Most of us know that high cholesterol is bad for our health. It can lead to a build-up of artery-clogging fat deposits that block blood flow to the heart and brain. These fat deposits can eventually lead to a blockage in your arteries, which can result in a heart attack or stroke.
What most of us don’t know is that there are actually different types of cholesterol and some is essential in the body. You may have heard your doctor talk to you about ‘good’ cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol. Bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, is the fat depositing cholesterol whereas good cholesterol, or HDL cholesterol, acts like a mop to clear bad cholesterol from the blood stream.
So what does this all mean? Ultimately, the aim of the game is to limit foods high in bad cholesterol and ensure the diet is rich in good cholesterol. Here are four groups of food that can assist with lowering your ‘bad’ cholesterol and risk of heart disease:
- High-Fiber Foods Soluble fibre attracts water and forms a gel, which slows down digestion and reduces the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Examples include kidney beans, apples, barley, and prunes. Don’t like these? Ask our Dietitian for some hot tips on how to increase your fibre intake.
- Fish Oil and Omega-3 Fatty Acids (polyunsaturated fats) Omega-3s have been shown to lower the risk of blood clots and reduce triglycerides in the blood. Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and herring are the richest sources of omega-3s. If you don’t like seafood, you can still reap the benefits of the essential fatty acids from plant-based sources like flaxseed, walnuts, and canola oil.
- Foods with Phytosterols Phytosterols, which encompass sterols and stanols, are plant substances that are structurally similar to cholesterol. When you eat them, they compete with cholesterol for absorption into the digestive system and help limit the amount of ‘bad’ cholesterol the body absorbs. Examples are flaxseed, almonds, and broccoli. You can also find them as additives to margarine (Proactive), milk and cheese these days but be sure to read the label.
- Other high fat plant foods (monounsaturated fats) All plant foods are a source of ‘good’ fats, and are filled with either or both monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Other plant products particularly high in these foods are vegetable oils, nuts and olives and avocados.
It’s super easy to have your cholesterol tested a simple blood test is all it takes. Ask your GP today about getting tested and think about adding some of these great foods into your daily diet!