Cholesterol is the fatty, waxy substance that our liver makes to perform some of the important body functions.
Cholesterol is important to make vitamin D, some hormones like estrogen, progesterone and androgens etc.
While an optimum amount of cholesterol is needed for some important body functions and creating the cell membrane as well, a high cholesterol level may create some problems like a deposition in the blood vessels leading to cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
As the sources of cholesterol are two, the dietary sources and the liver, so cutting down on fatty food and switching to a low-cholesterol diet is the best measure.
This article throws light on the types of cholesterol, how to control it and the best diet to lower cholesterol levels quickly.
Cholesterol and Its Role in the Body
The main functions of cholesterol in the body are the formation of steroid hormones, vitamin D and the creation of cell membranes.
These functions are essential as the whole reproductive cycle is based on steroid hormones, estrogen, progesterone and androgens.
Glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids are formed by using cholesterol as well. Vitamin D is vital for optimal bone health.
On the other hand, high cholesterol levels may pose some problem in the body such as LDL or bad cholesterol is responsible for the deposition of cholesterol in your body.
HDL or good cholesterol carries cholesterol from all parts of the body to the liver, so that it may be broken down and removed. HDL is doing good to the body by removing excess cholesterol that’s why it’s known as good cholesterol and vice versa.
Benefits of a low cholesterol diet
- Reduced Risk of Heart Diseases – A low-cholesterol, low-fat diet ensures the reduction in LDL or bad cholesterol. That’s why the heart works at good efficiency and the risk of heart disease decreases many folds.
- Weight Reduction – A low-cholesterol diet is also fiber-rich, easily digestible and low-fat in nature, this leads to weight loss in obese individuals while decreasing cholesterol levels as well. It’s an absolute win-win for obese or overweight people.
- Better Physical Activity – When the heart is pumping blood at a good efficiency and your body is fit then the physical activity is easy to execute.
- Prevention of Atherosclerosis – Atherosclerosis is the deposition of plaque in the arteries, this narrows the pathway thereby increasing the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular disorders (source).
- Blood Pressure Regulation – When there is no narrowing of arteries then the blood flows normally within them resulting in normal blood pressure.
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How a Low Cholesterol Diet Works
Cutting down on saturated and trans fats like deep-fried food, processed food, some meat, full-fat dairy, butter or margarine etc may stop the production of LDL or bad cholesterol in the body.
Consuming unsaturated fats in moderation improves the amount of HDL in the blood which accelerates the removal of excess cholesterol from the blood thereby lowering cholesterol levels.
Low cholesterol diet includes fibre-rich whole grains, citrus fruits, nuts, legumes and seeds rich in omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds) etc. The fiber in the diet decreases the deposition of cholesterol in the body and omega-3 helps in raising HDL levels too.
Also Read: Low Carb Diet vs Keto Diet: All You Need to Know
What to Eat on a Low Cholesterol Diet
- Legumes & Pulses – The consumption of pulses like chickpeas, peas, beans and lentils all decrease the LDL or bad cholesterol levels when consumed one serving daily.
- Vegetables – Eggplants, okra, dark green leafy vegetables and cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, squash, and sweet potatoes are rich in fiber and contain pectin which is known to reduce total cholesterol levels effectively. Only 2 gm of plant sterol may decrease LDL by 5 to 15%. Garlic contains allicin which is a star ingredient for the same.
- Nuts – Consumption of nuts is particularly beneficial in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, especially in those who have a low body metabolic rate or BMI.
- Fruits – Avocados contain MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids), and citrus fruits & berries contain soluble fiber, antioxidants and pectin that help lower bad cholesterol and improve the good HDL cholesterol.
- Unsaturated Fat – Vegetable oil, olive oil, and peanut butter should be taken instead of other saturated butter.
- Whey Protein – It reduces LDL, total cholesterol and blood pressure as well.
- Whole grains – Barley, and oats are proven to reduce both total and bad cholesterol levels as they are rich in fiber and beta glucagon.
- Dark chocolate – Flavonoids present in dark chocolate are responsible for lowering LDL and total cholesterol levels.
- Soya – consuming whole soya products effectively reduces cholesterol levels whereas the supplements are proven to have little to no effect.
Other lifestyle changes to consider
Choosing a low-cholesterol diet is the main step towards lowering the bad cholesterol, triglycerides and total cholesterol numbers, but there are many other lifestyle changes that must be considered for a radical change faster.
Maintaining an optimal weight, staying physically active, stopping alcohol consumption, less salt, and stress reduction and stopping the smoking habit are some of the most important lifestyle changes. These changes must be considered if you want to live a healthy and active life.
Electrolytes and Cholesterol Levels
Surprisingly, a study found that in those subjects who are dehydrated, their cholesterol levels were raised due to a deficiency of electrolytes and water. This shows that adding electrolyte drinks to your diet may decrease cholesterol levels and may be included in a low-cholesterol diet as well.
Potential Drawbacks and Concerns
Those who have a genetic/hereditary condition of high cholesterol may not benefit from the low-cholesterol diet and lifestyle changes alone, and they will need medications like statins under the care of an expert health professional. As high cholesterol levels may be quite dangerous and even fatal if not kept under check.
To prevent the effects of high cholesterol on the heart, brain and body, following a cholesterol-lowering diet is the best option.
Adding nuts, nut butter, cruciferous vegetables, omega-3 rich foods, citrus fruits, dark chocolate and soya products have been proven to reduce the bad cholesterol or LDL levels effectively and increase the good cholesterol levels (HDL) as well.
Good lifestyle changes and a low cholesterol diet may be the key to a healthy heart and healthy body.
Low Cholesterol Diet Related FAQs
What are 2 foods that someone with high cholesterol should avoid?
All deep-fried foods and saturated fats (like butter, full-fat dairy and processed, sugary foods) are the two types of foods that must be avoided if you are suffering from high cholesterol levels or are trying to lower your bad cholesterol levels.
What is a good breakfast if you have high cholesterol?
A good breakfast for those who have high cholesterol may be a bowl of oats with some fruits like apples, avocado and some berries. You may top it up with some walnuts and assorted nuts. It may also be made savoury by adding spices and cruciferous veggies, garlic and dark green leafy vegetables etc.
What quickly reduces cholesterol?
Adding vegetables, high-fiber supplements, and nuts and cutting down fatty foods, full-fat dairy is the best low cholesterol diet option to reduce cholesterol quickly. Adding physical activity and weight reduction in obese people is also quite rewarding in terms of reducing cholesterol levels faster.