Cholesterol is a picky little thing: you have both bad and good cholesterol, and your levels can fluctuate slightly depending on what you eat. The impact of food on cholesterol levels may not appear significant at first glance, given that your liver is your primary source of cholesterol, producing approximately 85 percent of the cholesterol in your blood.
However, foods high in cholesterol are also high in saturated fats and, in some cases, trans fats. Animal products, such as fatty meats, high-fat dairy products, poultry skin, and baked goods, are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Eating those foods may increase your LDL and decrease your HDL, causing plaque in your arteries and eventually leading to heart disease.
In a variety of ways, your diet influences your overall risk for a variety of conditions. Why are you interested in cholesterol? Because it increases the risk of heart disease. So, in reality, we’re attempting to prevent heart disease.
Seeds and nuts
Try a handful of nuts the next time you’re looking for a little crunch or a snack between meals. If you eat walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds regularly and use them to replace other crunchy, salty snack foods, they have been shown to increase HDL and lower LDL and triglycerides.
These are filling and can also be added to meals to add flavor and nutrition. Sprinkle pepitas or sunflower seeds on salads, or mix chia and flax seeds into oats, whole-grain pancakes, or Greek yogurt. This is a very satisfying food category that can help if you eat many plant-based foods.
Avocados and olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fatty acids, both of which are beneficial to heart health and can raise HDL levels. Avocados have comparable properties.
Extra virgin olive oil and avocados should be used as a primary source of fat in a heart-healthy diet, replacing saturated fats such as butter, margarine, and white condiments such as mayonnaise, sour cream, and cream cheese. When you replace animal fats with plant fats, you will lower your cholesterol and improve your overall heart health.
Legumes, including dried beans like kidney beans or black beans, lentils, and split peas, are another source of soluble fiber. These are also high in protein and extremely filling, which helps to keep cravings at bay from one meal to the next. Legumes are also a great meat substitute, which helps lower cholesterol levels. They don’t spike your blood sugar as much as other carbohydrates, which can help control blood sugar.
Vegetables that aren’t starchy
Fill your plate with non-starchy vegetables like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, celery, carrots, leafy greens, and onions, which are low in calories, high in fiber, and high in protein. Increasing your intake of non-starchy vegetables while decreasing your intake of starches can also help lower triglycerides, which can be just as dangerous when elevated for developing heart disease.