We’re often told to keep our cholesterol levels low to prevent health problems, particularly relating to our heart. But what is cholesterol? And how can we lower it to keep ourselves healthy?
Cholesterol is essentially a substance that’s found in your body and in most animal products. It plays an important role in the production of hormones, vitamin D and bile to help your body to digest fats. Your liver produces cholesterol itself, but your levels can be elevated when you consume animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy.
There are two types of cholesterol – one is seen as ‘bad’ and the other is seen as ‘good’. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is the ‘bad’ cholesterol, and it’s seen as such because it helps facilitate a lot of plaque buildup in your arteries – not ideal for your heart health!
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) on the other hand is the ‘good’ cholesterol and we should be aiming to have more of this one as it helps to get rid of excess cholesterol in your body.
So what can we do to ensure we’re consuming more of the ‘good’ cholesterol and less of the ‘bad’? Here’s a great list of foods that can help lower your cholesterol levels and keep you healthy and free of heart problems.
Full of fibre and monounsaturated fats which help to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and raise ‘good’ cholesterol, avocados are a great food to help you combat any ‘bad’ cholesterol build up.
2. Dark chocolate
Chocolate-lovers rejoice! The cocoa in dark chocolate can lower LDL cholesterol and protect this ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood from oxidising which can cause heart disease.
To make this food really work for your heart, you should be consuming chocolate that’s at least 75% cocoa, otherwise the sugar content won’t do you any favours!
3. Extra virgin olive oil
You might have heard the many benefits of extra virgin olive oil, and aiding in lowering cholesterol levels is one of them. Like avocados, its monounsaturated fats help to boost your heart health, and the antioxidants present in this food are helpful too!
Another food renowned for its health benefits, garlic helps to lower blood pressure, and the plant compound allicin that’s found in garlic can also help to lower LDL and reduce other risk factors of heart disease.
Fatty or oily fish are particularly good for your cholesterol levels and overall heart health – these include salmon, anchovies and mackerel. These types of fish contain great amounts of omega-3 which can increase ‘good’ cholesterol and actually lower your risk of strokes and heart disease.
If you’re worried about your cholesterol levels, try adding these into your diet ASAP!