Cholesterol is a fatty type substance that is produced by the liver and circulates in our blood. Sometimes the liver can produce too much of a particular type of cholesterol which leads to a build up of plaque in the arteries. These plaque build ups in the arteries set the scene for cardiovascular problems such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and heart attack. There is good news though! Healthier levels of cholesterol can be achieved by modifying what you eat. Have a read of my top ten recommended tips to help reduce cholesterol levels.
#10 - Nuts
Eat a handful (30 grams) of nuts and seeds each day! Some might be surprised as they might have heard or read that nuts are full of fat. Yes that is true, but they are actually the healthy fat i.e. monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
They are also jam packed with other nutrients such as fibre which help clear the cholesterol from your body and then excrete it via your bowels. Pretty amazing little gems aren’t they? Just remember to choose the unsalted options to keep your heart happy and healthy.
#9 - Fruit & Veges
Another accessible food with lots of fibre that can also help decrease cholesterol levels are fruit and vegetables. Most of the fibre in fruit and vegetable are found on the skin so include them when you can. For more ideas of high fibre foods, check out this post I wrote with kids health Australia.
#8 - Omega 3’s
Omega 3 foods have been proven to help reduce cholesterol levels. Animal based products can include salmon, sardines, tuna, cod whereas plant based omega 3 foods are chia seeds, avocado, nuts and seeds and olive oil. Try to include some of these foods in your everyday diet and not only might you see an improvement in your cholesterol levels but your hair and nails as well!
#7 - Avoid saturated fats
It is commonly believed that it is the cholesterol in food that increases cholesterol levels in your body, but rather it is the saturated fat (unhealthy fat) that causes it. Saturated fat is found in processed foods including foods with palm oil (pastries, biscuits), full cream dairy products, fatty cuts of meats, processed meat such as salami, devon sausages), cakes, heavy pastry foods (pies, croissants), fried foods and fast foods. These foods are typically high in saturated fat which will only increase your cholesterol levels. Instead, make smart swaps such as homemade treats where you can cut down on some ingredients such as oil and sugar or ask for sauces/dips to be placed on the side so you can control the amount you eat.
#6 - Read food labels
Another tip to limit high saturated foods is to choose products that have less than 3 grams of saturated fat per 100g. Take the extra couple minutes to compare different products and choose the one with lowest saturated fat content per 100g. In order to do this, you need to get familiar with the labels on your foods. Practice reading the food labels and you'll begin to work out for yourself which foods to include in your trolley, and which ones to leave on the supermarket shelf.
#5 - You don't need to eliminate cholesterol from your diet
Foods that contain cholesterol such as eggs or prawns don’t need to completely cut out of your diet. In general, foods higher in cholesterol are also low in saturated fat. Studies have actually demonstrated that consuming large amounts of foods with high saturated fat is a bigger issue and have a greater negative impact on cholesterol levels than eating foods with high cholesterol. Therefore you can still enjoy your eggs on toast! The Heart Foundation recommends that six eggs per week is a safe amount for people with high cholesterol.
#4 - Choose lean cuts
When shopping, buy reduced fat dairy products or choose the leanest cuts of meats as well as trimming any visible fat from meat before cooking. Not only will this benefit those with high cholesterol, but can also positively benefit the family as well by reducing their risk of heart disease through smart dietary choices.
#3 - Choose the right oil
The most recommended oil to use for cooking is olive as it is mostly made up of healthy fats and contains lots of antioxidants which are great for a healthy heart. As for spreads, margarine is recommended over butter as it consists of more healthy fats and less of the unhealthy fats than butter.
#2 - Get your sterols from natural sources
You might have done your own research on lowering cholesterol or heard it from a friend about plant sterols and their role in decreasing cholesterol levels. Plant sterols promote themselves to reduce the body absorption of any cholesterol consumed. Enriched plant sterols foods such as the Proactive Flora margarine require 5 tea spoons of margarine each day in order to receive the benefits of lowering your cholesterol. That is a lot of unnecessary fat and therefore it is best to stick with one teaspoon of margarine and combine with other naturally occurring plant sterol foods such as vegetables, nuts, breads or other enriched plant sterols food such as low fat dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt).
#1 - Maintain a healthy weight
The most important tip in reducing cholesterol levels is making sure your weight is within the healthy weight range. Losing any extra body fat especially around the abdominal area can benefit your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of a number of chronic diseases. Doing some form of physical activity each day is just as important as eating well. Start with small changes such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, catching up with a friend for a walk at the beach or park instead of coffee or even consider a stand up desk if you have an office job.