ANYONE can ALWAYS benefit from eating cholesterol lowering foods. (Just so we’re clear).
However, if you have a family history of heart disease or if if you have been measured with too high cholesterol at the doctor, foods that lower cholesterol are absolutely essential.
Because as you are no doubt aware, high levels of cholesterol contribute to all sorts of cardiovascular problems. So if that’s you, then focusing on foods low in cholesterol is an even better idea than usual.
Does that mean that you should cut all cholesterol out of your diet? No!
As with all food, the key is to strike a good balance. If you were to cut cholesterol completely out of your diet, your body would then struggle in other ways. For instance with breaking down fat and creating vitamin D.
So you DO need some cholesterol.
And you know what? There’s both good cholesterol and bad cholesterol.
These are some of the things I aim to tell you with these pages about cholesterol.
All free, of course.
What Is Cholesterol?
Before you start trying to hunt down foods low in cholesterol, it’s a good idea to know what cholesterol is and why your body produces it.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by your liver, and found in every single cell in your body.
It has several major functions, including:
- Keeping cell walls healthy and flexible to deal with your body’s range of temperatures throughout the day
- Making hormones that carry messages to your cells telling them how and when to change
- Making Vitamin D which is essential for helping calcium be absorbed in your intestines, giving you stronger bones
- Creating bile acid which are the parts of your body that are responsible for breaking down fat cells
It’s clear to see that cholesterol is a vital part of your body’s chemical make-up, right? Well, that is why your body automatically produces over 80% of the cholesterol your body needs each day.
So, what about remaining 20%? That percentage comes from your diet. Particularly from foods like meat and dairy products which are foods high in cholesterol.
Basically, you need your diet to include a bit of good cholesterol food, but here’s the really interesting thing:
The more high cholesterol foods you eat, the MORE cholesterol your body will produce on its own, while the more low cholesterol foods you consume, the LESS cholesterol your body will produce on its own.
In other words:
Eat too much cholesterol and you will end up with WAY TOO MUCH cholesterol, and eat too little cholesterol and you will end up with WAY TOO LITTLE cholesterol.
Interesting, right? What is called for is knowledge and – most of all – balance.
Being Busy Leads to Eating High Cholesterol Foods
Lots of people eat fast food.
Why not? We’re busy. Stressed out. So, often, we don’t take the time to eat well but grab something quick.
Here’s the thing: Most common kinds of fast food are generally high cholesterol foods. Thus, fast food will encourage your body to create more of its own cholesterol, and you will end up with too much.
This is why doctors ask people to try eating cholesterol lowering foods as part of a controlled diet.
What’s too much and what’s too little? Let’s look into that.
Sub-pages about Cholesterol:
Good Cholesterol and Bad Cholesterol
To understand what healthy cholesterol levels look like, it’s important to understand the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol.
The low density means that it doesn’t travel through the blood system as well and guess what? It tends to stick on your artery walls. This sticky substance is called plaque, and that’s what’s causing blockages, decreased blood flow and clots.
Hence, the moniker BAD cholesterol!
Good cholesterol, more formally known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL), is carried easily back to the liver to be broken down. No problem there.
There’s another good thing about HDL (good cholesterol), though:
HDL actually attaches itself to LDL (bad cholesterol), so you’ll find that cholesterol with low cholesteroloften have higher levels of HDL cholesterol which is great because the good cholesterol actually has a way of removing the bad cholesterol from your system.
Healthy Cholesterol Levels
When you get your blood tested for cholesterol by your doctor, they will look at the overall amount of cholesterol in your system and the amount of HDL and LDL as well.
A healthy overall level is considered to be anything less than five millimoles (mmol) per liter of blood, with LESS than three mmol of bad cholesterol and MORE than one mmol of good cholesterol.
These are the primary things you need to know and understand about healthy cholesterol levels in the cholesterol range.
If your blood has values outside of that range you’ll probably need to find cholesterol lowering foods to avoid medical problems such as:
- Heart attack
As a general note, it’s almost impossible to cut cholesterol completely out of your diet as there is some present in most forms of protein (nor will you want to).
What you will need to consider when you’re actively aiming for good cholesterol levels is whether what you’re eating or taking is high in HDL or LDL.
