Cholesterol: What You Need to Know

Cholesterol: What You Need to Know

 

Cholesterol. It's a term we hear all the time, from TV commercials to warnings from our doctor. You might nod along in some kind of vague understanding, but have you picked up how it all works? If not, this guide will help you, including teaching you how to lower your cholesterol.

First, it's important to know that there is more than one kind of cholesterol. Now, this begs the question:

What are the different kinds of cholesterol?

LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” cholesterol, because it contributes to fatty buildups in arteries, which narrow those arteries and increase the risk for you to be hit with a heart attack, stroke, and more.

HDL cholesterol can be thought of as the “good” cholesterol because a healthy level can protect against a heart attack or stroke. (Just think “H” for “Hero” and “L” for “Loser.”)

So, let’s ask the obvious question:

How can I lower cholesterol?

To improve those LDL cholesterol levels, consider these lifestyle changes:

Exercise regularly:

Try and get in 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. You can do it!

Break up your activity into short intervals, like taking brisk walks during breaks.

Quit smoking:

I will never stop telling people to do this. Putting down the cigarettes rapidly improves your HDL cholesterol … and overall health!

Lose weight:

Shed some extra pounds by making small changes, like choosing healthier snacks. There’s no need to do too much too fast.

Watch the alcohol:

Did you know that moderate alcohol can elevate HDL cholesterol?

You also need to eat the right foods! Let’s talk about your next question. 

What food can lower your cholesterol?

I’m a big believer in clean eating. If you start eating more of these foods, you can push down those LDL levels:

Oats:

For breakfast, try oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal (like Cheerios), which will give you one to two grams of soluble fiber.

Barley and whole grains:

Similar to the oats discussed above, these help make your heart healthier through the soluble fiber they provide.

Beans:

They’re packed with soluble fiber and promote a feeling of fullness, making them great for managing your weight.

Eggplant and okra:

These vegetables don’t give you a lot of calories, but they do offer plenty of soluble fiber.

Nuts:

Almonds, walnuts, and peanuts can slightly lower your LDL levels. They also give you other nutrients that are good for your heart.

Vegetable oils:

Go for liquid vegetable oils, like canola and sunflower, instead of butter or lard. This is a great way to help lower your LDL.

Fruits (apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus):

Ever heard of Pectin? It’s a soluble fiber in these fruits, which helps in lowering LDL.

Foods fortified with sterols and stanols:

Certain foods have special plant extracts added to them. These extracts help stop the body from taking in too much cholesterol, and as a result, they can lower the LDL cholesterol by about 10%.

Soy:

While not as powerful as everyone earlier believed, consuming soybeans, tofu, or soy milk can modestly lower your LDL.

Fatty fish:

Eat fish regularly to replace LDL-boosting saturated fats in meat. It provides heart-healthy omega-3 fats.

Fiber supplements:

Supplements like psyllium offer a way to increase your soluble fiber intake. Just two teaspoons a day provide about 4 grams of soluble fiber.

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