Top 4 foods to lower cholesterol
Some foods are great for your heart health and can help you to naturally lower your cholesterol levels.
Here are tried and tested foods that have been shown to be particularly useful in controlling your levels:
1) Olive oil and olive products
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E. Research has shown that foods with a high monounsaturated fatty acid content lower “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and increase ‘good’ high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Anyone with raised cholesterol levels needs to increase his HDL and lower his LDL levels, which olive oil and products made of olives, will promote.
Have one or two tablespoons of olive oil a day over salads or use for cooking, and add some olives to your salads. Keep an eye open for margarine made from olive oil as this also has the benefit of a high monounsaturated fatty acid content.
2) Polyunsaturated, ‘lite’ and Flora ‘pro-activ’ margarine
Soft or tub margarine with a high polyunsaturated fatty acid content will also help to lower LDL levels.
Then there are the ‘lite’ margarines, which have a reduced fat, energy and salt content – all factors that can contribute to heart health.
Legumes include dry, cooked or canned beans, lentils, peas and all the soya products (cooked or canned soya beans, soya mince, cubes, milk, tofu and tempeh).
Legumes have a high dietary fibre content and are rich in protective nutrients, including minerals, B vitamins and phytonutrients. These nutrients protect the heart and the dietary fibre content lowers cholesterol and energy intake.
Legumes are also naturally low in fat and don’t contain any cholesterol. On top of this, they have a low glycaemic index (GI). The South African Food-based Dietary Guidelines recommend that we should eat dry beans, peas, lentils and soya regularly.
Make an effort to eat legumes at least three to four times a week, ideally every day.
4) Fat-free yoghurt and other fat-free dairy products
Full-cream dairy products and most cheeses have a high saturated fat content and need to be avoided if you have raised cholesterol levels.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should cut out this food group altogether. Cutting out dairy products will deprive you of calcium, a mineral that’s essential for the healthy functioning of the heart and many other important roles in the human body, such as the prevention of osteoporosis.
You can, however, use fat-free milk, yoghurt and cottage cheese in a low-cholesterol diet. Once the fat has been removed from a dairy product, it also removes practically all the cholesterol.
Fat-free yoghurt is a particularly good choice as it is rich in protein, calcium and Lactobacillus microorganisms which may help to lower blood cholesterol levels.