Cholesterol isn’t all bad news. Follow these tips to lower your cholesterol, the natural way.
Chances are, you’ve heard a thing or two about cholesterol. Having high blood cholesterol is a risk factor for developing heart disease.
But did you know that you can reduce your cholesterol level by making smart food choices? It’s true!
Before we get to the details, let’s be clear on what we’re talking about. For years, cholesterol has had a bad rep that it doesn’t really deserve. The truth is, we need cholesterol to function. Your body makes most of the cholesterol it needs. The rest comes from foods you eat.
Here’s the important thing: Dietary cholesterol – found in meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products – has less impact on increasing your blood cholesterol level. Foods that contain lots of saturated and trans fat are the true culprits.
Now here’s how to make nutritious choices to lower your blood cholesterol.
1. Keep eating simple.
In the last 20 years, the rules on healthy eating have shifted. Super restrictive diets aren’t sustainable or the healthiest choice. Rather than zeroing in on a single nutrient, nutrition research shows the quality of your diet matters more. A diet filled with the right portions of whole, unprocessed foods can help decrease heart disease and stroke. What does that look like? For a healthy, balanced eating plan:
Choose whole grains. Look for whole grain breads, barley, oats (including oatmeal) quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, farro etc.
Add more vegetarian options like beans, lentils, tofu and nuts to your weekly meal plans. And opt for lean cuts of meat, poultry and fish.
Choose lower-fat dairy products with no added sugar. Pick 1% or skim milk, plain yogurt and lower fat cheeses.
As a rule of thumb, steer clear of highly processed foods, even if they are lower in fat content. Low-fat or diet foods are often loaded with calories, sodium and added sugar.
Read Nutrition Facts panels and choose foods that contain no trans fat. Avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated fat or vegetable shortening.
2. Cook at home.
Home-cooking is usually more nutritious and wallet-friendly than eating out. By choosing your ingredients, you’re in control of the flavour and can avoid excess sugar, salt and fat. Need a break from the kitchen? Choose restaurants that serve freshly made dishes, use natural, minimally-processed ingredients and provide nutrition information, for healthy, informed choices.
3. Sneak more fibre into your diet.
Studies show eating fibre, especially the soluble type that’s found in oats, barley, oranges and eggplant, can help lower unhealthy cholesterol levels. However, to obtain those heart-healthy benefits, adults would need to consume between 21 to 38 g every day. Most of us get about half that amount. The good news is there are easy – and tasty – ways to fix that.
The next time you’re feeling hungry, snack on fruit – with the skin on – for a sweet treat. And ditch the juice; you won’t find fibre there. Raw veggies are another awesome source of fibre, among other good things, and low calorie to boot. You can get creative by sneaking kale, spinach or arugula into your next meal. Try Chickpea tomato stew for two and Mocha fruit Bircher muesli for tasty ways to get more fibre.
Each of these options will provide you with two grams:
- ½ ripe avocado
- ¼ cup dried figs
- 1 large orange
- ½ cup sweet potato
- ¾ cup broccoli
- ¾ cup oat bran
- ¼ cup bran buds
- ¾ cup chickpeas
- 2 tbsp flax seeds
- 3/4 cup eggplant
Filling up on fibre isn’t always easy. If you’re still not getting enough fibre through food, a supplement like psyllium fibre can help make up what you’re missing.
Get more facts on cholesterol and learn how to lower your risk.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation thanks Metamucil for providing the funds to make development of this resource possible.
This publication has been independently researched, written and reviewed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and is based on scientific evidence. Acceptance of financial support by the Heart and Stroke Foundation does not constitute an endorsement.