But according to one nurse, there are several snacks that can significantly lower it — and your chances of complications like heart disease and stroke.
Cheryl Lythgoe, matron at Benenden Health, said: “What we eat can affect our cholesterol.
“Most people will benefit from lowering their levels because not doing so can cause strokes, heart attacks and narrowing of the arteries.
“Enjoying these foods as part of your healthy diet can lower your cholesterol — however, you shouldn’t stop taking your prescription medication.”
As a general rule, she said it’s a good idea to avoid highly processed foods in favor of fresh ones.
It’s also wise to lower your salt intake, Cheryl added.
But if you’re looking for specific nosh to add to your diet, here’s what she’d recommend.
First, Cheryl said incorporating eggplant into your meals can have tremendous health benefits.
The fruit, often mistaken for a vegetable, contains an antioxidant that may help lower “bad cholesterol.”
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They are also a great source of fiber and provide other important nutrients that can support immune system and brain function.
When it comes to breakfast, Cheryl thinks porridge is a great way to start the day.
“Eating a 70g bowl is equivalent to consuming 3g of beta-glucan – a soluble, cholesterol-lowering fiber,” she said.
But if you’re not a fan of oats, other great sources include pearl barley, whole-grain breads and cereals, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta.
You can also get a good portion of soluble fiber from fruits and veggies, so you can fill your morning porridge with apples, citrus fruits, strawberries, plums, or prunes, or add a side of avocado, carrot, broccoli, okra, sweet potato, or onion for your lunch or dinner.
3. Reinforced spreads
“Sterols and stanols (phytosterols), which are common in fortified spreads, drinks and yogurt, may also help lower cholesterol,” Cheryl said.
They occur naturally in small amounts in plants and are said to absorb “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Studies have shown that regularly eating 2g per day as part of a balanced diet significantly reduces levels.
But Cheryl said it’s important to check with your primary care physician before trying these products, and not to give them to children under five or women who are breastfeeding.
Vegetarians will be happy to learn that soy is a great source of protein that “appears to affect how the body regulates cholesterol.”
Cheryl therefore recommends that you sometimes swap cow’s milk for soy milk or try soy yogurt.
“Other sources include soybeans or ground soy, as well as tofu,” she added.
“Some studies show that eating 15 grams of soy protein per day can lower your cholesterol by about three to four percent.”
Soy products are also all low in saturated fat and high in fiber.
5. Nuts and seeds
Finally, Cheryl thinks a mix of nuts and seeds is a great snack option for someone watching their cholesterol.
She said: “If you opt for the unsalted, unsweetened varieties, 30 grams of nuts a day is a great addition to your diet.
Nuts contain healthy unsaturated fats and soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol by up to 7.5 percent.
“Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, natural peanuts and pistachios are all excellent choices and eat them with their skins intact whenever possible as this increases their nutritional value.”
Cheryl said any food mentioned can be included in your daily meal plan.
But if you experience symptoms of high cholesterol, such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, or pain in your arms,
recommends seeking medical attention before focusing on food.
What Is Cholesterol and How Much Is Too Much?
EVERYONE needs some cholesterol in their blood to stay healthy.
But too much can lead to serious health problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
If there’s an excess, it can clog your arteries — the large blood vessels that carry blood throughout your body.
Fatty areas can form and harden over time, creating blockages, which puts a strain on your heart and can lead to blood clots.
This clogging process, known as atherosclerosis, can mean coronary artery disease, angina, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, mini-stroke, peripheral arterial disease, and vascular dementia.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know they have high cholesterol because it usually has no symptoms.
There are several checks you can do, as well as blood pressure tests, BMI and waist measurement, and a lifestyle analysis.
In general, a healthy cholesterol level is:
- Total (serum) cholesterol (mmol/L below 5.0 and mg/dL below 193)
- Non-HDL cholesterol (mmol/L below 4.0 and mg/dL below 155)
- LDL cholesterol (mmol/L below 3.0 and mg/dL below 116)
- HDL cholesterol (mmol/L greater than 1.0 for a man and 1.2 for a woman and mg/dL greater than 39 for a man and 46 for a woman)
- TC:HDL ratio (mmol/L and mg/dL above 6 is considered high risk)
Your doctor will be able to explain what your results mean.
Treatments are available for high cholesterol, but it is usually possible to lower it naturally by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Source: Heart UK