7 Key Foods That Lower Cholesterol And Reduce Heart Attack Risk [Infographic]

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Facts You Need To Know About Cholesterol

Did you know that according to studies, eating food such as red meat, milk, products that are high in dairy content, and deep fried food contribute to having high cholesterol? [1] High cholesterol is known to increase the risk of having stroke, heart attacks and clogging of the arteries. [2] The medical term for high blood cholesterol is hyperlipidemia (lipid disorder). [3]

Cholesterol in the body is divided into two types, the “good cholesterol” or HDL, and the “bad cholesterol” or LDL. In simple terms, eating less foods that have bad cholesterol and consuming more of those those rich in good cholesterol is a key strategy to decreasing your risk of stroke, heart attacks and clogged arteries. [1]

Certain foods, interestingly, have been found to have direct cholesterol-lowering effects. These food items have been studied by scientists and they have all been found to help lower bad cholesterol in the body:

1) Cocoa Products: Studies have shown that having a Spanish-Mediterranean diet and eating 15mg of cacao daily reduces bad cholesterol in the body by increasing the good cholesterol. [4] Eating cacao didn’t only help the healthy individuals but also those who have moderate hypercholesterolemia, or greatly elevated cholesterol levels. Note that while chocolate contains cacao, it’s advisable to find cacao products with low sugar and/or less harmful sugars. It’s possible to obtain pure raw cacao and this can easily be added to smoothies and many other foods for the beneficial effects.

2) Okra, Eggplant, Vegetables in General: A diet rich in vegetables has been shown to increase good cholesterol and reduce the bad. [5] However specific vegetables have shown very interesting results in tests – for example okra, which was found by a 2014 study to have direct potential to be considered as a “medicinal food” for the management of high cholesterol: In the study, okra dose-dependently decreased serum and hepatic total cholesterol and triglyceride, and enhanced fecal excretion of bile acids. [6] Beneficial effects have also been noted for eggplant (aka aubergine). [7]

3) Fruit: Consuming fresh fruit of all kinds also has been associated with healthy cholesterol levels. [5]

4) Fiber rich food such as barley, oats, and whole grain: [5] According to the nutrition guidelines, 20 to 35 grams of fiber is recommended to be consumed daily. [1]

5) Soy and soy products: Soy products – from tofu to soy milk can reduce bad cholesterol. [5] Research has shown that eating 25 grams/day of soy protein lowers bad cholesterol by 5-6%. [1]

6) Nuts: All kinds of nuts, from almonds to pistachios, when eaten daily (2 oz) lower bad cholesterol by 5% [1] to 8% [5], according to studies. [1]

7) Fatty fish: Eating fish such as salmon two or 3 times per week can lower LDL in two ways: first by replacing meat portions, which have LDL-boosting saturated fats, and by delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats have been found to reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and protect the heart. [1]

All in all, consuming soy and soy products, fish, nuts, fiber-rich food, vegetables and fruits or food items with known cholesterol-lowering properties reduces high cholesterol significantly. [8] Changing one’s eating habits may not be easy at first. But making the switch from consuming LDL food items to HDL ones is just one of the ways to be healthier and to decrease the risk of getting cardiovascular-related diseases.

References:

[1] 11 foods that lower cholesterol. http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/11-foods-that-lower-cholesterol

[2] High Cholesterol. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cholesterol/Pages/Introduction.aspx

[3] Hyperlipidemia – American Heart Association www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000403.htm

[4] Realistic intake of a flavanol-rich soluble cocoa product increases HDL-cholesterol without inducing anthropometric changes in healthy and moderately hypercholesterolemic subjects. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24394704

[5] Lowering LDL-cholesterol through diet: potential role in the statin era. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21233620

[6] Hypolipidemic activity of okra is mediated through inhibition of lipogenesis and upregulation of cholesterol degradation (2014) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23606408

[7] Direct comparison of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods with a statin in hypercholesterolemic participants (2005) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15699225

[8] Effect of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods given at 2 levels of intensity of dietary advice on serum lipids in hyperlipidemia: a randomized controlled trial. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21862744

 

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