It’s not a myth that certain foods can help lower high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is the “bad” cholesterol that can cause plaque to form in the walls of your coronary arteries. Thus increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. A high LDL level can be the result of many factors. Including bad genes, obesity and lack of exercise. But not everyone reacts to dietary changes the same way, and optimal LDL levels are different for each individual.
Cholesterol: good and bad
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance. Your body uses it to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest food. At normal levels, it is essential for health. But if the level in your blood gets too high, LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, can build up in your arteries. It will then form plaques that expose you to cardiovascular diseases: chest pain (angina), heart attack and stroke.
If these plaques rupture or tear, a blood clot can form there, blocking blood flow. Sometimes a clot breaks off and travels from the affected artery to smaller blood vessels. A heart attack can occur if the clot blocks blood flow to part of your heart. Similarly, a stroke can occur when a clot then blocks blood to part of your brain.
People with high LDL levels are also at risk of developing peripheral arterial disease. It is an often undiagnosed condition in which plaque gradually forms inside the walls of the arteries that carry blood to the head, stomach, arms and legs. Those affected are at increased risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke, even gangrene and amputation.
Often, excess LDL is the result of a diet high in saturated fats. They usually come from animal foods like beef, butter, whole milk dairy products, and trans fats. qA type of fat found in processed foods and fast foods. Eliminating these foods from your diet is a good first step to improving your LDL levels. Then try adding some or all of the following LDL-lowering foods daily.
1 Beans: different types of dried beans that can help lower cholesterol
All types of beans and other lentil-like legumes are excellent sources of soluble fiber. Fiber binds to cholesterol-laden bile salts in the small intestine and promotes their excretion with waste. When this happens, the liver has to use more cholesterol to produce more bile salts, which reduces the amount of cholesterol available to make LDL. Eating as little as half a cup of cooked beans a day can lower cholesterol total and LDL cholesterol significantly.
2 Apples: High in Fiber and Beneficial Antioxidants
Like beans, apples are an excellent source of low-LDL soluble fiber, primarily pectin. Eating an apple a day (or better yet, two) can slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. This health benefit is due to the antioxidant polyphenols found primarily in the skin of apples (so don’t peel them). Antioxidants are important because inflammation and plaque buildup in the arteries are more likely to occur when LDL cholesterol interacts with free radicals and oxidizes.
3 Nuts and seeds: full of protein and good fats
Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and flax seeds are all great sources of protein. But also heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre. When replacing saturated fat in the diet, nuts and seeds help lower LDL cholesterol (and total cholesterol) without affecting good cholesterol (HDL) levels. It is good to know that by eating nuts, you reduce your risk of heart disease. Since nuts and seeds are high in calories, you should limit your daily intake to around half a cup and make sure the nuts are not salted or sugar coated.
4 Oats and oat bran: Just a little every day
Oats and oat bran contain beta-glucan, a water-soluble fiber that helps lower the amount of LDL cholesterol circulating in the blood. A daily consumption of at least 3 grams (g) of oat beta-glucan reduces total cholesterol and lowers LDL cholesterol levels. This is the amount contained in half a cup of uncooked oat bran.
5 Green Tea: Antioxidants Help Lower LDL Cholesterol
All varieties of tea rich in antioxidants (white, black, green, oolong) can help reduce LDL. Green tea, which is particularly rich in epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a powerful antioxidant, showed the best results. EGCG lowered LDL cholesterol levels by about 9 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) in 17 trials reviewed by the International Journal of Food Science Nutrition in September 2016.
6 Red grapefruit: Up to 20% difference
Eating just one red grapefruit a day for a month can help lower LDL cholesterol by 20%. This cardioprotective effect is most likely due to compounds called liminoids and lycopene found in the pulp. Grapefruit also contains pectin, a soluble fiber, which helps lower LDL levels.
7 Red Wine or Grape: Resveratrol Toast
A plant-derived chemical, resveratrol, found in red grapes used to make red wine, may help lower LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. It also appears to protect against coronary heart disease. Thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, a glass of red wine with a meal can help prevent the constriction of blood vessels that can follow a fatty meal and lead to atherosclerosis and heart attack.
If you’re not drinking, don’t start now. You can get resveratrol from red, black and purple grapes, blueberries, lingonberries. If you drink alcohol, limit your consumption of red wine to one or two glasses a day.
8 Plant Sterols and Stanols: Watch Your Portions
Plant sterols and stanols, collectively referred to as “phytosterols”, are substances that occur naturally in small amounts in vegetable oils (corn, soy), nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and even dark chocolate. Daily consumption of plant sterols and stanols can lower LDL cholesterol levels by about 14 mg/dl, according to a review of 20 trials published in Atherosclerosis in May 2016. Phytosterols block cholesterol absorption in the small intestine , which helps reduce LDL.