High cholesterol levels are extremely common in America. Thankfully, bad cholesterol is something that many of us can avoid or treat if we pay attention to our dietary habits. Indeed, high cholesterol can be exacerbated by eating certain foods or forgetting to consume some healthy veggies.

Want to know how to combat your high cholesterol by learning which foods to eat and avoid? You’ve come to the right place!

Cholesterol in a Nutshell

Blood cholesterol in your body is a waxy compound that is used by your body to produce certain hormones and vitamins, including vitamin D and vitamin K2. Cholesterol is also an important component of the bile in your digestive system that helps you digest certain fats. Even more importantly, most cells in your body rely on cholesterol to form their cellular membranes.

Normally, your body produces enough cholesterol via the liver. However, you might have high total cholesterol due to eating certain animal products, genetic factors, or other reasons. High levels of bad cholesterol, i.e. LDL levels (low density lipoprotein) can lead to a number of negative health effects, including a higher risk of heart disease, particularly heart attacks and atherosclerosis. Understanding your Cholesterol is important, here are the specific numbers you should look at to Make Sense of Your Cholesterol

Now, it’s worth noting that there is such a thing as good cholesterol, which you may know as HDL cholesterol (which stands for high-density lipoprotein). It’s considered good because it can actually help remove bad cholesterol (LDL) from your bloodstream. You can raise HDL with foods rich in healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids. Some of these healthy fat foods include olive oil,, fatty fish like mackerel and salmon, flaxseed, beans, and legumes.

Foods To Eat if You Have High Cholesterol

While some foods can make your high cholesterol worse, there are also plenty of foods to target on your next trip to the grocery store that are both heart-healthy and good for your overall wellness!

Organic Produce

For starters, remember the phrase “eat the rainbow.” Colorful fruits and vegetables, including berries, spinach, bell peppers, apples, and oranges are chock full of vitamins and minerals your body needs for general health. They’re the foundation of a healthy diet and most of these options are naturally cholesterol-free. Plus, leafy green vegetables often contain enough fiber to keep you feeling full in between meals, and quite a few of these foods have soluble fiber which can help prevent absorption of bad cholesterol into the bloodstream. 

Cholesterol Super Foods

Garlic and Turmeric are two superfoods you’ll want to include in your diet. Garlic is highly nutritious and has cholesterol supporting properties that can potentially reduce the risk of heart disease. Garlic also supports the reduction of LDL cholesterol. Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric and is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. 

Clean Meats

Red meat consumption isn’t necessarily linked to LDL cholesterol. In fact, if you prioritize lean cuts of meat from pork, beef, and chicken, you likely won’t have much trouble with cholesterol in the long run. 

Try to find meat that’s grass-fed and organic, when possible. Meat provides your body with the necessary protein to rebuild its muscles: a key priority if you’re also looking to become more fit.

Protein-Rich Beans

Certain kinds of beans can also serve as major sources of protein, making these a good option for vegetarians looking to lower their cholesterol. The specific beans you should target include black beans, soybeans, garbanzo beans, and kidney beans. 

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds aren’t just tasty, they’re healthy snacks that are naturally low in cholesterol. You can use these to garnish other meals, like pasta or salad, or eat them for their vitamin and mineral content.

Beware nut products that may have a lot of salt and sugar, however, like peanut butter. If you do want to buy peanut butter or something similar, make sure it includes only the nuts for its key ingredients (and maybe a little salt).

Foods To Avoid if You Have High Cholesterol

Of course, while the above foods are great if you have high cholesterol, you should also avoid high-cholesterol foods. Try to cut these foods out of your diet if possible.

Foods with Trans Fat

Trans fats are the “bad” kind of fat your body doesn’t really need. This unhealthy fat type is usually found in packaged or processed foods like cookies, pastries, and crackers. Therefore, you’ll usually find trans fats in pre-made foods at supermarkets, fairs and festivals, and fast-food restaurants. Avoid these foods if at all possible to help lower your dietary cholesterol over time. Specific foods to avoid include frozen pizza, donuts, and fried foods.

Salty Foods

While real salt, such as Sea Salt is good for you processed salt and salty foods are also bad news for your cholesterol levels. That’s because sodium can directly raise your blood pressure if you have too much of it. Unfortunately, lots of foods in America eat way more sodium than they need, like canned soup and many of our favorite snack foods. But you can also find too much salt in bread products, cold cut meat, and fast-food sandwiches.

Your best bet to avoid eating too much salt is to read the nutrition labels on the back of each product you purchase. Try to avoid going over your daily sodium requirement by measuring how much sodium is in all of your foods eaten throughout the day. 

Sugary Sweets

Lastly, try to avoid sugary sweets. Added sugar isn’t just bad for your cholesterol levels – it’s also bad if you’re struggling with heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes. Like salt, many foods in America are pumped with more sugar than they need to improve their flavor.

You should specifically try to avoid the usual sugary culprits, including most sodas, overly sweetened teas, cookies, cakes, ice cream, and more. As with salt, read the back nutrition labels of all your food products to make sure you don’t go overboard with your daily sugar requirements.

Summary

In the end, you don’t have to ask a nutritionist to know that lifestyle changes to alter your diet toward lower cholesterol will also bring health benefits overall by helping you to cut out certain unhealthy options, like trans fats and overly salty foods. Lower cholesterol likely means not just better heart health, but better overall health, so remember this list the next time you go shopping for the next week’s meals! If your cholesterol is high, it’s important to get to the cause of it. If you can lifestyle your way into it, you can lifestyle your way out of it!

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5586287/

https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@fc/documents/downloadable/ucm_466712.pdf

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/trans-fat

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/cholesterol/art-20045192