I’m a nurse – here’s the 5 best foods to eat to slash your risk of deadly high cholesterol
SCOFFING fatty foods can increase your risk of dangerously high cholesterol.
But according to a nurse, there are several snacks that can significantly lower it – and your chances of complications like heart disease and stroke.
Cheryl Lythgoe, matron at Benenden Health, said: “What we eat can have an impact on our cholesterol.
“Most people will benefit from lowering their levels as not doing so can cause strokes, heart attacks and narrowing of the arteries.
“Enjoying these foods as part of your healthy diet can lower your cholesterol – however, you must not stop taking your prescribed medication.”
As a general rule, she said it’s a good idea to avoid highly processed foods in favour of fresh ones.
It’s also wise to lower your salt intake, Cheryl added.
But if you’re looking for specific nosh to add into your diet, here’s what she would recommend.
Firstly, Cheryl said incorporating aubergines into your meals can have huge health benefits.
The fruit, commonly mistaken for a vegetable, contains an antioxidant which can help lower “bad cholesterol”.
They are also a great source of fibre and provide other important nutrients which can support the immune system and brain function.
When it comes to breakfast, Cheryl reckons porridge is a great way to start the day.
“Eating a 70g bowl is equal to consuming 3g of beta glucan – a soluble, cholesterol-lowering fibre,” she said.
But if you’re not a fan of oats, other great sources include pearl barley, whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta.
You can also get a good helping of soluble fibre from fruits and vegetables, so you could top your morning porridge with apples, citrus, strawberries, prunes or plums, or add a side of avocado, carrot, broccoli, okra, sweet potato or onion to your lunch or dinner.
3. Fortified spreads
“Sterols and stanols (phytosterols), common in fortified spreads, drinks and yogurts, can also help lower cholesterol,” Cheryl said.
They are found naturally in small amounts in plants and are said to absorb “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Studies have shown that regularly eating 2g a day as part of a balanced diet has significantly reduced levels.
But Cheryl said it’s important to contact your GP before trying these products, and not to give them to children under five or women who are breastfeeding.
Vegetarians will be pleased to hear that soya is a great source of protein that “appears to influence how the body regulates cholesterol”.
Cheryl therefore recommends sometimes swapping cow’s milk for soya milk or trying soya yoghurts.
“Other sources include soya beans or soya mince, as well as tofu,” she added.
“Some studies show that by eating 15g of soya protein a day you can lower your cholesterol by around three to four per cent.”
Soya products are also all low in saturated fat and high in fibre.
5. Nuts and seeds
Finally, Cheryl thinks a great snack option for someone watching their cholesterol is a mix of nuts and seeds.
She said: “If you opt for the unsalted, unsweetened varieties, 30g of nuts a day are a great addition to your diet.
“Nuts contain healthy unsaturated fats and soluble fibre which can help to lower cholesterol by up to 7.5 per cent.
“Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, natural peanuts, and pistachios are all excellent choices and, where possible, eat those with their skins intact as this increases their nutrient content.”
Cheryl said every food mentioned can be incorporated into your daily meal plan.
But, if you experience any symptoms of high cholesterol such as shortness of breath, a tight chest, or pain in your arms, she highly
recommends seeking medical attention before focusing on food.
What is cholesterol and how much is too much?
EVERYONE needs some cholesterol in their blood to stay healthy.
But too much can lead to serious health problems like heart attacks and strokes.
If there is an excess, it can clog your arteries – the large blood vessels that carry blood around your body.
Fatty areas can form then harden over time, causing blockages, which puts strain on your heart and can result in blood clots.
This clogging process, known as atherosclerosis, can mean coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, mini strokes, peripheral arterial disease, and vascular dementia.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know they have high cholesterol because it doesn’t usually have any symptoms.
There are several checks you can do, as well as blood pressure tests, BMI and waist measurement and a lifestyle assessment.
Generally, healthy cholesterol level are:
- Total (serum) cholesterol (mmol/L below 5.0 and mg/dL below 193)
- Non-HDL cholesterol (mmol/L below 4.0 and mg/dL below 155)
- LDL cholesterol (mmol/L below 3.0 and mg/dL below 116)
- HDL cholesterol (mmol/L above 1.0 for a man and 1.2 for a woman and mg/dL above 39 for a man and 46 for a woman)
- TC:HDL ratio (mmol/L and mg/dL above 6 is considered high risk)
Your doctor will be able to explain what your results mean.
There are treatments available for high cholesterol, but it’s usually possible to lower it naturally with healthy lifestyle changes.
Source: Heart UK
Source of data and images: thesun