Top 4 cholesterol-busting foods!
You’ve just gone for your annual health check-up, expecting the same text from your practice that your bloods have been reviewed and all was normal. But, this time, your doctor asks that you call. You get told that you have high cholesterol. Shocker! But you’re sure that your diet is relatively healthy; you eat your fruit and veg, you don’t have many fatty cuts of meat, and you don’t have a lot of confectionary food. So, what to do next?
Well, beyond the general healthy eating guidelines, there are some specific dietary changes that are not widely known that you can make to improve your cholesterol levels. Here are my top four tips to get you started:
1. Increase the amount of beta glucans in your diet
Examples: found in oats and barley
Dose: 3g daily
Mechanism of action: Beta-glucan is a special type of soluble fibre and it is thought that it helps to lower cholesterol levels by forming a gel in the intestine which then binds with bile acids (these are cholesterol-rich molecules that help us digest food) and prevent their absorption in the body.
2. Soy foods
Examples: Tempeh, tofu, soy mince, soy yoghurt/milk, edamame beans
Dose: 25g of soy protein daily
Mechanism of action: It has been theorised that certain components of soy food lead to increased removal of bile from the body and so with the bile, the removal of cholesterol. There have also been other theories as to why soy plays a role in reducing cholesterol such as improving the ratio of certain minerals in our body (an imbalanced ratio can lead to a rise in blood cholesterol), in addition to containing compounds which exert weak estrogenic effects. Estrogen has beneficial effects on heart health as it reduces the bad cholesterol (LDL) and raises the good cholesterol (HDL)in our blood.
3. Incorporate plant sterol and stanols into your diet
Examples: Minimal amounts in foods. Mostly found in fortified products such as yoghurt drinks and spreads
Dose: 1.5-3g daily
Mechanism of action: These products have a very similar structure to cholesterol which means that they themselves bind to the cholesterol receptors and subsequently prevent the absorption of cholesterol. Less absorption into the bloodstream means the cholesterol is removed from your body through stool.
4. Incorporate more food which is high in unsaturated fats
Examples: Olive oil, olives, avocado, avocado oil, nuts, seeds, nut butters
Dose: Nothing specific but have these fats more regularly in your diet instead of unhealthier fats such as butter/lard/coconut oil/palm oil/fats in confectionary/fried/ultra-processed foods.
Mechanism of action: Saturated fat directly increases the amount of bad cholesterol in the body and so, by switching the saturated fats in your diet to the healthier unsaturated varieties, you can reduce the amount of cholesterol produced. Another mechanism of action is that unsaturated fats are more easily cleared from the blood, in addition to having an anti-inflammatory effect on your body. This all leads to an increase in the size of the blood cholesterol molecules (which, funnily enough, is actually something that is good since it is the small LDL molecules that are the most damaging).
And there you have my top four tips to help you reduce your cholesterol that are more specific than just 'eating more fruit or vegetables' or being told to have less ‘junk’ food.
If you think that you would benefit from more tailored guidance to help you implement the above effectively, I recommend reaching out to me and scheduling in for a free discovery call where we can discuss how further support may be of benefit.