What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all the cells in the body. The human body needs some amount of cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help digestion. The body itself produces all the cholesterol required for various functions.

Cholesterol is often divided into

  • HDL – High Density Lipoprotein or good cholesterol. It carries cholesterol from other parts of the body to the liver and then the liver disposes it off.
  • LDL – Low Density Lipoprotein or bad cholesterol. High levels of LDL are dangerous as they can lead to a buildup of plaque in the arteries.
  • VLDL – Very Low Density Lipoprotein. This is also referred to as bad cholesterol but is different from LDL as VLDL carries triglycerides to the tissues. Triglycerides are a type of fat/lipid in the blood. The body converts unrequired calories into triglycerides in the fat cells which are later released by hormones when the body requires energy. But having high levels of triglycerides can be harmful as it increases the risk of heart disease.

What is high cholesterol?

What is high cholesterol

High cholesterol happens when fatty deposits develop and grow in the blood vessels making it difficult for the smooth flow of blood through the arteries. If these fatty deposits break and form a clot suddenly, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Foods that can lower cholesterol

Foods that can lower cholesterol

Dietary habits play an important role in cholesterol levels and controlling the risks of bad cholesterol. Here are X foods that can lower cholesterol and improve heart health.

1. Pulses

Pulses

Also known as legumes, these plant-based foods, such as beans, peas, lentils, contain a lot of fiber, minerals and proteins and can help lower LDL levels.

2. Nuts

Nuts

Nuts are high in monosaturated fats, fibers, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Walnuts are a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids, almonds contain L-arginine, an amino acid which helps regulate blood pressure. Nuts are rich in cholesterol-lowering fats and can improve overall heart health.

3. Fatty fish

Fatty fish

Salmon & mackerel are very good sources of omega 3 fatty acids which increases HDL levels and lowers inflammation and stroke risk.

4. Fruits & berries

Fruits and berries

Most fruits and berries, especially apples, grapes, citrus fruits and strawberries, are a very good source of antioxidants and soluble fiber which helps lower LDL levels.

5. Vegetables

Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, kale, etc.) contain lutein and other carotenoids that keep the heart in good health.

6. Cocoa & dark chocolate

Cocoa and dark chocolate

Flavonoids in dark chocolate and cocoa lower blood pressure, LDL levels and increase HDL levels.

7. Garlic

Garlic

Garlic has been long used to improve heart health. Allicin, a compound found in garlic, helps lower LDL levels and reduces other heart disease risks.

8. Olive oil

Olive oil

Olive oil has long been used in Mediterranean cooking as it contains monosaturated fats and antioxidants that raises HDL levels and reduces LDL levels thereby improving heart health.

9. Oats & Barley

Oats & Barley

Whole grains such as oats and barley contain beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that is very effective at lowering LDL cholesterol.

10. Avocados

Avocados

A fruit very high in nutrients, avocados provide monounsaturated fatty acids and fiber, helpful in lowering cholesterol and keeping a healthy heart.

High cholesterol levels can cause a major risk for heart problems. Make sure to include these healthy foods in your daily diet to control/lower your cholesterol (LDL, VLDL) levels.

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