Nobody wants high levels of cholesterol in their blood, particularly LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
Large amounts of this fatty substance eventually leads to your arteries hardening and blockages occurring, which can prevent blood from getting to your heart. If the blood supply to a part of your heart is cut off, you’ll have a heart attack, which could be fatal.
A variety of factors affect the amount of LDL cholesterol in our bodies, including our genes, our weight, how physically active we are and our age. Diet also plays a big part, with saturated fats increasing the amount of bad cholesterol.
But the good news is that food can not only cause cholesterol problems, but it may be able to help alleviate them as well.
Here’s some of the foods you can eat to reduce bad cholesterol in your blood.
This powerhouse food contains beta-glucan that forms a gel once digested and absorbs LDL cholesterol that has built up. It is then excreted, taking the bad cholesterol with it.
This and other fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for heart health because they help to raise levels of good HDL cholesterol. This type of cholesterol keeps the bad version from building up in the arteries.
They’re a great source of vegetable protein, fibre, unsaturated fats and natural plant sterols, which can help to lower cholesterol. Around 35g (that’s about a handful) can cause levels to drop by about 5 per cent. Walnuts, almonds and cashews are particularly good.
This pungent plant can prevent the build-up of cholesterol and stop it clogging arteries by keeping cholesterol particles from sticking to artery walls. We should be trying to eat two to four cloves of garlic a day.
This popular oil is a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) which can lower the levels of bad LDL cholesterol.
Thanks to being full of fibre, these can slow the rate and amount of absorption of cholesterol in certain foods. One study has shown that adding half a cup of beans to soup lowers total cholesterol by up to 8 per cent.
Avocados are a great source of MUFAs, which lower LDL cholesterol. Plus they contain beta-sitosterol, a plant-based fat that reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food.
This extremely healthy vegetable contains lots of lutein, a substance that guards against heart attacks by helping artery walls to “shrug off” the cholesterol that causes clogging.
Look out for types that contain plant sterols. These are compounds that help reduce the absorption of cholesterol.
This is a rich source of pectin, a soluble fibre that lowers the absorption of bad cholesterol. Grapes and strawberries are other good sources.
Compounds called anthocyanins found in blueberries are believed to reduce cholesterol by interacting with bile acids to remove bad cholesterol from the body, according to a Chinese study.
Red wine appears to be able to lower cholesterol levels by 9-12%, according to a Spanish study. It’s thought that is because of compounds in the skin of red grapes.
Dark chocolate contains powerful antioxidants that can increase good HDL cholesterol levels and stop blood platelets sticking together, preventing blockages. But it has to be chocolate that contains 70 per cent or more cocoa solids to have an effect, and you shouldn’t eat too much.