Millions of people are at risk for disease due to their high cholesterol levels. Are you one of them? You may be interested to know that certain foods can be particularly useful in lowering your cholesterol levels. Keep in mind that there is no one particular food that is best, but rather that your whole diet should be varied and balanced with a focus on keeping fat in check (see other articles on managing your dietary fat intake).
1. Olives, avocado and olive or avocado oil
Olives and avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E. Research has shown that foods with a high monounsaturated fatty acid content lower “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and increase ‘good’ high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Have one tablespoon of olive oil a day over salads or use in cooking. Add olives to your salads or have a few olives as a snack on the run.
Legumes include dry, cooked or canned beans, lentils, peas and all the soya products (cooked or canned soya beans, soya mince, cubes, milk, tofu and tempeh). Legumes have a high fibre and are also naturally low in fat and don’t contain any cholesterol. They are also all slow releasing (low glycaemic index). Try and eat legumes at least three to four times a week. TIPS: Add lentils to mince; add chickpeas to salads; make hummus as a dip for crudites; have beans on toast as breakfast or add split lentils to stews and casseroles.
3. Fat-free dairy
When consumed in large amounts in its whole-fat state, milk and dairy products can contribute to heart disease by raising blood cholesterol levels, obesity and some types of cancer. Choose fat free dairy products as much as possible. Once the fat has been removed from a dairy product, it also removes practically all the cholesterol.
4. Antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables
All fruits and vegetables can help to lower cholesterol and protect the heart. Two groups are particularly useful, namely those fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C, or rich in beta-carotene.
If you have heart disease or raised cholesterol levels, make sure you get at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day! A portion would be one fistful or 1 cup i.e. 1 piece of fruit, ½ cup cooked veg, 1 full cup salad. Visit www.fiveaday.co.za for more information.
5. Spice of life
Garlic, ginger and turmeric are really dynamite foods in small packages. They not only add big flavour but they add big nutritional value too. Use these dynamite foods as much as possible in your food preparation.
6. Soluble fibre in oats and oatbran
Oats and oat bran have a high soluble fibre content which can actively lower blood cholesterol levels. Add oatbran to smoothies and baking and have a bowl of oats (not instant) every day to keep your cholesterol in check.
7. Fatty Fish
Researchers have discovered that people who eat fish rich in omega 3, three or more times a week are less likely to suffer from heart disease and high blood pressure. The best fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish such as salmon, fresh tuna, trout and sardines, although eating any type of unfried or unbuttered fish will benefit your heart. If you choose not to eat fish then taking a good omega 3 supplement will suffice, as long as it provides about 1000 mg of EPA and DHA.