Cholesterol-lowering medication is often the first solution people consider when told that their blood cholesterol level is higher than it should be. However, making smart nutritional choices and exercising is the best way to make your way onto becoming a healthier person.
Gradual and permanent changes in your diet will not only reduce your risk of developing heart disease, but will also protect you against other serious conditions such as high blood pressure, cancer, stroke and diabetes.
The main lifestyle changes to help you lower your cholesterol levels are:
* Reduce fat and cholesterol in your diet.
* Increase your level of physical activity.
* Maintain a healthy body weight.
"How should I change my diet?" you might ask. Well, the best way is to incorporate cholesterol-lowering foods to your daily meal plan. To help you, we'll make a list of the top food choices for reaching healthy cholesterol levels. But, even though these foods have great benefits, you'll still need to limit saturated and trans fats as part of your heart healthy eating.
Beans are one of the most fiber-rich foods out there. And to our benefit, they are especially high in cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. A cup of any type of beans per day -- kidney, pinto, black, chickpea, etc. -- can lower cholesterol by as much as 10 percent in 6 weeks. We recommend buying canned beans for easier preparation. Beans add protein and fiber to any dish and can be used in salads, veggie chili, baked potatoes or pureed for sandwich spreads.
These little guys have been recently identified to have an antioxidant called pterostilbene (similar to the antioxidant found in grapes and red wine). This compound is believed to be effective for lowering LDL cholesterol levels. Blueberries can be very easily added to your diet. Throw some on top of your breakfast cereal in the morning or make yourself a delicious blueberry smoothie for dessert!
Soy foods help your heart by slashing the amount of saturated fat that you eat. Not only that, but beneficial compounds found in soy, known as isoflavones, work to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Not familiar with soy foods? They basically include tofu, soy milk, soy nuts, and soy flour. An easy way to incorporate them into your diet is to use them as a substitute for meat and cheese in recipes, to reduce saturated fat.Apples:
Turns out that an apple a day really does keep the doctor away! This special fruit is rich in both pectin and fiber, along with a list of powerful antioxidants, including quercetin, phloridzin and chlorogenci acid, which help lower bad cholesterol while rising the good kind. There are so many kinds of apples out there to try -- Granny Smith, Red delicious, Gala, and McIntosh just to name a few. Add a few slices to your oatmeal or have one for an afternoon snack.
Avocados are a perfect source of heart-healthy mono saturated fat. This type of fat is helpful because it may help raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol) while lowering levels of LDL (bad cholesterol). It also offers beta-sitosterol, which is a plant based fat that reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food. Nevertheless, they are on the higher calorie side, so we would recommend using them in place of sour cream or other high-fat foods or condiments.
It has been shown through various studies that certain types of fact can protect us against high cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in salmon, help lower bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol and lower triglycerides. And as if that wasn't enough, salmon is also an excellent source of protein. Other fish that are beneficial in this matter include tuna, anchovies, rainbow trout, herring, sardines and mackerel. Include any of these options in your lunch or dinner at least two times per week and your cholesterol level will thank you!
Tea: Want a fresh blast of antioxidant compounds? Easy, just drink up a cup of tea! Research has shown that tea can help keep blood vessels relaxed and prevent blood clots. The major antioxidants in tea, flavanoids, have proved to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and could even help lower blood pressure. Enjoy a cup of hot or iced tea. There is such a vast selection to choose from that you'll definitely find one you like. Even try replacing your morning coffee for a delicious cup of tea.
Garlic: Throughout history, garlic has been used in most cultures because of its unique flavor and nutritional benefits. It has been found that garlic can not only lower cholesterol, but reduce blood pressure and protect us against infections. Now research has also proved that it can help stop artery-clogging by keeping cholesterol particles from sticking onto artery walls.
Peeling and chopping garlic can be quite a bit of work. To help shorten this process, pick up a tub of freshly peeled garlic cloves the next time you hit the supermarket. Chop it up and when you cook, add it almost anything you can think of: pastas, soups, salads, and side dishes.
These foods are all delicious and very easy to find. Including them in your daily diet should be no problem. To prove this, here is a brief example of what a healthy cholesterol-fighting meal plan should look like:
BREAKFAST: Whole-grain cereal with nonfat milk & an apple
LUNCH: Wild salmon with rice and vegetables
DINNER: Soy burger on bun with healthy fries
SNACK: Yogurt with fresh blueberries & cup of tea
Try adding all of these cholesterol-fighting foods to your diet, and you will most likely start feeling healthier in no time. However, don't forget that a consistent exercise plan is also key to this process.
Changing your lifestyle is the most important, and most difficult, step when trying to lower your cholesterol levels. Think about meeting a nutritionist in addition to your doctor to make this change easier on you. Your heart will thank you!