An alarming 60% of all UK adults suffer from high cholesterol levels, which, if left unchecked, can cause atherosclerosis (a narrowing of the arteries), heart disease, heart attack and stroke. According to the NHS, eating a healthy, balanced diet that is low in saturated fats (and in particular trans fats) is a great way of lowering our cholesterol levels. There are also a number of delicious superfoods that actively reduce cholesterol and are consequently considered absolutely ideal for all those following a low cholesterol diet.
What is the low cholesterol diet?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is manufactured by our liver and found in many foods. Whilst cholesterol is crucial for normal body function, too much of it can start to build up in our artery walls where it will start to restrict the flow of blood to our heart, brain and body and increase the possibility of a blood clot. Cholesterol is highly concentrated in convenience foods that contain large quantities of saturated fats, such as takeaway foods including pizzas, burgers and kebabs as well as fried foods like chips and crisps.
The low cholesterol diet aims to cut out ‘bad’ cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL for short), the type of cholesterol that can fur up our arteries and lead to heart disease and include plenty of ‘good’ cholesterol, the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) that carries ‘bad’ cholesterol away from our body’s cells and back to the liver where it is then broken down or expelled as waste.
Below are three powerful superfoods that have each proven extremely efficient at reducing LDL cholesterol and/or increasing HDL cholesterol and are therefore a must on any low cholesterol diet.
Chia seeds for the low cholesterol diet
Versatile chia seeds are packed with beneficial nutrients including vitamins (in particular vitamin A), minerals (such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese and sodium), protein, carbohydrates, amino acids, fibre and antioxidants, which combine to promote a healthy metabolism, balance blood sugar levels, boost our immune system and can even delay the signs of aging. They are especially useful to those pursuing a low cholesterol diet thanks to the large amount of dietary fibre that they contain (chia seeds contain over 10 grams of dietary fibre per every ounce) – research by the Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center has recently indicated that dietary fibre can help to lower both total and LDL cholesterol levels in our blood. Chia seeds also boast considerable volumes of omega-3 fatty acid, an essential fatty acid that cannot be manufactured by our bodies. Studies at The University of Maryland demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids can significantly reduce our cholesterol count and it is believed that both fibre and omega-3 fatty acids can help to improve the effectiveness of cholesterol- lowering medication, making them the perfect choice for the low cholesterol diet.
In addition, chia seeds contain long-chain triglycerides in just the right ratio to help to scrub our arteries clean. Great news for those concerned about their cardiovascular health!
Raw cacao for the low cholesterol diet
Mouth-watering raw cacao products including cacao beans, cacao nibs, cacao butter and cacao powder are literally teeming with vitamins, minerals, fibre and essential fatty acids that encourage a prolonged feeling of fullness (which can lead to weight loss) and are known to improve both mood and concentration. They’re also exceptionally rich in monounsaturated fats, ‘good’ fats that raise HDL cholesterol levels, in addition to polyphenols that simultaneously lower LDL levels. And recent research, published in ‘Food and Function’, suggests that the fibre and polyphenols in raw cacao work together to control blood pressure – an added bonus for those on a low cholesterol diet. Furthermore, clinical studies published in the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology” and the “Journal of Internal Medicine” reveal that eating raw cacao products several times a day may actively decrease our risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke.
Coconut oil for the low cholesterol diet
Deliciously fragrant coconut oil is a valuable source of saturated vegetable fats that help to promote radiant skin, encourage natural weight loss, prevent heart disease and fight infection. Unfortunately many of us choose to avoid coconut oil precisely because it contains such substantial amounts of saturated fat and mistakenly believe it to be unsuitable for a low cholesterol diet.
However, nothing could be further from the truth! That’s because the saturated vegetable fats in coconut oil are predominantly medium chain fatty acids, which actually improve our HDL cholesterol ratio and reduce the risk of heart disease. Scientific studies have consistently shown that dietetic supplementation with coconut oil increases levels of HDL cholesterol, lowers the amount of LDL cholesterol as well as reducing waist circumference and abdominal obesity, which is linked to heart disease and stroke. As a result, coconut oil is an unbeatable addition to any low cholesterol diet.
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