Surprising Foods You Can Eat If You Have High Cholesterol
Everyone has cholesterol. Defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a waxy substance found in blood fats (lipids),” this substance is not well accepted. The truth is that cholesterol itself isn’t bad – having high levels of it can, however, increase your risk of developing heart disease.
One way to combat the risks associated with high cholesterol is to make lifestyle changes, including diet. You probably already know that you can lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels by avoiding foods like red meat and trans fats. But just because you want to lower your cholesterol doesn’t mean all the foods you like can’t be eaten.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a substance found in your blood. Your body produces cholesterol in the liver and uses this waxy substance in many ways, including building cell membranes, making hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and producing vitamin D.
Your body creates all the cholesterol it needs, and the rest of your body’s cholesterol comes from food. Dietary cholesterol is found in animal products that are high in saturated and trans fats, such as meat and whole dairy products.
There are two main types of cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is considered the “bad” cholesterol because when there is too much LDL in the blood, it combines with other substances to form hard plaque deposits in the arteries. This narrows the arteries, making them less flexible, and can increase the risk of stroke or heart attack if the clots form and block the narrowed arteries.
High-density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol, is the “good” type of cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), HDL acts as a purifier, carrying 1/3 to 1/4 of the “bad” LDL cholesterol particles out of the arteries and into the liver.
Here are 5 amazing foods to eat even if you have high cholesterol
You might think that if your cholesterol levels are high, you should avoid all types of cheese, but that’s not the case. Low-fat cheeses and other dairy products are a great way to get calcium without raising your cholesterol, according to WebMD.
Even if your cholesterol is high, you still need to find a source of vitamin D to help you get calcium. This vitamin can be found in many dairy products, so look for yogurt, milk and low-fat or low-fat cheese.
Even if you don’t consume dairy products, you can still get calcium from cereals, juices and green leafy vegetables.
Foods with high-fat content
Remember, not all fats are bad fats. According to the Mayo Clinic, unsaturated fats (both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats) can help lower cholesterol levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a common type of polyunsaturated fat found in fatty fish. Next time you go to the grocery store, look for salmon, tuna, trout, catfish, herring and mackerel. By eating at least two servings of oily fish each week, you’re more likely to reap the heart-healthy benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
Avocados are also an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids, which can help improve LDL levels, according to the Journal of the American Heart Association. You need to find ways to incorporate fruit into your diet, such as adding it to sandwiches, salads or toast.
Red meat should be avoided, but it is normal to eat lean meats. Try pork tenderloin or beef tenderloin. Red meat is the key to balancing cholesterol.
If using beef or pork, remove all visible fat. You can also use skinless chicken or turkey breasts.
Sterols and plant sterols are natural compounds that help lower LDL cholesterol. Sterols are found in margarine-type spreads, which act like butter but without the artery-clogging fat. Nine to 10 grams of sterols per day can lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 22 percent.
Specific brands of spreads include Fleischmann’s, Smart Balance, Bluebonnet, and Shedd’s Spread Country Crock. Be careful not to use it for cooking, though. Because of its low-fat content and high water content, it tends to spread and make things thin.
This does not apply to spicy foods, only to condiments that add a little flavor to your meal. Turmeric, red pepper, thyme oil and ginger can all lower triglycerides, according to The Daily Health. Triglycerides make up the majority of the fat you eat and are important for overall health before you consume a lot of it.
Turmeric can also be found in curry powder, mustard, butter, cheese and tea. Ginger is another common tea that also has great health benefits.
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer. Vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that can help maintain health and prevent disease. Most vegetables have very little fat and are low in calories, which can help you maintain a healthy weight. Eating more fruits and vegetables can also help you eat less of other energy-dense foods.
Fruits and vegetables are also high in fiber, and some types of fiber can help lower cholesterol. Fiber helps stop cholesterol from being absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream. Beans, peas, lentils and other legumes are especially rich in this type of fiber. Sweet potatoes, eggplant, okra (lady’s mantle), broccoli, apples, strawberries, and plums are also good choices.
Nuts are a good source of unsaturated and saturated fats that help control cholesterol. Nuts contain dietary fiber, which helps prevent cholesterol from being absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream. In addition, they contain protein, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, natural phytosterols and other phytonutrients that help keep your body healthy. They also make you feel fuller, so you’re less likely to snack on something else. There are only so many nuts that count. Choose a variety of nuts to eat instead of your regular snacks or as part of a meal. If possible, choose those with the skin on, as they contain more nutrients.
You will need to work closely with your doctor to monitor your condition. If you need medicines to control high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, or other problems, take them as directed. Tell your doctor if you develop any new symptoms.