Natural Remedies for High Cholesterol
Given that your body’s cholesterol production levels are dictated by the amount of cholesterol that you eat, part of your action plan will be to eat more cholesterol lowering foods.
However, some great natural remedies for high cholesterol will help to kick-start the process. You could try:
• Artichoke leaf extract
– This is a relatively new homeopathic remedy but the initial signs are promising. It may work by inhibiting the amount of cholesterol your body naturally produces. Artichoke leaf extract may also be responsible for increasing the production of bile, which will help to break down the LDL cells.
However, because artichoke leaf extract regulates your body rather than your cholesterol intake, you will need to use it alongside other cholesterol lowering foods and exercise plans.
• Vitamin C
– When vitamin C levels are low in your body, the liver produces more cholesterol to provide the cell membranes with the same health benefits.
Likewise, when levels of the vitamin are high, this signals to your level to decrease levels of production. However, vitamin C is best absorbed when eaten with iron, found in red meat high in cholesterol.
If you do decide to take vitamin C as part of your low cholesterol diet plan, be sure to eat with it iron rich foods such as broccoli and spinach.
– This mineral appears in miniscule properties throughout our blood stream, but is quite important because it is responsible for regulating cholesterol production and blood sugar levels.
It is thought that over 80% of Americans are chromium deficient. Why? Because of diets high in refined sugar which leeches the chromium out of the system!
While you can take chromium as a pill, it is also found in small amounts in cholesterol lowering foods such as grains, nuts, potatoes and yeast based products.
The only downside to taking a chromium supplement is that it is one of the slowest natural remedies for high cholesterol, taking several weeks or months to show decreases in overall cholesterol levels.
Please Use a Holistic Approach for Tackling High Cholesterol Symptoms
In general, you should not take any natural remedies for high cholesterol in isolation. Tackling high cholesterol symptoms requires a holistic approach to changing your whole pattern of life.
There are some commercially available drugs to help manage your levels, but as with all drugs and natural remedies to do with eating habits, it’s better to attempt to tackle the problem at the root. So (while consulting your health care provider) do try make the changes to your diet rather becoming dependent on an outside agent to do the job for you.
Diet Based Cholesterol Remedies
As 20% of your daily cholesterol level comes from the food that you eat throughout the day, it’s clear that eating cholesterol lowering foods will help to decrease your bad cholesterol numbers, as well as your overall cholesterol levels.
Low Cholesterol Foods
As with most diets, all the food that is fun and enjoyable to eat, moderation is the key.
However, there are plenty of LDL lowering foods that you can use to make tasty alternatives to the food you are eating now and find is too high in cholesterol.
Try to have a list of foods low in cholesterol to help make healthy meal plans for each day, maybe place it on the refrigerator or somewhere else in the kitchen, and bring it with you when you are going shopping for food.
A daily intake of between 5 and 10 mg of foods containing soluble fiber can help reduce the overall level of cholesterol because it helps to block the absorption of cholesterol from the food that you eat. This makes it much easier for your body to process naturally.
Being a high source of soluble fiber, oatmeal is one of the best foods for lowering your cholesterol. Starting your day with a breakfast of 2 cups of cooked oatmeal can give you 6 grams of soluble fiber straight away.
Beans, Bananas, Apples and More
Soluble fiber is also available in such foods to lower cholesterol as:
- Kidney beans
White or Red Fish Containing Omega 3 Fish Oil
Any type of white or red fish that contains omega 3 will help to reduce your cholesterol while not technically being cholesterol lowering foods.
Omega 3 will help reduce your blood pressure, which in turn relieves the pressure on your arteries and any blockages within.
Obviously, it will be important not to cook the fish using high fat cooking oils or butter, as the benefits of the omega 3 will then be outweighed by the additional cholesterol you’ll be adding to your body.
You can also take omega 3 fish oil as a food supplement, both in liquid form and in the form of (tasteless) capsules.
Even better, there is a high end food supplement called krill oil which has the same qualities as the best fish oil and is very beneficial in other ways too (some people call krill oil the best fish oil even though krill are actually small crustaceans and not fish).
Among other things, krill oil is heavy in antioxidants.
It may seem strange to have nuts on a list of foods lowering cholesterol given that they are full of fat and protein.
