What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat produced by our body through our liver and the food we eat. Cholesterol is present in the cell walls and protects them from external aggression while providing flexibility and strength. The purpose of a Cholesterol Lowering diet will be to reduce the cholesterol from your bloodstream.
Only, there is good and bad cholesterol (good cholesterol is also called HDL cholesterol and bad cholesterol LDL cholesterol). The good is transformed and eliminated by the liver. The bad will increase the cholesterol levels in your blood and will build up in your arteries and clog them.
In order to leave room for only good cholesterol, check out our article to discover how fibers can favor your cholesterol lowering diet.
Food with high levels of sodium and saturated fat (french fries, cheese, sauce…) can increase your cholesterol levels. But you can lower high cholesterol by eating foods rich in healthy soluble fiber.
What is fiber?
Dietary fiber is found exclusively in plant foods. Fiber is the part of the plant that is not broken down in the intestines by human digestive enzymes. Because it is not digested, fiber is not absorbed in the body (fiber itself is neither digested nor absorbed).
You can find fiber in fruits, vegetables, wholemeal breads, whole-grain cereals, nuts, beans, lentils…
Fiber can be either insoluble or soluble.
- Insoluble fiber speeds up the movement of food through the intestines. Insoluble fiber can be found in whole-grain foods, vegetables, and fruit with skin.
- Soluble fiber dissolves when mixed with water and becomes a gel-like substance, slowing down the movement of food through the small intestine. Soluble fiber can be found in oats, peas, beans, apples, and citrus fruits.
Evidence suggests that soluble fiber is more effective for a lowering cholesterol diet, but both types are important for your health.
Cholesterol lowering diet
Fiber improves your intestinal health, helps preventing heart disease and some cancers, and will be really helpful in reducing blood pressure and control your weight.
A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (full study can be found here: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/69/1/30.full) shows that fiber helps reduce bad cholesterol.
The best way to increase fiber in the diet is to eat more fruits, vegetables, wholemeal products, and legumes.
Why eat fiber?
Fiber helps with your cholesterol lowering diet by binding cholesterol to bile acids the body produces to help digest fiber. In other words, your body must use cholesterol from your bloodstream to make the bile acids and digest the fiber, which helps lowering your cholesterol levels.
Research has shown that increasing soluble fiber by 10 grams a day could reduce your LDL cholesterol by about 5%.
Food high in fiber
If you’re looking to lower your cholesterol, this may be a key change to your breakfast habits. Two servings of oats can lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by 5% in 6 weeks.
Omega-3 fats are one naturally present in salmon and are very useful to prevent heart diseases and raise your good cholesterol.
Non-cooked olive oil in salads can help reduce your cholesterol. You can read more here about the healthiest cooking oils)
Nuts are the perfect snack food that lowers cholesterol levels. Walnuts, almonds and cashews are good examples. However, nuts are also high in calories, so practice portion control—1.5 oz is about 1.5 shot glass! You can use a shot glass to measure your portion and ensure you control you calorie intake.
Tea has become well known for its cancer-fighting antioxidants, and is also very good against high LDL cholesterol levels by reducing blood lipids by up to 10% in only 3 weeks.
They are really good for your heart, by reducing total cholesterol, including LDL, by up to 8%. The key to this food is its abundance of fiber.
Chocolate is a powerful antioxidant that helps build good cholesterol levels. But remember to choose the dark chocolate (more than 70%).