Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is usually known as the "bad" cholesterol, and is often associated with cardiovascular problems. LDL particles tend to travel into the arteries and create plaques when oxidized, which in turn, can harden the arteries and lead to problems such as atherosclerosis, heart attacks, stroke and heart disease. High levels of LDL cholesterol have also been linked to type 2 diabetes and other medical problems.
Lowering LDL Cholesterol
Fortunately, lowering LDL levels to less than 100 milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dL) can reduce such risks. Exercising, combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, is very important and effective in reducing LDL cholesterol naturally. It has also been found that if the "good" cholesterol, known medically as high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is elevated, LDL levels will also go down naturally. Hence, a diet that increases HDL levels in the body can simultaneously decrease LDL. Mindful decisions during meals can lead to weight loss, which in turn, can possibly encourage physical activity and start a healthful cycle that will prove beneficial into old age.
According to the American Heart Association, increased consumption of these foods may help lower LDL cholesterol levels naturally:
Soluble fiber is a type of dietary fiber found almost in all plants. In addition to naturally lowering LDL cholesterol, it can also prevent colon and digestive problems. It is recommended to have at least two servings per day from one of these soluble fiber sources:
- Garbanzo beans
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Sweet potatoes
Unsaturated Fats And Omega Fatty Acids
Since fats generally have a negative reputation, it is important to note that "healthy" fats are still an integral part of a healthy diet, and can actually decrease LDL cholesterol. Unsaturated fats are considered "healthy" fats, and are known as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats on nutrition labels. Another "healthy" fat is the omega-3 fatty acid, which is crucial in maintaining cardiovascular and cognitive health. According to the American Heart Association, healthy fats can be found in food items such as:
- Enriched eggs
- Grass-fed beef or lamb (versus grain-fed)
- Sunflower seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Canola oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Olive oil
- Soybean oil
Foods To Watch Out For
Generally, foods that elevate LDL cholesterol are those that have a high content of "unhealthy" fats. It is best to limit such intake, or try to take it out of the diet entirely. Two "unhealthy" fats are:
1. Saturated Fats
By limiting saturated fats to less than seven percent of the total calorie intake may help naturally lower LDL cholesterols. Saturated fats are typically naturally-occurring and often found in meat or dairy products, so be sure to seek out leaner cuts, low-fat or non-fat options. Fried foods as well as baked goods also tend to contain saturated fats.
2. Trans Fats
Trans fatty acids should be avoided altogether, if possible. Found in partially or whole hydrogenated oils, trans fats are altered lipid chains, commonly used to prolong the shelf life of many foods and oils. However, trans fats have also been linked to cancer, heart disease and increased LDL cholesterol levels in the body. Since trans fats are usually found in deep fried, baked and processed foods, they can typically be found in popular foods such as chicken fingers, fried mozzarella sticks, buttery pastries and chips. Excessive trans fat intake can definitely lead to numerous health problems, so be sure to avoid deep fried foods as much as possible.
(For more information on trans fats, read 10 Surprising Foods With Trans Fats.)
Helpful Tips And Suggestions
Here are some alternatives and suggestions that you can use to have a tastier, healthier meal plan.
- Instead of deep frying, try sautéing or stir frying.
- While poached or steamed foods are ideal, grilling is also a flavorful, healthy option.
- Make your own popcorn and use olive oil and spices instead of butter for flavoring.
- When cooking, use a vegetable oil instead of butter.
- Use guacamole as the spread component in your next sandwich, and substitute the bread for rye or wheat.
- Toss some flaxseeds into the blender next time you make a smoothie.
- Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar makes a great dressing for salads.
- Add nuts or dried fruit to your salad for a crunchy component.
- Substitute sugary cereals with oatmeal and berries.
- Add a fish oil supplement with your daily multivitamin.
- Apples, carrots, or celery with hummus or peanut butter makes a delicious snack.
- Instead of a doughnut, try a nutty trail mix for breakfast.
By all means, having a healthier diet that naturally lowers LDL cholesterol does not mean you should give up all "yummy food" and have a bland and boring diet. This guide gives you numerous options for creating tasty meal plans to help you get your health back on track.