Photo by Denna Jones

Even if we do not fully understand why, most people do understand the importance of keeping our cholesterol at a healthy level.

Produced by the liver, cholesterol is necessary for our bodies to function normally. When it is allowed to build up in our bodies, it contributes to the fatty plaques on the walls of the arteries. This build-up can lead to strokes or heart attacks. Approximately two out of every three adults have high cholesterol. An individual does have control over this one risk factor. According to recent studies, thousands of strokes and heart attacks are preventable with the use of cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins. Another way to control cholesterol levels includes quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise. The following ten tips can make a big difference in helping you to control your cholesterol levels.


Eat Plenty of Oats:

According to recently published studies, those individuals with high cholesterol who started to consume oats on a regular basis reduced their LDL cholesterol between five and seven percent. Oats are rich in beta-glucan. This soluble fiber has been proven to fight LDL and total cholesterol when consumed daily. Choose rolled oats versus milled or choose porridge for breakfast. Try adding barley to your soup during lunch or select an oat-based bar for a mid-afternoon snack. There are several ways to add oats to your daily diet other than eating oatmeal every morning.


Add Oil-Rich Fish in your Weekly Diet:

Some of the best sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids are found in fish, including mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, trout and salmon. These fish are popular choices and are famous for being heart healthy. Not only do omega-3 fatty acids lower cholesterol, but they also help lower blood pressure and triglycerides. It is easy to add these products to your diet each day. Not only can you cook these for lunches or dinners, but also you can also easily add them to sandwiches and potatoes. Many of us tend to stick with tuna and salmon so do not be afraid to experiment with other types of oil-rich fish including herring and kippers.


Determining a Healthy Cholesterol Level:

The level of cholesterol in your blood can easily be checked by the administration of a simple blood test. A nurse practitioner or a doctor can carry out this test. Usually you will be asked to fast for 10 to 12 hours before blood is drawn, commonly referred to as a fasting blood test. This ensures that the reading is accurate. This test will determine the levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein,) HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and triglycerides. Triglycerides are also measured as they are also linked to a greater risk of heart disease. These items are tested and then measured in Milli-moles per liter of blood, or mmol/L. Although it is recommended that your physician perform this test, you can also buy home-testing kits to do your own testing at home.


Often the eye doctor or optometrist will alert his or her patients with high cholesterol. They can see the plaque buildup in the blood vessels and around your corneas during a regular eye exam. This is just another reason why it is a good idea to stay current with regular eye exams.


What Triglycerides are:

Triglycerides are a fatty substance found in the blood. Like cholesterol, triglycerides are produced in the liver. Triglycerides are also found in oils, meats and dairy products. This fat is essential to give us energy but an overabundance of triglycerides is stored in the blood and is associated with heart disease and atherosclerosis.


Include Legumes in your Diet:

Legumes and beans, especially soya legumes are high in soluble fiber. Studies have shown that those people who consume one to two portions of soya legumes each day can reduce their LDL cholesterol by an average of 5.5 percent while seeing their HDL levels increase an average of 3.2 percent.

Non-soya legumes also significantly reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides by an average of 5 percent. It is easy to add these important foods to your diet each day. Add chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans , stews, salads and soups. Mash them and make spreads and dips. Vegetarian food items including soy milk and tofu can also help you to add legumes to your daily diet.


Heart Healthy Fats:

Many people love to eat butter. Although it is okay in moderation, butter should not be eaten daily as it contains a great deal of saturated fat. To help control cholesterol, people should replace the butter in their diet with alternatives that are low in saturated fats. This includes minimizing the amount of butter-rich foods that are being eaten including pastries and cakes. Plant oils including corn, safflower, avocado and sunflower oils are the best to cook with. Avoid using coconut and palm oils, which are high in saturated fats. Replace butter with low-fat spreads for potatoes, breads and other items that people typically put butter on.


Processed Meats:

Meat that has been processed is a major contributor to high cholesterol. This includes meat products such as salami, sausage and ham. Limit your servings to no more than two each week. Opt for healthier choices such as skinless chicken breasts and other lean cuts of meat in place of the processed foods.


Enjoy Your Eggs

Contrary to popular belief, the cholesterol in eggs does not play a major role in the effect of cholesterol levels.

When enjoyed as part of a well balanced diet, eggs can even help lower cholesterol. According to recent studies, those individuals who consume two eggs at breakfast time remain fuller for longer and will consume fewer calories throughout the day. According to the FDA, there is no standard for the recommended number of eggs one should consume in one day.


Limit Alcohol Intake

Indulging in a glass or two of red wine does work to raise the HDL levels in the blood. Red wine also contains healthy antioxidants or polyphenols that offer protective properties and can be enjoyed in moderation.

Before you decide to start consuming red wine, keep in mind that alcohol also contributes many empty calories to a person’s diet. Because of these empty calories, alcohol consumption contributes to weight gain. Obesity is one of the largest contributors to and increased LDL cholesterol, so weight should be taken into consideration when attempting to control cholesterol levels.


Enjoy Those Nuts

High in soluble fiber, monounsaturated fats and plant sterols, nuts are a heart-healthy treat that is good for us. They are also an excellent source of nutrients that are essential including vitamin E, magnesium and potassium. Consuming a small handful each day effectively reduces LDL cholesterol.

Although they are known to be high in calories, nuts are also filling so most people do not eat a lot of them. This is also true with seeds, which also work to lower bad cholesterol.


Enjoy a Cup of Tea

Both black tea and green tea contain a compound known as catechins. Catechins are known to help lower cholesterol by blocking the absorption. Those individuals who drink five cups of tea daily show an average drop in LDL cholesterol of 11 percent. Green tea can also be drunk or used in pill form as a supplement to reduce cholesterol levels.

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