However, the fats you need to worry about are saturated fats, while nuts such as walnuts and almonds contain high levels of polyunsaturated fats, which aren’t really a problem.
Eating a small handful, or around 2 ounces(56 gr.), a day of these nutty foods to lower cholesterol is recommended will help you bring down your cholesterol levels.
It’s important to eat them raw – as any sugar or salt coatings will bump up the calorie content which will put more strain on your heart and arteries.
A good way to approach a low cholesterol diet plan is to be aware of high cholesterol foods:
Foods High In Cholesterol
The American Heart Association recommends 300mg of cholesterol consumption per day for the average person. However, if you have high cholesterol levels, your doctor may advise you to eat much less than this, often going below the 200mg mark.
As a rule, foods high in saturated fat and protein are also high cholesterol foods while foods with high fiber levels tend to be cholesterol lowering foods.
For example, one egg for breakfast provides you with 220mg of cholesterol straight away, and that’s before you’ve added another 50mg or so with full fat milk on your cereal and cream in your coffee. Cheese is also high in both saturated fats and cholesterol, but it is possible to find light versions that have had most of the fat removed.
Meat with a high fat content also contains a large percentage of your daily recommended intake of cholesterol, with a simple 4oz (112 gr.) steak providing around 75 mg, even with all the fat trimmed off. When focusing on LDL lowering foods try to aim for the leanest possible cuts such as tenderloin or tip steak and eat them only in moderation.
Chicken may be a viable alternative to red meat, but you need to be selective about which parts that you eat. A chicken leg with the skin can have more cholesterol than a hamburger.
The best bits to eat will be a skin free chicken breast.
Butter and Dairy Products
Due to the manufacturing process, butter and margarine, and indeed most processed dairy products, are very high in saturated fats and cholesterol, and may contain up to 80% fat.
If you use butter a lot for cooking, consider switching to a spray on oil, which contains fewer calories while still giving you the same frying power.
Mayonnaise also contains a lot of LDL (bad cholesterol), so you’ll need to consider how much you’re spreading on your sandwiches.
If you’re a big fan of seafood, you’ll be disappointed to find out that a 3 ounce (84 gr.) serving of lobster could contain a 61mg serving of cholesterol, and that’s without any added dipping butter.
This can be a quite a dangerous meal out, as the average2 poundlobster will generate about7 ouncesof meat, giving you almost half the average recommended level of cholesterol in one sitting.
The hardest part of avoiding food with high cholesterol levels is that the information about the amount of cholesterol in a certain food is hard to find.
The law requires food producers to provide amounts for the number of calories, saturated fat and salt levels, but cholesterol numbers tend not to make it on food wrappers. This can make finding cholesterol lowering foods difficult, as you’ll have to rely on data you find here, on the internet.
One sure fire way to get the best information on cholesterol levels in food is to talk to a healthcare professional who should be able to give you the right figures and sources of accurate information.
Low Cholesterol Cooking
While it will be important to try and trade foods high in cholesterol with cholesterol lowering foods, it is equally important to think about the way in which you cook your food and the spices that you use to make low cholesterol meals.
It may sound obvious, but the biggest change that you can make is to grill or bake as much of your meat and fish as possible, since frying requires oil or butter that has high quantities of bad cholesterol (LDL).
While butter and margarine are definitely off the table in terms of frying and baking, try substituting olive oil as a way of cooking your foods.
Olive oil, for instance, helps to lower your LDL levels while leaving your HDL (good cholesterol) alone through the sheer numbers of antioxidants it contains.
You can get an even bigger benefit by using extra virgin olive oil, as it doesn’t get processed as much as regular olive oil.
The FDA (the American Food and Drug Administration) recommends replacing other high fat oils with 2 tablespoons of olive oil each day to bring your bad cholesterol count down.
Spices to Add to Your Foods that Lower Cholesterol
Some spices, when added to your foods, will help bring your cholesterol down even further.
Ginger is one of these and comes highly recommended. Ginger naturally prevents blood from clotting which in turn will prevent the arteries from becoming too blocked. This means that the LDL that has stuck to the arterial walls has a larger surface area meaning that it can be broken down by the HDL.
Ginger is spicy making it a great addition to Thai or Indian recipes using other foods low in cholesterol.
