We need cholesterol to make hormones and tissues, but if it’s not regulated, it can lead to other complications like heart disease and stroke. High cholesterol is a major risk factor in the development of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide. Causes of high cholesterol can be attributed to factors like our genetics, age, race, and gender, which there isn’t much we can do about. However, areas that we can modify, like our lifestyle habits, including physical activity and diet, can be altered to improve cholesterol levels and overall heart health.
When looking at cholesterol risk for heart disease, the goal is to have a low LDL and a high HDL. HDL is our good cholesterol that patrols the bloodstream highway, removes the build-up of bad cholesterol on vessels, and brings it back to the liver for excretion. Therefore, we all want to strive for high HDL levels, as it’s associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Many of the foods below are high in heart-healthy fats like omegas, which raise HDL levels and help support the entire cardiovascular system!
- Fiber: Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol in the intestine and then removes excess cholesterol from the body. Fiber also slows digestion and absorption, leading to more balanced blood sugar levels. Fiber also helps with weight loss, lowering blood pressure, and improving cholesterol. Most fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provide a good source of fiber, as well as beans and lentils.
- Fish: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel help reduce triglycerides and increase HDL levels, which ultimately reduces LDL as well. Eating fish twice a week also helps lower blood pressure and the risk for blood clots by providing a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Nuts & Seeds: Most nuts, with the exception of peanuts, are considered a good source of heart-healthy omega fats. This includes nut butters as well, like almond or cashew butter. Nuts are a powerful monounsaturated fat that increases HDL levels and blocks other cholesterol from being absorbed. Chia & flax seeds are also shown to improve cholesterol levels.
- Whole Grains: Oats are also high in fiber, providing all the cholesterol-lowering benefits and more. Look for whole grains that are high in fiber.
- Olive Oil & Avocados: Olive oil is a great source of monounsaturated fat that’s also packed with antioxidants to reduce inflammation and cholesterol levels. Avocados are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber so this one has bonus benefits!
Heart Disease takes someone’s life every 36 seconds. Not trying to shock you, but we should all start adding more of these foods to our diet to start improving cholesterol levels today and reduce the risk of future heart disease.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health conditions without consulting your healthcare provider. Information used is based on experience and opinion, not 100% evidence. Always consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website.