Cholesterol is something that we often misunderstand, due to a lot of misinformation over the last decade about how bad ‘cholesterol’ in general is for us. However, there are essentially two types of cholesterol – the good and the bad – and the diet to aim for is one which will reduce your bad cholesterol while increasing the good. So, what type of foods must you be eating in order to do just that?
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol comes in two types, namely high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is known as the ‘good cholesterol’, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or ‘bad cholesterol’. LDL is what clogs up your arteries and can lead to dangerous health problems such as heart disease. HDL instead, can help to clear the LDL from your body by moving it out of your bloodstream and then into your liver, where it can be broken down and removed from the body.
The Worst Foods
If you are attempting to reduce your LDL cholesterol levels there are several food groups that you should restrict or avoid as much as possible. In general you should try to limit the amount of saturated fats in your diet, which are usually found in foods like full-fat dairy products like full-fat milk and yoghurt, fatty meats like pork ribs, and fried foods. You should also avoid foods heavy in trans fats, which are man-made fats that you find in foods such as pastries, donuts, baked goods, and non-dairy creamers.
In general, if you are looking to lower your cholesterol the worst foods come in the form of convenience – like takeaways, prepackaged foods, processed foods, and fast food. It is best to avoid quick and easy meals that will be high in saturated and trans fats and try to eat more balanced meals made up of whole foods.
The Best Foods
To help break down LDL and improve your HDL levels you can eat foods that are rich in fibre in addition to low in saturated fats. It is recommended that you replace butter or lard with vegetable oils like sunflower or canola oil in order to reduce your fat intake. Increasing the fibre in your diet is a powerful way to lower cholesterol and is easy to do, as soluble fibre can be found in many accessible foods such as; oats and oat-based cereals, bran and barley, beans, aubergine, and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Using soybean products, such as tofu and soy milk, has also been shown to reduce levels of LDL in the body. Lastly, eating more fatty fish such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon instead of red meat have also shown to be effective in reducing LDL, thanks to the high levels of omega-3 oils found in these fish that help to break down cholesterol.
Therefore, when it comes to lowering your cholesterol it is all about balancing out your good and bad cholesterol. While small amounts of foods containing HDL, such as full-fat dairy products and fast food, are okay sometimes, you should make sure to limit your intake. It is also important to balance these occasional treats with a diet that is rich in good cholesterol that will help your body to break down the bad stuff, by eating a lot of soluble fibre and avoiding saturated fats.
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