It’s common knowledge that high cholesterol can lead to heart problems and increase heart disease risk. If you’re staring at scary cholesterol numbers, here’s a list of food items to introduce in your daily diet and the unhealthy foods and habits to avoid.
No red meat, Yes fatty fish
Yes, mutton chop, sausages and pork fry are delicious, but they contain saturated fat. This type of fat is known to be best friends with high cholesterol. “Regular consumption can increase your cholesterol level or worsen your existing heart disease,” says Neelanjana Singh, nutritionist, Heinz Foundation of India. If you enjoy meat, make it white and try fatty fish instead of red meat, especially the processed variety.
Eating fish twice or thrice a week can reduce cholesterol by delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. According to research from California’s Loma Linda University, replacing saturated fats with omega-3s, found in salmon, sardines, and herring can raise good cholesterol by around 4 per cent.
No ice cream, Yes greens and fruits
A scoop of ice cream is full of fat and cholesterol. To satiate hunger pangs, go for a cup of fresh fruit or stir-fried veggies instead. Make it a mix of sweet and sour seasonal fruits to get your fill of natural sugar. Combine banana with watermelon, grapes and kiwi.
“Veggies and fruits have plant sterols, found naturally in plants, that mimick cholesterol and compete with it for absorption,” explains Singh. Broccoli, apple and avocados are especially beneficial for lowering cholesterol and keeping your heart healthy.
No liver, Yes garlic
The iron-rich liver may be healthy for those with an iron deficiency. But this animal organ is also the body's primary source of cholesterol and the region where waxy cholesterol is made and stored, so it’s best to avoid it. “Instead, use garlic generously in your curries. Add chopped raw garlic to salads and soups,” suggests Singh.
The intake of raw garlic (not in capsule form) prevents blood clots, reduces blood pressure and protects against infections. Studies in several peer-reviewed journals have maintained that garlic can reduce the formation of artery-clogging plaque at its earliest stage. It does so by keeping cholesterol particles from sticking to artery walls. “For best results, eat two to four raw garlic pods daily,” adds Singh.
No French fries, Yes walnuts
Fast food culture’s favourite snack, French fries add to cholesterol woes. The fries come laden with hydrogenated vegetable oils that have high levels of trans fats. These bad fats are commonly used in fast food to make it stable and less prone to spoiling. “Trans fats in any form is bad for cholesterol,” informs Singh.
For crunchy mid-day snacks, pick walnuts. A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that having 40 grams of whole walnuts six days a week for one month can reduce total cholesterol by 5.4 per cent.
No pastries and muffins, Yes oats and barley
Crispy crusts and cream toppings may give you a sugar high on a bad day, but these pastries and muffins are bad news for cholesterol watchers. You must avoid them for their generous use of butter, cream, cream cheese and whole milk.
Instead, opt for desserts and treats made with oats and barley or experiment with recipes that use these ingredients. Oats and barley contain a soluble fibre called beta-glucan that mops up cholesterol. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the authors tested cholesterol-lowering drugs against cholesterol-lowering foods in a group of thirty-four adults suffering from high cholesterol. The results showed that the cholesterol-reducing diet, especially oats, worked as well as cholesterol-lowering medication.