For Heart Health Eat These 7 Cholesterol Lowering Foods

With processed food easily at our fingertips and fast food joints and mini stalls popping up on every street corner, it is easy to be swayed by temptation. To save on the time needed for cooking, one might find themselves almost regularly indulging in that one vada pao or pav bhaji to and fro from work. Without noticing, a silent ailment might be creeping up, especially if your lifestyle is sedentary. This culprit is cholesterol.

While we do have good (HDL) cholesterol in the body, an imbalance between the good and bad (LDL) cholesterol causes disruption in the body. Higher levels of LDL make it harder for the HDL to do its job- sending the LDL to the liver away from the arteries. Maintaining the normal levels of cholesterol is important; otherwise, one can be exposed to the risk of a cardiac arrest. So, how do the food items do this? They supply certain “fighters” that block or drag away the harmful cholesterol before it can reach the circulation. Here are certain foods that promote good cholesterol levels in your body: 

1. Beans

This legume might cause flatulence, but is a great source of fibre. The fibre in beans is soluble in nature and acts as a binding agent for the bad cholesterol and helps flush it away. Being rich in fibre means you will stay full for longer as your gut takes longer to digest the legume. It’s not just green beans, there are more varieties available in the market that you can buy—cowpeas, kidney beans, cluster beans, and French beans, to name a few. Include this in your diet if you are watching your cholesterol or just want to add more fibre to your diet.

2. Oats

Adding a bowl of oatmeal porridge to your daily meals will help prevent bad cholesterol from taking over. How? Oats are also a good source of soluble fibre, and the best part is that they are a healthy grain that will keep you full for longer. Most of the times we don’t fulfil our required daily average (RDA) for fibre which ranges between 30-25 grams per day. Add fruits like bananas and berries to the bowl for an added fibre boost.

3. Okra

This slimy vegetable is not everybody’s favourite. But it is that slimy substance that aids in digestion and keeps the cholesterol, in layman terms, busy. What’s more, okra or bhindi also helps keep diabetes in check. Best consumed as a side dish, if you can’t stand the sliminess, try kurkure okra chips. 

4. Fish

Replace your cholesterol causing red meat with fish. Certain fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to lower the triglycerides in the bloodstream. Red meat contains saturated fats that boost LDL levels, fish on the other hand, has fats (the omega-3s) that lower LDL. Consuming a handful of days per week should help with fighting cholesterol. What’s more, fish also promotes heart health. 

5. Soy

If you are a vegetarian and cannot have fish, soya beans or any soy-based product like soy milk, tofu, tempeh are good alternatives. Unlike their meat counterparts, soy products are low in saturated fats which can help reduce bad cholesterol levels. It is also rich in fibre and protein, so adding it to your diet is a win-win for your gut and overall health. On average, research shows a decrease in bad cholesterol levels of 11 percent when soy is added to one’s diet. 

6. Dark Chocolate

To be had in moderation only! Dark chocolate has more cocoa content and fewer fats, and studies indicate it increases HDL levels in the blood. It is also rich in antioxidants that prevent the oxidation of the LDL; oxidation helps LDL stick to the artery walls, causing clogging. It is also touted to lower blood pressure. But all of these only apply to the chocolates, which have 70 percent cocoa content. 

7. Nuts

Studies indicate that nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts, and cashews all aid in the lowering of LDL cholesterol levels. Almonds contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are known to reduce bad cholesterol. Hazelnuts contain fibre and plant sterols to sweep cholesterol from the bloodstream. Pistachios are full of antioxidants that prevent cholesterol oxidation. Walnuts boast omega-3 fatty acids to improve the cholesterol profile. Cashews supply unsaturated fats and nutrients that support cardiovascular health. Incorporating these nuts into one's diet a few times a week can lower bad cholesterol significantly. They are also rich in healthy fats, fibre, vitamins, and minerals that will make them a good addition to your diet. 

A balanced diet incorporating the cholesterol-lowering foods discussed - such as beans, oats, okra, fish, soy, dark chocolate, and nuts - can help support heart health by promoting healthy cholesterol levels. Focusing on whole, minimally processed foods rich in fibre, plant sterols, and heart-healthy fats provides nutrients that block and remove LDL cholesterol from circulation. Making small diet adjustments like these on most days of the week is a lifestyle change that pays off in reducing cardiovascular disease risk over the long run.