Many of us try to lead a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly and eating right, but could you unwittingly be putting your health at risk by consuming foods that are actually very high in cholesterol? That quick piece of buttered toast before work, that evening curry made with ‘healthy’ coconut cream, and that fruity yogurt for dessert – these are all foods that Heart UK – the cholesterol charity – claim could put you at risk of developing high cholesterol, which can affect your health.
There are two types of cholesterol: HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein). LDL, also known as “bad” cholesterol, is a fatty substance that the body absorbs from food, but cannot fully process. Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream is one of the risk factors for heart disease, so wanting to keep them down is understandable. The good news is that if you do have high cholesterol levels, there’s something you can do about it. Making small changes to your diet and upping your intake of cholesterol lowering foods and foods that boost HDL (or “good” cholesterol) can help you to improve your health and care for your heart.
Cholesterol Lowering Foods
Some of the worst offenders for bad cholesterol are saturated fats, which are present in high levels in foods many of us tend to use every day, such as butter, margarine, lard, and ghee. Whether it’s for buttering bread for sandwiches or adding to mashed potatoes to make them smooth and creamy, these foods are staples in many of our kitchens. But don’t panic – cholesterol lowering foods such as ‘butter’ spreads with added plant stanols make it easy to swap out these high risk ingredients. Plant stanols lower cholesterol by reducing the amount that’s absorbed by the body. These plant stanols are also found naturally in many other types of food that you might consider adding to your diet.
Foods that contain plant stanols include:
- Fruits – particularly citrus fruits like oranges.
- Vegetables – anything with high fibre, like sweet potatoes and turnips.
- Nuts – unsalted nuts only, a big bowl of salty peanuts isn’t too good for you!
- Seeds – sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, for example.
- Legumes – chickpeas, lentils, split peas, and many types of bean.
- Cereals – oat cereals like porridge are great.
- Vegetable Oils – soy-based foods are great, so try soybean oil when cooking.
It should be quite simple and straightforward to make these minor changes at home – swapping your regular butter for a cholesterol-lowering spread, for example, and increasing your fruit and veg intake – but what about eating out? Is it really possible to maintain a healthy diet and have a thriving social life at the same time? Fortunately, many restaurants are now offering more versatile menus, so when you’re looking for a great place to eat, search for places that offer menu items that fit in with your healthy lifestyle – it’s easier to do than you may think!