Whatever the reasons may be for your high blood cholesterol level–diet, heredity or both–the first thing you should do is watch what you eat. A few simple changes in what you eat can have a big impact on your cholesterol. Discovering foods that can help manage your blood cholesterol level will also reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Foods high in soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber slows digestion, which, in turn, lowers absorption of some nutrients, such as starch and sugar. Soluble fiber reduces the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines, which reduces cholesterol levels in the blood.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, adding soluble fibers in a low-saturated fat or low-cholesterol diet can help lower total cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein), also known as the “bad” cholesterol. Psyllium husk, kidney beans, apples, pears, barley, guar gum, flax seed and oat bran have high concentrations of soluble fiber.
Nuts are rich in unsaturated fats, which can help lower cholesterol. Eating a handful (1.5 oz.) a day of walnuts, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts and pistachio nuts will help lower your total and bad cholesterol levels as well as reduce your risks of heart disease, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Nuts are also high in calories. Eat them in moderation. Choose unsalted nuts whenever possible to minimize weight gain.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, which are necessary for human health. Unfortunately, the human body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, so you have to get them through food. Fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, lake trout, albacore and halibut, are rich in fatty acids, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include other seafood, such as algae and krill, as well as some plants and nut oils. Broil, bake, steam or grill fish instead of frying to maintain their heart-health benefits whenever possible.
Stanol and Sterol Ester-Containing Foods
Stanols and sterols are substances found in plants that help block the absorption of cholesterol, but they do not appear to interfere with the levels of triglycerides or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as the “good” cholesterol.
According to the AHA, margarines, orange juice and yogurt drinks fortified with plant sterols can help reduce LDL cholesterol by more than 10 percent. For best results, take at least 2 grams (g), which is equivalent to two 8-oz. servings of plant sterol-fortified orange juice a day.
Low-Fat Meat and Poultry
Meats are rich in saturated fats, which can increase the level of cholesterol. If you cannot resist eating meat, choose only lean meat or poultry. Select lean cuts of meat with minimal visible fat. Choose skinless poultry; eat only parts not high in saturated fats. All internal organs are high in fats. Broil and grill instead of frying meats and poultry to decrease the amount of fats.