposed to be avoiding. But most of the foods laden with cholesterol are also heavy in saturated fats and other things you want to avoid. What you need to know about cholesterol is that we all have it in our blood and it cannot dissolve on its own. It needs to be couriered to and from your cells by lipoproteins. If the cholesterol isn’t able to get processed, it sticks to our arteries and causes problems for your blood.
Good cholesterol, or high density lipoprotein (HDL) protects you from heart attacks, strokes, and other types of heart disease related to the presence of plaque in your arteries. The bad cholesterol is the low density lipoprotein (LDL). This is the type of cholesterol that builds up in the blood and hardens on the arteries. It contributes to clots and trouble for your heart and brain.
The goal then is to reduce the bad cholesterol and increase the good. There are drugs that can help with that, but the best way to get a handle on your cholesterol level is by watching your diet. There are foods that contribute to LDL and foods that contribute to HDL. Leave the processed, salt-heavy packaged foods behind and create a diet that is full of fresh, healthy options. The following foods can turn back your bad cholesterol and give you healthier, happier arteries.Oats. Full of soluble fiber which will help bring down the bad cholesterol and keep your arteries flexible, oats pack a huge and healthy punch. Scientists believe that the fiber-heavy oats become soggy when they work their way through your digestive system. As they break down into soggy, sticky substances, they latch onto the cholesterol floating around in your blood and carry it out of your body for you. Instead of absorbing the cholesterol, oats help your body get rid of it. The Food and Drug Administration allows manufacturers of oats and oatmeal to declare their food “heart healthy.” It is when you keep it simple. Look for whole oats instead of products that have large amounts of sugar added to them. Or make your own oatmeal and oat muffins. Cereals made from oats are also a good option.Nuts. Lots of people shy away from nuts when they are eating healthy because they’re worried about the calorie count. Yes, nuts are higher in calories than a lot of other foods, but the benefits they provide outweigh the caloric density. Remember that not every calorie is created equal. It’s much better to get 200 calories from a handful of nuts than a bag of potato chips. Nuts have a huge impact on keeping your cholesterol levels healthy. Almonds, walnuts, and peanuts are great for you. It’s been proven that eating two ounces of nuts per day can lower your LDL. In addition to fighting cholesterol, nuts are full of heart benefits. They are easy to eat as a snack, or you can use them to make healthy substitutes in other recipes. For example, sprinkle chopped almonds on a salad instead of croutons.Whole Grains. Like oats, other whole grains high in soluble fiber can bring down your cholesterol levels in positive ways. Barley and bran are great fiber-producing grains. It’s important for you to know the difference between a whole grain and a refined grain. When you eat whole grains, you’re getting more fiber and nothing has been processed out of the original grain. Whole grain breads, wheat pastas, and brown rice are examples of a whole grain. Refined grains have been milled, which means the most valuable parts of the grain are removed. Flour, enriched breads, and white pastas and rice are all made from refined grains. To lower your cholesterol, you want to focus on whole grains and avoid anything refined when you can.Red Wine. It may seem too good to be true that alcohol can have a positive effect on your health, but when it comes to red wine and cholesterol, it’s true. Research has shown that not only does a moderate alcohol intake increase your HDL, red wine specifically can also bring down your LDL. That’s due to the powerful flavonoids in red wine, which carry into your blood antioxidants that are ready to chase away the bad cholesterol while assisting the good cholesterol. Don’t overindulge; one or two glasses of red wine per day are all that’s recommended.Fruit. Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes are a great addition to your diet when you’re trying to lower your cholesterol. Don’t forget the berries: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cranberries are all great for your blood. These fruits are full of pectin, which is a big help, turning into that very-valuable soluble fiber and carrying the cholesterol right out of your body. Other fruits like apples and grapes can help raise the level of antioxidants in your blood and reduce cholesterol’s ability to do any damage. Try to eat your fruit raw and fresh. Sprinkle some berries onto your oatmeal for a double burst of cholesterol lowering food.Beans. Pick your favorite bean: Navy bean? Pinto bean? Kidney bean? Black bean? All of them are generous in soluble fiber, which means your cholesterol level will drop when you eat more beans. The best thing about beans (other than their power to bring down that LDL cholesterol count) is their versatility. You can sauté some garbanzo beans in a little olive oil and garlic, stir some black beans into a soup, or make a breakfast burrito with pinto beans and salsa. You’re also getting a lot of protein with each serving and when you choose beans as a protein source instead of meats that have more saturated fat, you’re making an impact on your cholesterol.Eggplant. The eggplant, gorgeous and purple with its shiny skin and its tasty texture, is another excellent food for fighting cholesterol. It’s low in calories and very high in fiber, which means it will be able to attack and absorb the cholesterol in your blood before it gets a chance to harden in your arteries. The fiber helps you to feel full after you’ve eaten eggplant too, which means you won’t be tempted to supplement your food intake with unhealthy choices. Try it grilled or sautéed with other vegetables. If you’re not a fan of eggplant, try okra which is similar but a little sweeter and also proven to be excellent at fighting off bad cholesterol.
Changing your diet is the best way to lower your cholesterol. Don’t forget to exercise as well. Being overweight leads to a lot of health problems, including issues with your cholesterol. If you’re eating more of these cholesterol-friendly foods and getting all the physical activity you can and you’re still not seeing results in your blood tests, talk to your doctor about a supplement. You can take fiber supplements that will help to flush out the cholesterol you don’t want. Foods that have sterols added to them will also help. It’s a compound extracted from plants that helps the body absorb cholesterol from the blood. They are available as supplements, and you can also find them added to things like margarine and even snack foods such as granola bars.
Stay away from foods that are packed with saturated fats, trans fats, and other additives. You don’t want to make it harder for the arteries in your body to work. Focus on whole foods: fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and secret agent foods like oats and beans to keep your heart healthy and your cholesterol level in check.