Cholesterol, which is naturally produced by the liver, is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all the cells of our body. This fat-like substance plays a crucial role in the formation of certain hormones, vitamin D, cell membranes, and bile (a fluid that helps in digestion). Our body (liver) makes enough cholesterol that it needs to carry out these vital functions. Foods, such as egg yolks, cheese, meat, and other animal products, are good sources of cholesterol.
Consuming a diet rich in fats can increase blood cholesterol levels and lead to various cardiovascular diseases. Too much cholesterol can result in plaque buildup in the arteries, making them narrower or even blocked. If you have been diagnosed with hyperlipidemia or high blood cholesterol, controlling your diet can significantly lower the cholesterol levels in the body. To prevent future complications, avoid dairy products, red meats, and processed food. Include the following healthy food items to limit the cholesterol intake and to reduce the levels of cholesterol naturally.
Beans like kidney beans, navy beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, garbanzos, etc., are rich sources of soluble fiber. As the body takes time to digest the high fiber content in these beans, you feel full for a longer time. This reduces the chances of you munching on unhealthy snacks and helps in weight loss and lowers cholesterol. A cup of lentil soup contains 18 g of protein and less than 1 g of fat.
2) Lean Protein
Meats with low-fat content, such as skinless chicken, white-fleshed fish, and egg whites are the best protein sources and help lower the total and bad cholesterol levels in the blood. Some fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids also help lower triglycerides (blood fats). Other than animal products, walnuts, tofu, chickpea, soya beans, etc., are rich in proteins too.
3) Oats and Barley
Oats, barley, and other whole grains are rich in beta-glucan, a type of dietary fiber. 3 g of this fiber daily can help lower cholesterol. When consumed, beta-glucan forms a gel that binds to cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestine. This prevents or limits the absorption of cholesterol from the gut into the blood. This forces the liver to absorb more cholesterol from the blood for the normal functioning of the body, which reduces the blood cholesterol levels.
4) Fruits and Vegetables
Low-calorie fruits and vegetables like okra, eggplant, sweet potato, broccoli, strawberries, apples, prunes, and citrus fruits are also high in fiber. This fiber again prevents cholesterol from getting absorbed into the bloodstream from the intestine. Make sure you consume fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables instead of the canned or non-seasonal ones.
Macadamia, almonds, pecans, walnuts, and other nuts are rich sources of unsaturated fats and contain very less saturated fats, a combination that helps keep blood cholesterol levels under check. They also block the absorption of cholesterol from the guts as they contain fiber. Nuts also contain protein, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, sterols, and other vital nutrients that protect heart health.
6) Healthy Oils
Instead of using unhealthy fats like butter, lard, or shortening for cooking, use oils like canola, safflower, sunflower, olive, and mustard oil. These oils help lower the levels of bad cholesterol. Avoid using coconut and palm oil as they are high in saturated fats. Cut down on cheese, refined oils, and other unhealthy fats.