So, you probably know that deep-fried fast food and sugary pastries can drive up your ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, but what about the flip side? Turns out there are a number of foods that actually work to boost ‘good’ cholesterol and knock the bad guys down a peg!
Let’s take a look at some of the factors contributing to high cholesterol:
Ultra-Processed Foods: A diet high in ultra-processed foods, which often contain excessive amounts of saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined carbohydrates, can contribute to elevated LDL cholesterol levels.
Lack of Physical Activity: A sedentary lifestyle lacking in daily exercise can contribute to weight gain and negatively impact cholesterol levels. Regular exercise helps raise HDL ("good") cholesterol and lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
Excess Weight: Obesity is a significant risk factor for high cholesterol. It is often associated with poor dietary habits, physical inactivity, and metabolic changes that can contribute to an unfavourable lipid profile.
Family History: Genetics can play a role in cholesterol levels. Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol, making them more susceptible to elevated levels even with a healthy lifestyle.
Ageing: Cholesterol levels tend to increase with age. As individuals age, lifestyle factors and genetic influences can contribute to changes in lipid profiles.
Tobacco Use: Smoking can have detrimental effects on cholesterol levels, particularly by reducing levels of HDL cholesterol. Quitting smoking is an important step in improving overall cardiovascular health.
Type 2 Diabetes: Individuals with type 2 diabetes are often at a higher risk of elevated cholesterol levels. Poorly managed diabetes can lead to metabolic changes that impact lipid metabolism.
Now let’s dive into what you can do to help your body!
Lentils, those tiny legumes, pack a powerful punch when it comes to heart health. Rich in soluble fibre, lentils can help reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, commonly known as the "bad" cholesterol. The soluble fibre binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract, preventing its absorption and promoting its excretion. Additionally, lentils are a fantastic source of plant-based protein, making them an excellent choice for those looking to maintain a heart-healthy diet without compromising on nutrition.
Avocados, often celebrated for their creamy texture and versatile flavor, also contribute significantly to cholesterol management. Packed with monounsaturated fats, avocados can help raise levels of HDL cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol, while lowering levels of LDL cholesterol. The combination of healthy fats and other nutrients in avocados supports overall heart health and may aid in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Including fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and trout in your diet can be a flavorful strategy for lowering cholesterol. These fish are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to improvements in lipid profiles. Omega-3s can increase levels of HDL cholesterol and reduce triglycerides, another type of fat in the blood. The American Heart Association recommends incorporating fatty fish into your diet at least twice a week to reap the cardiovascular benefits.
Oats have long been recognised as a cholesterol-lowering superstar. The soluble fibre beta-glucan found in oats forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract, trapping cholesterol and preventing its absorption. Regular consumption of oats has been associated with reductions in LDL cholesterol levels, making it an ideal breakfast choice for those aiming to manage their cholesterol. Whether in the form of oatmeal, granola, or overnight oats, this versatile grain offers a heart-healthy start to your day – consuming approximately 3 grams of beta-glucans daily, which is roughly equivalent to one to two servings of oat-based foods, can contribute to these cholesterol-lowering effects.
Nuts, whether almonds, walnuts, or pistachios, are heart-healthy snacks that contribute to cholesterol management. Packed with unsaturated fats, fibre, and plant sterols, nuts can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. The combination of nutrients in nuts supports cardiovascular health by reducing inflammation and improving blood vessel function. While nuts are calorie-dense, incorporating a handful into your daily diet as a snack or topping can be a delicious way to promote heart health.
Incorporating these nutrient-rich foods into your diet, along with maintaining a balanced and heart-conscious eating plan, can play a significant role in managing cholesterol levels and supporting overall cardiovascular health. As with any dietary changes, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have existing health conditions or are taking medication for cholesterol management.
Other Ways to Prevent High Cholesterol
Whole Foods: Emphasising a diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, can positively impact cholesterol levels.
Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, improves cardiovascular health, and positively influences cholesterol levels.
Quitting Smoking: Quitting smoking has numerous health benefits, including improvements in cholesterol levels and overall cardiovascular health.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight through a combination of a balanced diet and regular exercise is crucial for managing cholesterol levels.
Screening and Monitoring: Regular health checkups, including cholesterol screenings, are essential for early detection and management of elevated cholesterol levels.
Australia, like many other developed nations, faces the challenges of modern lifestyles, including increased consumption of processed foods and sedentary behaviours. Public health initiatives, education campaigns, and healthcare interventions play crucial roles in addressing the growing prevalence of high cholesterol and promoting heart-healthy lifestyles. Public health efforts often focus on raising awareness, encouraging healthier dietary choices, and promoting physical activity to mitigate the impact of lifestyle-related risk factors.
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