Have you ever wondered how much cholesterol does the fat in your mayonnaise or thousand island dressing has? There is no doubt that we do have the liberty to choose our condiments along with our favorite sub-sandwich or salad. Thanks to the food cravings in us and the creamy texture of the dips and dressings, it even makes us crave for it more. Not thinking about the fat content, we tend to have it in excess. But do you know that the mayonnaise that we tempt for with our french fries or snacks mostly oil? It is a high-fat and calorie-dense condiment with 42mg of cholesterol per 100gms whereas a thousand island dressing has 26mg of cholesterol per 100gms.
On the contrary, there is absolutely no harm to have a dip or a dressing that does include a small amount of fat. The reason is that our body does need a small amount of blood cholesterol. We need to take care that the sources of the fat must be good and should be within the dietary allowance. The body then uses this cholesterol to build the structure of cell membranes, and make hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and adrenal hormones. It helps your metabolism work efficiently. A classic example is that cholesterol is essential for your body to produce vitamin D.
But if you do have high LDL levels, this cholesterol is then a silent killer. People with high cholesterol visit their doctor for drugs to lower cholesterol. There is no doubt that it does work but the problem is both the short-term and long-term side effects. The most dangerous side effect of prescription drugs to lower cholesterol is not getting cholesterol under control. The problem is that a daily pill only addresses one small part of the cholesterol problem.
High cholesterol can then lead to numerous conditions of the heart and arteries, not the least of which are atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), stroke, or heart attack. If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medications or lifestyle changes. No doubt you might be asked to lose weight, increase your physical activity, quit smoking, and eat healthily but the million-dollar question here is which foods to eat so that you have a standard range of cholesterol?
By eating some healthy foods given below, you can not only change your cholesterol readings to naturally healthy cholesterol levels but also improve your overall health:
- Wholegrains and fiber-rich foods – Whole-grain foods are healthy because they contain fiber. Fiber, also found in oats and psyllium husk causes food to stay in your stomach longer, so you feel full and your blood sugar doesn’t go up as quickly after you eat. Fiber also helps reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and controls blood sugar and blood cholesterol.
- Antioxidants – Antioxidants provide several heart-protecting benefits, including reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol. Green tea can help lower cholesterol. Thanks to the antioxidant activity of ‘catechins’.
- Nuts and seeds – Include healthy nuts in your diet like walnuts and almonds. Sprinkle healthy seeds like chia seeds and flax seeds on your salads or add them to your smoothies or homemade chutneys.
- Good fats – Instead of buying high-fat butter from the outside, you can try making a batch of healthy nut butter at home and include it in your breakfast or evening snack. Have fatty and oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and anchovies in your Caesar salad. The idea is to include good fats. Avoid trans fats and processed foods.
- Go green and have more plant sources of protein – Dark leafy greens may also help lower cholesterol levels by binding to bile acids and making your body excrete more cholesterol.
Some of the superfoods are:
1. Spinach – This leafy green contains a large amount of lutein, a pigment found in vegetables that have been shown to protect the arteries from cholesterol accumulation. It’s recommended that you try to get at least half a cup of lutein-containing foods every day.
An easy way to get there, add half a cup of spinach to your smoothie.
2. Kale – Cardiovascular benefits of kale also extend to its cholesterol-lowering ability. Kale contains a variety of fiber-related nutrients that can bind together with bile acids. When this binding takes place, our blood cholesterol levels go down because our body needs to replace the bile acids that can be obtained from the breakdown of cholesterol.
Studies on kale intake show that total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol drop with increasing amounts of kale in the diet, while interestingly, blood levels of HDL cholesterol increase. Since higher levels of HDL cholesterol generally improve our cardiovascular health, this increase in HDL is a good thing.
A healthy tip: Have steamed or baked Kale for optimum nutrition.
3. Vegetables – Pectin rich vegetables include okra, eggplants, carrots and potatoes. Of course, vegetables are also important to include in any healthy diet since they’re also rich in fiber and phytonutrients. Some of the versatile vegetables which may lower your cholesterol are:
4. Cauliflower – Have you ever tried a cauliflower crust pizza instead of Maida in your kitchen? You may also have grilled cauliflower steak or soup with some cheese and pepper. Rich in calcium and good for weight loss as well.
Besides the yummy taste cauliflower has health benefits too as it is rich in plant sterols, the fat that helps block cholesterol from absorbing in the intestines. It is an excellent source of dietary fiber which was shown in one study to effectively lower levels of bad cholesterol. However, if you have thyroid do not consume cauliflower, cabbage, and cruciferous vegetables without checking with your doctor.
5. Pumpkin – Pumpkin soup for dinner? A versatile vegetable, pumpkin’s potassium, and antioxidants can help prevent heart disease – as well as some cancers. Plant sterols in pumpkin seeds can help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol. So can the omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower triglycerides (blood fats) and blood pressure.
Regularly consuming pumpkin seeds can have a powerful positive impact on your cholesterol levels. They contain a compound called phytosterol, which is very effective in lowering LDL-cholesterol levels by blocking the absorption of harmful cholesterol from your diet.
6. Heart-healthy Oils – Canola, Corn, Olive, peanut, sunflower, and coconut oils contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that help to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise “good” 0HDL cholesterol. Especially, Virgin Coconut Oil which is gently processed may not have the harmful effects as highly processed oils. The harsh processing may destroy some of the good essential fatty acids and antioxidants, such as lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid believed to raise good H.D.L cholesterol. So, if you are going to use coconut oil, make sure you get a virgin or cold-pressed oil. And of course, everything you consume should be in moderation.
7. Greek yogurt – Research shows that increased consumption of full-fat fermented dairy products is associated with reductions in “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood pressure as well as lower risks of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
8. Sweet Potato – Baked sweet potatoes with a brush of garlic oil and herbs for dinner? Well! The truth is they are not potatoes. They are naturally sweet roots in the morning glory family. Sweet Potatoes earned the name “superfood” because of the number of nutrients they have. Research shows that sweet potatoes can lower your LDL “bad” cholesterol which may lower your odds of heart problems. Did you know that purple sweet potatoes may help lower inflammation in your body and keep fat cells from growing thus helping you to lose weight?
Fruits – Fruits like avocados, apples, and citrus fruits like oranges and bananas can help lower cholesterol.