Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol, referred to medically as hypercholesterolemia, are a prevalent health issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of American adults have elevated LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels, which can significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and heart attacks.
Cholesterol is categorized into three types: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), which may necessitate medication, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). While LDL and VLDL are detrimental to health, HDL is considered beneficial.
High cholesterol can affect individuals of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and genders.
Various factors can increase your risk of high cholesterol, including heavy smoking, obesity, having a large waist circumference, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, hypothyroidism, and diabetes.
Many of these factors are manageable through lifestyle choices. However, genetics is a risk factor that lies beyond your control.
Since high cholesterol typically doesn’t exhibit noticeable symptoms, it’s essential to regularly monitor your cholesterol levels. A lipid panel test measures your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. The CDC provides the following blood cholesterol level guidelines for health:
- Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter of blood)
- LDL cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL cholesterol: 40 mg/dL or higher
- Triglycerides: less than 150 mg/dL
If left uncontrolled, high cholesterol can result in health complications such as chest pain, heart attacks, and strokes.
However, you can reduce your cholesterol levels by implementing dietary and lifestyle changes. Many foods can aid in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
Below are 6 foods to lower your cholesterol:
1. Orange Juice
Oranges, with their sweet, tangy, and juicy flavor, are another superfood renowned for their cholesterol-lowering properties.
A study published in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition journal in 2000 revealed that orange juice can enhance blood lipid profiles in individuals with hypercholesterolemia. This effect is attributed to the presence of vitamin C, folate, and flavonoids like hesperidin found in oranges.
- To leverage these benefits, aim to consume 2 to 3 cups of orange juice daily. Opt for freshly squeezed juice when possible, or consider drinking plant sterol-fortified orange juice, which can also aid in reducing total cholesterol to some extent.
- Alternatively, you can incorporate a few whole oranges into your daily diet.
2. Soybeans and Soy Products
Soybeans and other soy-based products provide a valuable source of complete plant-based protein, making them an excellent choice for individuals dealing with high cholesterol levels.
While soy may not drastically reduce total cholesterol, it has the capacity to lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels. This protein-rich food boasts high levels of polyunsaturated fats, fiber, essential vitamins, minerals, and minimal saturated fat content.
A study featured in the 2011 issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition discovered that consuming 1 to 2 servings (equivalent to 15 to 30 grams) of soy protein each day can significantly influence serum lipoprotein risk factors associated with coronary heart disease.
To promote healthy cholesterol levels, consider incorporating more soybean-based foods, such as tofu, soy flour, edamame, and enriched soy milk, into your diet.
Garlic, another superfood in the fight against high cholesterol, offers a multitude of benefits. It not only aids in lowering cholesterol but also helps prevent blood clots, reduces blood pressure, and provides protection against heart disease.
A press release from the National Institute of Integrative Medicine in 2013 emphasized that garlic extract can serve as a safe and effective alternative to pharmaceutical medications designed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels for many individuals.
To harness the cholesterol-lowering potential of garlic:
- Consume 2 to 3 raw garlic cloves on an empty stomach daily.
- Incorporate fresh garlic into your salad dressings and various cooked dishes, including soups and stews.
- Consider garlic supplements, but consult your doctor to determine the appropriate dosage for your specific needs.
4. Olive Oil
Olive oil, abundant in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, plays a vital role in reducing LDL cholesterol levels, thus mitigating the risk of heart disease and stroke. Furthermore, it boasts a wealth of vitamin E, an antioxidant with wide-ranging benefits for both heart health and overall well-being.
To harness the cholesterol-lowering potential of olive oil, incorporate 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil into your daily regimen. You can use this oil to sauté vegetables, craft flavorful salad dressings, or employ it as a dip for bread.
Note:As olive oil is high in calories, avoid excessive use.
5. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate can be a valuable ally in the battle against bad cholesterol while enhancing the levels of good cholesterol in your bloodstream. A 2013 study featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlighted the pivotal role of theobromine, a component found in dark chocolate, in elevating HDL cholesterol.
The abundance of antioxidants and flavonoids in dark chocolate serves as a formidable defense against blood platelet aggregation and helps maintain clear, unclogged arteries. This fortification, in turn, diminishes the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
For optimal results, incorporate 1 or 2 small pieces of dark chocolate containing at least 60 percent cocoa into your routine on a regular basis.
Incorporating a daily bowl of oatmeal into your breakfast routine provides a simple and effective means of reducing high cholesterol levels. Oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber, which plays a key role in lowering LDL cholesterol.
This soluble fiber works to diminish the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Additionally, the filling nature of fiber helps curb excessive eating tendencies.
Furthermore, regular oat consumption is linked to a decreased risk of both cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
- Make it a habit to enjoy a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast each day.
- Alternatively, you can enhance your diet by incorporating oatmeal into smoothies or using it as an ingredient in baked goods.
- Strive to maintain a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
- Avoid alcohol. If you drink, do so in moderation.
- Eat a diet low in saturated fats.
- Avoid fried or fatty foods and excessive carbohydrates and processed sugars.
- Avoid foods that contribute to bad cholesterol, such as red meat, full-fat dairy products, egg yolks and processed foods.