Seven ways to lower cholesterol with diet

Posted on: 28 October 2019 by Rob Hobson

Rob Hobson registered nutritionist at Healthspan shows how we can reduce our cholesterol by eating the right kind of foods.

Cholesterol reducing diet

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in blood and made in the liver but despite the negative press it actually has many positive roles in the body. Vitamin D synthesis is reliant on cholesterol and it also helps the body to build new cells, insulate nerves and produce hormones.  

When we talk about cholesterol, we consider LDL to be bad type and HDL to be good.

How does diet impact on cholesterol?

The production of cholesterol by the liver is a highly regulated process but eating too much saturated fat (dairy foods, fatty meats and processed foods) is thought to change the way in which this organ handles cholesterol. Liver cells have LDL cholesterol receptors that retrieve it from the blood to be broken down which helps keep levels under control. 

What seven foods can help to lower cholesterol naturally?

There are several foods that have been shown to help reduce LDL cholesterol. Try and include the foods below in your daily diet to tackle cholesterol naturally.

Porridge oats and fruit

Oats

This wholegrain cereal is rich in a particular type of fibre known as beta glucan. This soluble fibre helps to reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the intestinal tract while also lowering the re-absorption of bile acids (made by the body from cholesterol) meaning the body has to use more cholesterol to produce new bile acids.  

How do you include more in your diet?

Oats are tailored for breakfast as either porridge, soaked oats or thrown into breakfast smoothies. You can also use oats to make healthy snack bars or as a topping for savoury dishes.

Chan masala

Beans, pulses and lentils

These foods are cheap, versatile and one of the richest sources of dietary fibre which has been shown to help reduce cholesterol. Just half a 400g can of these foods provides around a quarter of your recommended daily intake of 30g. 

How do you include more in your diet?

These versatile foods can literally be thrown into any dish from salads to soups. Just make sure you include them as part of your store cupboard essentials.

stir fry with cashew nuts

Nuts

Studies have shown how nuts such as almonds and walnuts can help to reduce cholesterol. Findings show that including two ounces (around 60g) per day in your diet can slightly lower LDL cholesterol by 5%.

How do you include more in your diet?

Just keep them in a jar on your kitchen worktop so you remember to add them to meals. You can add to nuts to many dishes including yoghurt toppings, salads and stir-fries.

Ratatouille with olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil

This oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids that increase HDL cholesterol and reduce LDL cholesterol in the body.  Extra virgin olive oil is also one of the key components of the Mediterranean diet which has been proven time and again to support good heart health.

How do you include more in your diet?

Contrary to popular belief, extra virgin olive oil can be used for all cooking purposes other than deep fat frying. 

Soy milk

Soy

Soy provides a rich source of protein and essential micronutrients making it a highly nutritious food for those looking to cut down on their meat intake. Such foods include fortified soya drinks and yoghurt as well as tofu, tempeh and edamame. 

How do you include more in your diet?

Switching from cow’s milk and yogurt to a soy alternative is the simple way to include more of these foods in your diet. 

plant sterols

Plant sterols

These compounds are extracted from plant gums and encourage the body to absorb cholesterol from food and remove it from the body.

How do you include more in your diet?

Foods with added plant sterols include milks, spreads, yoghurt, yoghurt shots and juices.  Plant sterols are also available as supplements such as Healthspan Plant Sterols (£16.49 for 90 tablets).  Research has shown that including 2g of plant sterols per day in your diet can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by 10%.

fruity tagine

Apples, grapes, berries and citrus fruits

These fruits are rich in a type of soluble fibre known as pectin which has been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol in the blood. 

How do you include more in your diet?

You can easily add more of these foods to your diet by including in smoothies, eating as snacks, topping yoghurt or adding to savoury dishes such as casseroles, tagines, curries and salads.

Heart health is a major issue for many people and one of the well-established risk factors is high cholesterol.  There are many simple ways in which you can adapt your diet to help reduce cholesterol, but this does take a commitment to changing the way you choose to eat.

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