Foods That Lower Cholesterol; Diet Changes to Drop Lipid Levels
Cholesterol buildup in the arteries leads to atherosclerosis, which can decrease blood flow to the heart and brain. If blood flow becomes completely blocked, heart attack or stroke can occur. Modifying your diet can help reduce cholesterol levels.
The Main Cholesterol Sources: Liver Manufactures Cholesterol and Dietary Intake-Foods That Lower Cholesterol
Most of the cholesterol in your body doesn’t come from the food you eat: it comes from your liver, which manufactures cholesterol. In fact, your liver manufactures all the cholesterol you need in a day, around 3,000 mg, according to pediatrician and author William Sears, M.D. In most people, the liver reduces its production of cholesterol if you consume dietary cholesterol.
For most people, around 75 percent of their cholesterol comes from the liver and around 25 percent from diet. Around 30 percent of people, however, have a cholesterol sensitivity; their livers keep making the same amount of cholesterol no matter how much dietary cholesterol they consume, which results in high cholesterol levels.
Foods That Raise Cholesterol: Saturated Fats, Especially Trans Fats, and Sugars-Foods That Lower Cholesterol
Cholesterol-containing foods normally aren’t the foods that raise your cholesterol levels the most: saturated fats are. However, cutting back on cholesterol-rich foods can also reduce your levels, especially if you’re cholesterol sensitive. Foods high in refined sugars can also raise your triglyceride levels along with your low-density lipoprotein levels, the so-called “bad” cholesterol.
Different Types of Cholesterol: Low-Density Lipoprotein and High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol-Foods That Lower Cholesterol
When doctors talk about lowering your cholesterol level, the type of cholesterol they want lowered is LDL. High-density lipoprotein, the “good” cholesterol, on the other hand, is beneficial; raising HDL levels is generally good for your heart. Certain foods, such as polyunsaturated fats found in sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils as well as in some nuts, flax seed and fish, can raise your HDL levels. Substituting fish for meat can help raise your HDL levels. Substituting protein sources such as beans for meat can also boost your HDL levels.
Lowering LDL Levels, the “Bad” Type of Cholesterol
Reducing saturated fats is the first step to lowering LDL cholesterol. Saturated fats are found in animal meats and in many processed foods, as well as in a number of cooking oils. Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, can lower your LDL cholesterol levels; adding them to your diet in place of saturated fats can help control your cholesterol levels.
Substitute low-fat dairy products for full-fat products, which are high in saturated fat. Avoid trans fats, man-made fats often used in processed foods, altogether if possible, since they’re the type of saturated fat most likely to cause heart disease. Consume no more than 5 percent of your calories each day from saturated fat.
The only dietary sources of cholesterol are animal fats; the American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day. High-fiber foods can also lower LDL cholesterol; for every 1g to 2g of soluble fiber you eat, your LDL levels drop by 1 percent, according to the Alabama Cooperative. Substituting high-fiber fruit for desserts or snack high in sugar or saturated fat can help lower LDL levels.
What to Do if You Can’t Lower Cholesterol Enough With Diet and Need Medicines for Cholesterol
It’s not always possible to lower your cholesterol with diet alone, but even if you lower your cholesterol a little with diet, you may be able to take less medication. Since medications such as statins can have negative side effects, reducing your need for medication can still benefit you.
American Heart Association. “About Cholesterol”
Harvard School of Public Health. “Fats: Out With the Bad, In With the Good”
Ask Dr. Sears. “Controlling Your Cholesterol”