There are many foods that can help you lower your cholesterol in one way or another. Some rid your body of LDL-C (bad cholesterol) before it reaches the blood, others prevent its absorption in the intestine. Know more about the right diet for managing high cholesterol from our expert Nidhi Dhawan, HOD – Dietetics, Saroj Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi.
There are three main principles that aim to lower cholesterol levels directly. First, limit the intake of saturated fatty acids, especially in foods of animal origin. Biscuits, pastries and other baked items are high in saturated fats. Replace these with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, i.e., the ‘good fats’, that are found in oils (olive, rapeseed, sunflower), and fish. Second, try to limit the consumption of foods rich in cholesterol (link to relevant article). Finally, increase the consumption of fiber, which is found in vegetables, fruits and some cereals.
You can also opt for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC). This plan aims to change your food habits to prevent cardiac ailments due to high LDL levels. Dietary changes are necessary even if you are on medication for high cholesterol levels.
The recommended guidelines for this diet include the following:
- Overall intake of fats should be limited to 25-35% of your total calorie consumption and only 7% of the total calories consumed should be saturated fats.
- Cholesterol intake should be restricted to 200 mg per day.
- Sodium intake should ideally be <2,000 mg per day.
- Physical activity should be a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week.
- It is also advised to eat fresh fruits, vegetables, soluble fiber, grains, and nuts throughout the day.
Besides the above mentioned diet recommendations, the following foods have been shown to improve cholesterol levels in the blood:
1. Oats and oat bran: A daily intake of 3 gm of oats in your diet will help manage cholesterol better.
2. Avocados: Avocados are low carb plant food and are rich in Vitamin K, C, B5, B6, E, potassium and folate, along with a small quantity of magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorus, vitamin A, B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (Niacin), protein.
3. Beans: Rajma, chana and chickpeas are rich in dietary fiber, which help in reducing cholesterol levels.
4. Nuts: Walnut, almonds and cashews help in lowering LDL cholesterol due to the presence of protein, fiber, healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamins, and other essential nutrients.
5. Vegetables: Eggplant (brinjal), bhindi, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, broccoli and other vegetables are rich in soluble fibers which help in binding the cholesterol and managing it better.
6. Fruits: Fruits such as pears, apples, oranges, berries, grapefruits and pomegranates help in managing cholesterol better as they help release cholesterol-lowering compounds known as stanols.
7. Green tea: Green tea aids in digestion and is easily available in markets. Some antioxidants present in green tea can help in controlling your cholesterol levels.