We see the ads everywhere, urging us to lower our cholesterol, telling us that cholesterol is bad, and that certain foods will eliminate cholesterol so that we can lead healthy lives. But what exactly is cholesterol?
At its core, cholesterol is a fatty substance that the body needs in order to build cells. Cholesterol is found in many foods, and while it does serve a good function, having too much can lead to heart disease and even early death.
Even within the broad topic of cholesterol, there are different types, not all of which are bad:
- HDL – This is known as the “good” cholesterol. HDL (High Density Lippoprotein) functions to actually carry away build-up in arteries and deposit them in the liver, where they are processed. HDL, simply put, eliminates excess arterial plaque.
- LDL – This is the one everyone needs to watch out for. LDL (Low Density Lippoprotein) is waxy in nature, and when combined with other substances (nicotine, alcohol, sugars, additives, and preservatives), LDL will form arterial plaque along the walls of your circulatory system. When a blockage forms, this can lead to a heart attack. What is worse, if the blockage forms on a pathway to the brain (LDL seems to build up there in addition to the heart), you can suffer a stroke or aneurysm.
- Triglycerides – These are fats that form in the body from an intake of high carbohydrates, processed foods, fatty foods, alcohol, and sugars. Smoking or leading a mostly sedentary lifestyle will contribute greatly to the production of triglycerides in the body, which lead to LDL and fatty deposits. It’s the perfect recipe for a heart attack.
Foods to lower cholesterol
By now, we all now that smoking is bad for you; living the college party lifestyle of having a beer or two for breakfast and not stopping at all will just destroy your body; deep-fried anything will eventually kill you, and not getting at least some exercise will only put your body on the fast track to health disorders.
So what can you eat? What are some foods to lower cholesterol? What changes should you make in your diet?
Most processed foods are like drugs
When you open a bag of your favorite chips, do you know why you can’t eat just one? Most foods on the market today are blasted with flavor enhancers and other chemicals that make your taste buds very happy. This chemical stimulus sends a message to the brain, and leaves you craving those intense flavors, regardless of the nutritional value of what you are eating. In a sense, those foods are acting like a drug. You brain wants the intense flavors and chemicals in those processed foods, and you will find yourself becoming irritable, and even losing sleep if you do not satisfy those cravings. Inside your body, those chemicals, sugars, and fats are making your LDL levels skyrocket, leading to heart disease.
The truth of the matter is that humans are not naturally designed to have flavor-blasted, nacho cheese-flavored, hot sauce dipped in ranch dressing, chocolate covered bacon chips (as an exaggeration). Those foods do not exist in the wild, and while we know this, our brains cannot get enough of them once they are introduced to our systems. It’s important to know foods to avoid with high cholesterol.
So what foods lower cholesterol that do not have “empty calories” and also have a lot of flavor?
Simple and flavorful foods that lower cholesterol
Olive Oil – Clinical studies have shown that using olive oil as a substitute for margarine or butter will drastically lower your cholesterol levels. There’s a reason why the life expectancy in places like Greece, Italy, and most Mediterranean countries is so high. Olive oil is used in most of the cuisine in that region, and those very flavorful foods work to lower cholesterol.
Garlic – There isn’t enough that can be said about the properties of garlic and how good it is for your body. Eating up to 4 cloves of garlic a day (usually in the dishes you cook, though some people like it roasted by itself), not only lowers cholesterol by leaps and bounds, but it also lowers blood pressure and protects your body from infection.
Avocado – By itself, in a salad, or in your favorite guacamole dip, eating avocado has been shown to raise HDL (good cholesterol) levels while lowering LDL (bad cholesterol).
Fatty Fish – This may not make sense at first, but fatty fish, such as salmon, contain Omega-3 fats. These Omega-3 fats are wonders to the health world, as they work to eliminate high cholesterol, lower LDL levels, prevent heart disease, and also combat Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other mental illnesses.
Chocolate – You don’t have to give up every guilty pleasure to lead a healthy life and lower your cholesterol. Chocolate is rich in anti-oxidants, can lower bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol (HDL) as much as 24% in a 12 week period. Remember, you will get the biggest benefits from chocolate the more pure it is. Having milk chocolate will not have the same effects on lowering your cholesterol as dark chocolate, or even pure cocoa powder. Luckily many chocolate manufacturers have begun making chocolate that’s anywhere from 75% to 95% pure cocoa, so your body can reap the benefits.
In addition to the foods listed above, things like spinach, whole grains, dark green vegetables and even egg yolks (in moderation) contain the elements your body needs to regulate and even lower cholesterol.
Lowering your cholesterol is hard to do when your body craves processed foods that are full of chemicals for added flavor and zero nutritional value. However, by eating in moderation, and mixing and matching the foods above, you will be able to lower your bad cholesterol levels, and raise your good ones. What’s more, you won’t have to sacrifice your taste buds in the process.
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