The 8 foods that lower cholesterol (proven by science)
You have probably heard of cholesterol on numerous occasions. What's more, you have probably always heard this term with a clearly negative connotation.
First of all, it is important to define what exactly that we call cholesterol is. Cholesterol is a sterol, the name given to the fats that are naturally present in our body. Specifically, cholesterol is found in the membrane of the cells of our body, so it is present in key areas such as the liver, the heart or the nervous system. In addition, our body needs cholesterol to be able to manufacture hormones, bile acids, vitamin D, among other substances.
Cholesterol: good or bad?
Although a part of cholesterol is naturally present in the tissues, it can also be incorporated through the food we eat. The resulting cholesterol level of each person will depend on different factors, with diet being one of the most decisive. However, many patients can suffer high cholesterol levels by having a proper diet, since they may suffer from some disease or disorder that contributes to the increase in said levels.
The truth is that not all foods make the same contribution of cholesterol. Those that generally contain higher levels are those of animal origin, such as eggs, meat or dairy. In contrast, sterols of plant origin are hardly absorbed by our body.
The essential organ as far as cholesterol is concerned is the liver. This is the main producer of this sterol, although there are other organs that are also important in this regard, such as the intestine, the testes, the ovaries or the adrenal cortex. Although high levels of cholesterol are dangerous to health, it is not appropriate to demonize this element, as it performs important functions in our body. Among them are:
It is a fundamental component that gives structure to the plasma membranes of cells. It is essential to metabolize calcium. It acts as a precursor to sex hormones, so without it progesterone, estrogens and testosterone could not be synthesized. It is also a precursor of corticosteroidal hormones, such as cortisol, involved among other things in our physiological stress response. It is a precursor of bile salts, which are essential to be able to absorb some nutrients.
As we have been saying, cholesterol is necessary, but very high levels can put our health at risk. In particular, our heart can be in danger, since an excess of cholesterol favors the appearance of atherosclerosis. This phenomenon consists of the accumulation of cholesterol and fats in the walls of the arteries, which reduces the blood flow due to the narrowing of the vessels. All this can culminate in a heart attack, which is why it is essential to carry out regular checks on cholesterol levels and maintain a proper diet. This is especially important as we age, as cholesterol levels increase as we age.
In general, when talking about cholesterol, a differentiation is usually established between that called HDL (high-density lipoproteins) and LDL (low-density lipoproteins). The latter is what is known in the general population as “bad cholesterol”. In other words, it is the one that interests to reduce.
What Foods Reduce Bad Cholesterol?
Due to the importance of maintaining good health, in this article we are going to review those foods that can be your star allies to keep cholesterol at its proper levels.
It is well known that legumes are very healthy foods. In relation to cholesterol, this was not going to be the exception. All of them are rich in soluble fiber, which is able to bind to cholesterol-rich bile salts, allowing its elimination through the excretory system. In addition, by expelling bile salts, the body needs to replace cholesterol to produce more of them, for which it uses LDL, which contributes even more to lowering levels. According to studies, the recommended amount of legumes to achieve these effects is half a cup daily.
Clinical studies seem to indicate that avocado contributes to reducing total cholesterol levels, as well as LDL levels. It is believed that the reason for this relationship between avocado consumption and reduced LDL levels may be its high fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acid content. In addition, avocado is known to be rich in sterols and stanols, which reduces the absorption that the intestine makes of cholesterol. It has been estimated that consuming half or an avocado a day in central meals may be ideal for lowering cholesterol.
3. Whole grains
Whole grains will be another of your key foods to keep cholesterol at bay. Of all the variety of cereals available, the most suitable to reduce LDL is oats. Studies have determined that a continuous consumption for six weeks is enough to begin to observe changes in cholesterol levels.
The ideal amount of oatmeal is about 100 grams each day, being ideal to consume it at breakfast time to achieve maximum effect. In addition, it is interesting to consume other whole grains through foods such as brown rice or bread.
These foods are known for their high amounts of fat, but also for being very healthy, as long as they are consumed in their natural or roasted version without salt and in reasonable quantities.
Consuming 40 grams a day of your favorite dried fruit can help lower LDL levels and, in parallel, increase HDL levels. The effects of this habit have been detected after a month of its establishment, according to studies. Although all nuts share these properties, macadamia nuts are among the most suitable for this purpose, and as with oatmeal, it is best to consume them at breakfast time.
Scientists have tried to analyze the role of this fruit in lowering cholesterol. The results indicate that consuming two pieces of apple a day contributes to the maintenance of low cholesterol levels. In addition, this also exerts a protective role against heart disease. The benefits of the apple seem to be explained based on its skin, which is rich in antioxidant polyphenols. Therefore, it is interesting that you consume it without peeling, as this way you will make the most of its benefits.
Fish, especially blue fish, are rich in Omega-3. This component is a great friend of our cardiovascular system, as it keeps blood pressure under control and prevents the appearance of clots.
The recommendation of the experts is that the fish should be consumed a couple of times a week. In order to benefit from its properties, the ideal is to consume it roasted or grilled, using olive oil and avoiding fried foods and added fats. Among the most useful fish to keep cholesterol under control you can find: sardines, salmon, mackerel or white tuna.
This group of foods could not be missing from our list either. A balanced diet is inconceivable without the presence of vegetables, which have a high content of stanols and sterols, as well as fiber that favors the digestive process.
Vegetables are known to play an important role in reducing the absorption of LDL. Those with green leaves are especially recommended, such as spinach, chard or broccoli.
8. Products rich in anthocyanins
Some fruits and vegetables show a red, orange and even purple coloration. These shades are explained by their high concentration of anthocyanins, a type of pigments that are proving to be a weapon against high cholesterol levels.
Some studies have determined that a diet that incorporates anthocyanins can help reduce LDL levels. It seems that when these pigments are found in our body, it produces lower amounts of cholesterol. Foods that belong to this category are eggplants, raspberries or blueberries. The recommended amount is around 100 grams per day to be effective.
In this article we have compiled those foods that are most useful for maintaining adequate cholesterol levels. As we have been commenting, Despite the campaign of demonization that has been made of cholesterol and fats, the truth is that nothing is black or white. As with most issues, it is about finding a balance point.
Cholesterol must exist in our body, since it is essential for the performance of certain vital functions, such as the synthesis of hormones or the structure of the cells that make up our tissues. But nevertheless, being aware of the risks of high cholesterol is important to prevent serious illness and episodes, such as a cardiovascular accident.
At this point, lifestyle plays an important role. Smoking and leading a sedentary life are some examples of risk factors associated with an increase in cholesterol. However, here we have wanted to focus on diet. Food is a very important source of cholesterol, so it is important to balance what we eat and eat a diet adjusted to our state of health (age, existence of any disease, etc.).