Increasing bad cholesterol or LDL (Low-density lipoproteins) isn’t hard to do, especially when you’re on a diet of unhealthy food. But if you want to protect your heart, then a healthy diet of foods to lower cholesterol can help reduce LDL. So, what foods lower LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing the good HDL cholesterol? Let’s find out, but first, here’s something you should first know about LDL and HDL cholesterol:
Cholesterol levels are a vital indicator of your overall health. Reducing cholesterol is essential for maintaining the well-being of your heart and blood vessels. Interestingly, there exists a type of cholesterol that is beneficial for you.
Primarily, your liver produces two kinds of lipoproteins:
1. High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) – often referred to as “good cholesterol.”
2. Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) – commonly labeled as “bad cholesterol.”
What is high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol?
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is commonly known as the “good cholesterol.” Higher HDL cholesterol levels can play a role in decreasing your total cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is necessary for your body’s regular functions. To distribute cholesterol to its required destinations, your liver generates molecules known as lipoproteins. Composed of fats and proteins, these particles latch onto cholesterol, enabling its transportation throughout your body. HDL stands out as the smallest and most dense lipoprotein, boasting the highest protein content.
What are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol?
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol, also called “bad cholesterol,” is a kind of lipoprotein particle present in your bloodstream. High levels can lead to heart-related complications. LDL cholesterol predominantly exists in your blood. Each LDL particle consists of a lipoprotein outer layer with a cholesterol core. However, it is not totally harmful. LDL cholesterol is essential for your body, aiding in nerve protection and the production of cells and hormones.
Now, here are the foods that lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase the good HDL cholesterol:
1. Oats and Whole Grains
Oats and oatmeal are rich in soluble fiber, which can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels. Other grains like quinoa, brown rice and whole wheat can also reduce cholesterol. Barley (Jau) is another high-fiber grain with several nutritional benefits besides lowering LDL cholesterol levels.
2. Beans and Lentils
Among foods to lower cholesterol, beans and lentils are good vegetarian sources of protein and minerals, and a lot of soluble fiber. Consider Kidney beans (Rajma), chickpeas (chhole), mung dal, pinto beans, black beans, Horsegram (Kulthi dal), and black-eyed peas. These can effectively reduce LDL cholesterol while boosting HDL cholesterol within the body.
Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, some pine nuts, and pistachios are high in healthy fats, fiber, and plant sterols that can lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL (good cholesterol).
4. Fatty Fish
Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and other fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids reduce triglycerides and prevent heart disease. These omega-3s enhance cardiovascular health by raising “good” HDL cholesterol while reducing inflammation and the risk of stroke. A comprehensive 25-year study with adult participants showed that individuals who consumed the most non-fried fish were less likely to show signs of metabolic syndrome, which involves conditions like high blood pressure and reduced “good” HDL levels.
Avocados stand out as an exceptionally nutrient-rich fruit packed with monounsaturated fats and fiber. These components play a crucial role in reducing LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol. Scientific research consistently highlights the cholesterol-mitigating properties of avocados.
One particular study involving overweight and obese individuals with elevated LDL cholesterol levels indicated that those consuming an avocado daily witnessed a more significant drop in their LDL levels compared to those abstaining from avocados. A review of 10 distinct studies concluded that replacing other fats with avocados correlated with decreased overall cholesterol, LDL, and triglyceride levels.
6. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa
Dark chocolate consists of cocoa, which, according to research, can diminish bad LDL cholesterol levels. In a specific study, participants who consumed a cocoa beverage twice daily over a month witnessed a reduction in their LDL cholesterol. Their blood pressure lowered, and their HDL cholesterol rose. Both cocoa and dark chocolate appear to shield the LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream from oxidation, a significant contributor to heart conditions.
7. Fruits and Berries
Fruits boast a high content of soluble fiber, which plays a role in reducing LDL cholesterol by eliminating it from the body and reducing excess production by the liver. Pectin, a type of soluble fiber, can decrease cholesterol by nearly 10% and is present in fruits such as apples, grapes, citrus variants, and strawberries.
Fruits are even packed with bioactive elements that protect your heart against heart conditions and other chronic conditions due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Consuming grapes and berries, which are especially rich in these compounds, can elevate “good” HDL and decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
Garlic, a staple in almost all recipes and traditional remedies contains potent plant elements, with allicin being the primary active component. Research indicates that garlic can moderate blood pressure in those with high levels and may assist in reducing total and LDL cholesterol.
9. Soy Foods
Soybeans, a variety of legumes, can be favorable for cardiac health. Even though research outcomes have been varied, recent studies are optimistic. An evaluation of 35 research studies associated soy consumption with diminished bad LDL and overall cholesterol and elevated good HDL cholesterol, especially in individuals with high cholesterol levels.
Vegetables are indispensable for overall heart health. They are abundant in antioxidants and fiber yet low in calories, making them essential for weight management. Certain vegetables, similar to apples and oranges, have high pectin content, which is a cholesterol-reducing soluble fiber. Vegetables rich in pectin include okra, eggplants, carrots, and potatoes. Vegetables also offer a plethora of plant compounds, providing numerous health advantages, including protection against heart conditions.
11. Functional foods and Indian Herbs
Functional foods: Among these, fenugreek seeds (methi), when soaked in water, can significantly reduce bad LDL cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol levels in the body. Green tea is another functional beverage well-known for its antioxidative properties that contribute to cardiovascular health. Additionally, apple cider vinegar is believed to influence lipid metabolism, further helping in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
Indian herbs: India has a rich heritage of using herbs for medicinal purposes, and several of these are known to be effective in managing cholesterol levels. Brahmi leaves, for instance, not only aid in improving cognitive functions but also have properties that help in regulating cholesterol levels. Haritaki or bay leaf, a staple in Ayurvedic medicine, is renowned for its detoxifying effects and its ability to balance good and bad cholesterol in the body. Basil leaves, commonly known as Tulsi, are revered not only for their spiritual significance but also for their various health benefits, including the potential to control cholesterol levels for better heart health.
While all these foods can help control cholesterol, you still need to avoid foods that increase bad cholesterol. Adopt a healthy diet limited to saturated fats and trans fats to promote overall heart health. For more information, consult a nutritionist as well.