High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
Poor lifestyle choices can pave the way to high cholesterol levels, which spells bad news for your risk of cardiovascular problems like heart disease and strokes.
From a diet packed with saturated fats to physical inactivity, there are many factors within your control that can be switched up.
Changing your diet is one way to keep the waxy substance from building up in your arteries.
Fortunately, Dr Justine Butler, head of research at Viva!, shared eight tweaks that could do this with gusto.
1. Eat more plant foods
Turning to a plant-based diet could be an easy way to eliminate cholesterol from your food choices, the expert explained.
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She said: “There is no cholesterol in plant foods – so, it follows that a vegan diet is cholesterol-free.”
What’s more, between nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, a plant-based diet doesn’t lack a variety either.
2. Oats for breakfast
Packed with soluble fibre, oats can help reduce your levels of “bad” cholesterol by regulating the absorption of the waxy substance from your bloodstream.
“A 50 gram-sized serving provides nearly five grams of fibre and this can be boosted by adding dried fruit, nuts, a banana or berries and soya milk,” Dr Butler said.
3. Choose wholegrain
From brown rice to quinoa and wholemeal bread to wholewheat pasta, wholegrains can also lower cholesterol because of the fibre they contain.
“Simply swap refined white bread, rice and pasta for healthier wholegrain varieties,” the expert said.
4. Avoid trans fats and limit saturated fats
Hidden in the likes of butter, sausages, coconut oil, biscuits and other ultra-processed foods, saturated and trans fats drive cholesterol production in the body.
“You can still have the occasional cake or a few biscuits but try to limit your intake of these unhealthy types of fat,” Dr Butler said.
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5. Get your finger on the pulse
Rich in protein and other nutrients, pulses, such as peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas are another “wonder” food for lowering cholesterol.
Similarly to oats and wholegrains, their fibre content can help keep your levels in check.
6. Make sure you get your five a day (at least!)
Fruit and vegetables are naturally very low in fat and brimming with cholesterol-lowering fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which can all contribute to good heart health.
The expert added: “So, make sure you get at least five a day – the more the better!”
7. Go nuts for nuts
Backed by plenty of research, the small crunchy foods can help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, as well as improve the balance of fats in your blood.
Butler therefore recommended aiming for a small handful of mixed nuts, including Brazil nuts, almond, cashews, walnuts and pistachios per day.
8. Love the soya
Packed with fibre, unsaturated fats and a range of vitamins and minerals, just 25 grams of soya protein a day can reduce your cholesterol.
“You can get that from 100 grams of tofu, a 200-millilitre glass of soya milk and one soya yoghurt,” Dr Butler said.
She recommended combining all of these dietary tweaks with regular exercise. “And your heart will thank you,” Dr Butler added.
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