We speak of a waxy substance produced by the liver and obtained by eating animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs.
Your liver will produce less cholesterol if you consume a large amount of this substance from your food, so that dietary cholesterol rarely has a big impact on your total cholesterol levels.
However, eating large amounts of saturated fats, trans fats and sugars can raise cholesterol levels.
Keep in mind that there are different types of cholesterol.
While “good” HDL cholesterol may be beneficial to your health, high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, particularly when oxidized, have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
This is because oxidized LDL cholesterol is more likely to adhere to the walls of the arteries and form plaques that block these blood vessels.
10 tips to reduce cholesterol with your diet and help reduce the risk of heart disease
1. Eat foods rich in soluble fiber
Soluble fiber is found in large quantities in beans, legumes, whole grains, flax, apples and citrus fruits.
Humans lack the proper enzymes to break down soluble fiber, so they move through their digestive tract, absorbing water and forming a thick paste.
As you travel, soluble fiber absorbs bile, a substance produced by the liver to help digest fats. Eventually, both the fiber and the adhered bile are excreted in the fecal matter.
Bile is made of cholesterol, so when your liver needs to make more bile it extracts cholesterol from your bloodstream, which lowers cholesterol levels naturally.
Regular consumption of soluble fiber is associated with a 5-10% reduction in total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol in just four weeks.
It is recommended to eat at least 5-10 grams of soluble fiber per day to obtain the maximum cholesterol-lowering effects, but benefits have been observed with intakes even lower than 3 grams per day.
Soluble fiber reduces cholesterol by preventing the reabsorption of bile in the intestine, which leads to the excretion of bile in the stool. Your body extracts cholesterol from the bloodstream to produce more bile and, therefore, reduces levels.
2. Enjoy lots of fruits and vegetables
Eating fruits and vegetables is an easy way to reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
Studies show that adults who consume at least four servings of fruits and vegetables a day have LDL cholesterol levels about 6% lower than people who eat less than two servings per day.
Fruits and vegetables also contain a large amount of antioxidants, which prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and the formation of plaques in the arteries.
Together, these cholesterol-lowering and antioxidant effects can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Research has found that people who consume the most fruits and vegetables have a 17% lower risk of developing heart disease over a 10-year period compared to people who eat less.
Eating at least four servings of fruits and vegetables daily can reduce LDL cholesterol levels and reduce LDL oxidation, which can reduce your risk of heart disease.
3. Cook with herbs and spices
Herbs and spices are nutritional potencies packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Studies in humans have shown that garlic, turmeric and ginger are especially effective in reducing cholesterol when consumed regularly.
In fact, eating only one clove of garlic per day for three months is enough to reduce total cholesterol by 9%.
In addition to reducing cholesterol, herbs and spices contain antioxidants that prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, reducing the formation of plaques within the arteries.
Although herbs and spices are not typically eaten in large quantities, they can contribute significantly to the total amount of antioxidants consumed each day.
Oregano, sage, peppermint, thyme, cloves, dried allspice and cinnamon contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants, as well as fresh herbs such as oregano, marjoram, dill and coriander.
Fresh and dried herbs and spices can help reduce cholesterol levels. They contain antioxidants that prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
4. Eat a variety of unsaturated fats
Two main types of fats are found in foods:
The saturated ones.
The unsaturated ones
At a chemical level, saturated fats do not contain double bonds and are very straight, which allows them to be hermetically grouped and kept solid at room temperature.
Unsaturated fats contain at least one double bond and have a folded shape, preventing them from bonding so strongly. These attributes make them liquid at room temperature.
Research shows that replacing most saturated fats with unsaturated fats can reduce total cholesterol by 9% and “bad” LDL by 11% in just eight weeks.
Longer-term studies have also found that people who consume more unsaturated fats and less saturated fat tend to have lower cholesterol levels over time.
Foods such as avocado, olives, fatty fish and nuts contain unsaturated fats that are healthy for the heart, so it is beneficial to eat them regularly.
Eating more unsaturated fats and less saturated fat has been linked to lower total cholesterol and “bad” levels of LDL over time. Avocados, olives, fatty fish and nuts are especially rich in unsaturated fats.
5. Avoid artificial trans fats
While trans fats occur naturally in red meat and dairy products, the main source of most people is the artificial trans fat used in many restaurants and processed foods.
Artificial trans fats are produced by hydrogenating or adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats such as vegetable oils to change their structure and solidify at room temperature.
Trans fats are a cheap alternative to natural saturated fats and have been widely used by restaurants and food manufacturers.