You’ll find that recipes ask for ginger in either root or ground form, both of which you can find at your local supermarket.
Treat root ginger as a fresh vegetable, meaning that you’ll need to keep it refrigerated and peel it just before you cook with it.
Ground ginger keeps for a long time if you keep it in an airtight container and in a dark cool place. You’ll generally find ground ginger in baking recipes to give cookies and cakes a bit of a kick.
It contains allyl sulfides, which may help to slow down the liver’s production of cholesterol and help to reduce your blood pressure.
These properties can make garlic one of the best cholesterol lowering foods you can cook with, and it is so versatile in the kitchen that it’s easy to increase your garlic intake each day.
Like with ginger, you can get garlic in whole or ground form. Whole garlic comes in cloves, which you peel then chop or crush. It has an incredibly powerful taste that can be a good substitute for salt, but beware of using to much as it will dominate any other flavors in your dish.
Garlic powder is just dried and ground garlic cloves and gives a more intense flavor to your sauces. However, some believe that the positive cholesterol properties only come from the whole clove.
Low Cholesterol Diet plan
If you’re trying to get control over your body’s cholesterol levels through your diet, you will need to discuss with your doctor about whether you’re going to try eating a low cholesterol diet or just eat foods low in cholesterol. It may sound like a fine distinction but your approach will dictate your low cholesterol diet plan.
As a rule, people with high cholesterol levels will need to be more aggressive towards their problem and seek out foods that lower cholesterol, while a low cholesterol diet is more of a preventative measure.
A low cholesterol diet means that you’re trying to coach your body into producing a lower level of cholesterol by consuming less yourself. As mentioned the body naturally responds to the amount of cholesterol you consume and produces more when you eat more. Therefore, decreasing the amount of cholesterol you eat will decrease the amount that your body produces.
This would mean that you could still put meat and processed dairy products into your meals – but only in moderation. Your low cholesterol diet plan could look like the Weightwatcher’s approach where you allow yourself a set number of milligrams of cholesterol each day so you can have “cholesterol treats”.
The low cholesterol diet plan will work if you have slightly elevated cholesterol levels or if you’re taking early preventative steps based on your genetics (if you have a family history of heart disease).
Actively seeking out cholesterol lowering foods will be necessary if you have high LDL levels (high levels of bad cholesterol). Foods that lower cholesterol will help prevent your liver’s creation of cholesterol, decreasing your blood pressure, and building up your body’s HDL (good cholesterol) levels to combat the bad LDL cholesterol.
A diet consisting mainly of foods low in cholesterol will mean that you won’t really be able to eat the fat, sweet, refined, protein rich stuff that many people consider ‘treats’ because any intake of meat, fat, sugar or dairy will promote cholesterol production.
The Holistic Approach
Eating more foods low in cholesterol is an essential part of lowering your LDL levels, but it should not be the only thing you do.
Your daily calorie intake will impact on how hard your heart has to work and in turn how much blood you’re pushing through your arteries.
If you’re already making big changes to your diet in terms of checking cholesterol levels, you may as well try to cut down the amount of calories and saturated fat as part of an overall healthy diet!
High cholesterol levels only become a problem when the LDL builds up and starts to clog your arteries. One sure fire way of keeping your arteries as clear as possible is through regular exercise.
Regular exercise will also help to reduce your resting heartbeat, which in turn reduces your blood pressure. The increase in blood flow during exercise can help to break down and dislodge the bad LDL cells as well as being a great way to burn calories and keep your weight down.
By the way, your weight does play a big part in your cardiovascular system, and as a rule the more you weigh, the harder your heart has to work to keep the blood pumping through your system.
Eating a low calorie diet containing cholesterol lowering foods, and getting plenty of exercise will help reduce blood pressure, and by eating fewer calories, you’ll also naturally consume less cholesterol.
The main key to managing your cholesterol levels is take a holistic approach of exercise, eating food with low cholesterol and setting yourself appropriate and achievable cholesterol levels.
It’s worth getting yourself checked out for cholesterol levels as young as possible, especially if you have a family history of high cholesterol production and heart problems. The earlier you make these changes to your lifestyle, the more you can improve your chances of living a long and healthy life.
We wish you the very best of luck with that!
If you have read all the way through this long, in-depth article you are now fairly well equipped to do it.
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