You don't have to run a marathon every day or eat like a bird to lower your cholesterol. Health studies point to several foods that can help lower your level - but what is cholesterol anyway? There are two main types: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is considered "bad" cholesterol, because it clogs blood vessels and blocks arteries, which can lead to heart attack. HDL cholesterol is considered "good" cholesterol because it transports the LDL cholesterol to the liver where it is processed. In addition to visiting your doctor regularly and following his or her health plan (which may include lifestyle changes and/or taking medication), you can be your own best friend by eating foods that have been proven to assist in lowering "bad" cholesterol.
Nuts • Instead of snacking on potato chips, munch on nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts (make sure they are unsalted). All are an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential for good health but are not produced by our bodies. Eating foods that are high in Omega 3s helps lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.
Fish • Fish and fish oils pack a powerful Omega 3 punch. In the early 1970s, scientists were determined to find out how the Inuit people of Greenland had evaded the cardiovascular problems that plagued the western world. Despite consuming a diet high in fat (mostly from fish and seal meat), the Greenland Inuit were relatively free of such afflictions. The key to their good health, scientists found, was in the fish and seal that made up their regular diet. Both are high in Omega 3s and are an excellent choice for those suffering from high cholesterol.
Flax seeds • Add an extra crunch to your toast by sprinkling on some flax seeds. High in Omega 3 fatty acids as well as fibre, flax seeds are being touted as having numerous benefits, including their ability to help lower cholesterol.
Oats • A hearty breakfast of oatmeal will get each day off to a great start towards lowering your cholesterol. Oats contain soluble fibre, which breaks down while passing through the digestive tract and forms a gel that traps substances that cause high cholesterol. Oats and other foods high in soluble fibre help lower bad cholesterol without diminishing your level of good cholesterol. Consider trading in your white bread for whole grain bread made from oats to help increase your intake.
Plant-based oil • Olive oil and other plant-based oils are a healthy choice for individuals suffering from high cholesterol. Instead of butter, use olive oil in cooking and baking. Olive oil contains antioxidants that assist in lowering bad cholesterol, preventing the hardening of arteries that can lead to heart attack.
Cracking the Myth
Eggs, a cholesterol-rich food, have long been assumed the villains in the battle against high cholesterol. However, a recent research study conducted by a team from the University of Surrey has begun to crack that assumption. In the study, overweight but otherwise healthy volunteers ate two eggs per day for 12 weeks while following a reduced-calorie diet. A control group followed the same diet, minus the eggs. The results? Both groups either experienced a decrease in the level of blood cholesterol, or experienced no change whatsoever. Scientists believe this supports evidence that it is saturated fat (found in processed meats and other foods that have become a regular part of the North American diet) that is responsible for raising cholesterol - not cholesterol-rich foods, like eggs.