However, substantial research shows that eating artificial trans fats increases “bad” LDL cholesterol, reduces “good” HDL cholesterol and is linked to a 23% greater risk of heart disease.
Be careful with the words “partially hydrogenated” appear in the ingredient lists. This term indicates that the food contains trans fats and should be avoided.
Naturally occurring trans fats found in meat and dairy products can also increase LDL cholesterol. However, they are present in amounts small enough that they are generally not considered a great risk to health.
Artificial trans fats are linked to higher levels of LDL cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease.
6. Eat less added sugars
Not only saturated and trans fats can raise cholesterol levels. Eating too many added sugars can do the same.
One study found that adults who consumed 25% of their calories from beverages made with high fructose corn syrup experienced a 17% increase in LDL cholesterol in only two weeks.
Even more worrying, fructose increases the number of small, dense, oxidized LDL cholesterol particles that contribute to heart disease.
According to a study of 14 years, these people were almost three times more likely to die of heart disease than those who obtained less than 10% of their calories from the added sugars.
It has been recommended not to eat more than 100 calories (25 grams) of additional sugar per day for women and children, and no more than 150 calories (37.5 grams) per day for men.
You can meet these objectives by carefully reading labels and choosing products without added sugars whenever possible.
Getting more than 25% of your daily calories from added sugars can raise your cholesterol levels and more than double your risk of dying from heart disease. Reduce it by choosing foods without added sugars as much as possible.
7. Enjoy a Mediterranean-style diet
One of the simplest ways to incorporate previous lifestyle changes is to follow a Mediterranean-style diet.
Mediterranean diets are rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and fish, and low in red meats and in most dairy products. Alcohol, usually in the form of red wine, is consumed in moderation with meals.
Since this style of eating includes many foods that lower cholesterol and avoid many foods that raise cholesterol, it is considered very healthy for the heart.
In fact, research has shown that following a Mediterranean-style diet for at least three months reduces LDL cholesterol by an average of 8.9 mg per deciliter (dL).
It also reduces the risk of heart disease by up to 52% and the risk of death by up to 47% when followed for at least four years.
Mediterranean foods are rich in fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, fiber and unsaturated fats. Following this type of diet can reduce cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease.
8. Eat more soy
Soy is rich in proteins and contains isoflavones, plant-based compounds that are structurally similar to estrogen.
Research has found that soy protein and isoflavones have powerful cholesterol-lowering effects and can reduce your risk of heart disease.
In fact, eating soy every day for at least a month can increase the “good” HDL cholesterol by 1.4 mg / dL and reduce the “bad” LDL cholesterol by approximately 4 mg / dL.
Less processed forms of soy, such as soy or soy milk, are probably more effective at lowering cholesterol than extracts or supplements of processed soy protein.
Soy contains plant-based proteins and isoflavones that can lower LDL cholesterol levels, which reduces the risk of heart disease when eaten regularly.
9. Drink green tea
Green tea is prepared by heating and drying the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant.
Tea leaves can be soaked in water to make tea or ground into powder and mixed with liquid for matcha green tea.
A review of 14 studies found that consuming green tea daily for at least two weeks reduces total cholesterol by approximately 7 mg / dL and “bad” LDL by approximately 2 mg / dL.
Studies in animals show that green tea can lower cholesterol by reducing the production of LDL in the liver and increase its elimination from the bloodstream.
Green tea is also rich in antioxidants, which can prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and forming plaques in the arteries.
Drinking at least four cups a day provides the greatest protection against heart disease, but enjoying just one cup a day can reduce your risk of heart attack by almost 20%.
Drinking at least one cup of green tea per day can reduce LDL cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart attack by almost 20%.
10. Try supplements to reduce cholesterol
In addition to diet, some supplements can help reduce cholesterol levels naturally:
Niacin: daily supplements of 1-6 grams of niacin can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by up to 19% in one year. However, it can cause side effects and should only be taken under medical supervision.
Psyllium husk: Psyllium husk, rich in soluble fiber, can be mixed with water and consumed daily to lower cholesterol. Research has found that psyllium husk supplements medications to lower cholesterol.
L-carnitine: L-carnitine reduces LDL levels and reduces oxidation in people with diabetes. Taking 2 grams per day for three months can reduce levels of oxidized cholesterol five times more than a placebo.
Always check with your doctor before starting a new diet or supplement regimen.
Supplements such as niacin, psyllium husk and L-carnitine may help reduce cholesterol levels, but check with your doctor before consuming it.