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Cholesterol plays a huge role in the normal functioning of the body. Without adequate amounts of cholesterol, your body would not produce hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol and aldosterone. Cholesterol also helps with the proper digestion of fats and enables the absorption of vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.

Cholesterol travels in the blood as a combination of lipoproteins, of which high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are good and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are bad. Triglycerides (TGL) are another type of lipid which are measured alongside cholesterol in a lipid profile cholesterol test, and an excess of this is also bad for your health.

An excess of bad cholesterol in the body can be very harmful, and it can cause chest pain, heart attack, coronary artery diseasestroke and diabetes. A high-fat diet, obesity, high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle and smoking are all linked to high cholesterol.

While medications can be used to manage high cholesterol levels, it’s best to make appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes to prevent it. Exercises for high cholesterol are a must, but so are the following changes in your diet.

  1. Best foods for high cholesterol
  2. Dairy products and non-vegetarian for high cholesterol diet
  3. Foods to avoid for high cholesterol

There are a few foods which can increase the levels of HDL or good cholesterol in your blood naturally, while also reducing the LDL and TGL levels. These are basically foods rich in unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats), omega-3 fatty acids and soluble dietary fiber (a type of fiber found in many seeds and nuts and fruit pulp, among other foods), etc.

To increase the amounts of these foods to control high cholesterol, a therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) diet plan is recommended, so that you consume adequate amounts of all these foods throughout the day or week.

  1. Healthy fats for high cholesterol
  2. Whole grains and legumes for high cholesterol
  3. Fish for high cholesterol
  4. Fruits and vegetables for high cholesterol
  5. TLC diet plan for high cholesterol

Healthy fats for high cholesterol

Choosing the right oils for cooking is a crucial step towards healthy eating, especially in countries like India. However, some types of oils are full of saturated and trans fats - these are neither good for your cholesterol nor for your heart in the long run. It is, therefore, best to use oils rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. The following are some such oils that you can use:

It’s also important to remember that nuts and seeds also have plenty of healthy fats, which is why you should eat adequate amounts of nuts like almond, walnut, cashews, peanuts, etc., and seeds like flaxseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.

Whole grains and legumes for high cholesterol

Eating foods high in dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber (which dissolves in water), is very important to lower your cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber can actively reduce the levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) in your blood. Whole grains and legumes are rich in soluble fibers, so you must include them in your diet. 

You should include the following whole grains in your diet:

  • Oats, oat bran and oatmeal
  • Barley
  • Quinoa
  • Millets, example Ragi
  • Whole wheat
  • Brown rice
  • Black rice
  • Red rice
  • Wild rice

You should include the following legumes in your diet:

Fish for high cholesterol

It doesn’t matter if the fish is sourced from a river or a sea, whether it’s fatty or lean, eating fish can help to lower your cholesterol. Fish is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids, adequate amounts of which can actively lower your triglyceride levels. While fish does not reduce LDL levels, it plays a huge role in increasing HDL levels, which is a good way to control your cholesterol levels. Include the following types of fish in your diet for best results:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna 
  • Mackerel
  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Sardines

Your doctor will tell you to avoid prawns or shrimp if you have high cholesterol levels. However, if your cholesterol is manageable or you are following this diet to prevent high cholesterol, eating a small portion of prawns once a month won’t do much harm.

Fruits and vegetables for high cholesterol

Most fruits and vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, and are extremely rich in plant stanols and sterols - which work as soluble fibers. Stanols and sterols are exceptionally good at absorbing cholesterol, which is why they are even available as supplements in pharmacies and manufactured edibles like granola bars and chocolate sometimes.

However, if you maintain a predominantly vegetarian diet and include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables instead of taking supplements, you will get enough sterols and stanols to naturally reduce your cholesterol levels. You should include the following fruits and vegetables in your diet:

TLC diet plan for high cholesterol

The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes or TLC diet is considered to be one of the most effective, heart-healthy diets that can help reduce your cholesterol levels. According to the United States’ National Institutes of Health, this diet includes foods which are low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol while delivering good flavours that can satisfy your taste buds. Since the TLC diet is not a deprivation diet, it can be easily followed and sustained for the rest of your life. The following is the daily breakdown of the TLC diet for you to follow:

Food Group Servings per day
Whole grains (bread, cereals, rice, pasta) and legumes 6 servings or up to 3 cups
Vegetables 3-5 servings or 2 cups
Fruits 2-4 servings or 2 cups
Dairy products (low fat or fat-free) 2-3 servings or 1 cup
Eggs 2 per week
Poultry and fish 142 grams or 1 cup 
Fat (oil, nuts and seeds) 150 grams or less than 1 cup

Proteins and dairy products often form a central part of our meals, but if you have high cholesterol levels, keeping their consumption in check is very important. This is because animal proteins and dairy products have a lot of unhealthy fats. This is why patients with high cholesterol are recommended to:

  • Avoid red meat, and instead eat lean meats like chicken, eggs, fish, turkey, etc.
  • If you consume dairy products, avoid full fat and creamy products. Opt for low-fat milk, skimmed milk and cheeses like paneer, ricotta, mozzarella and feta instead.

Avoid fried foods in high cholesterol

Frying food not only kills the nutrients in the base ingredients but also ensures that saturated and trans fats are absorbed in them. The calories in fried foods are also very high. Apart from increasing your cholesterol levels, fried foods can also lead to heart diseases, obesity and diabetes.

High cholesterol diet: avoid red meat and processed meats - Do not eat more fat dairy products in high cholesterol in Hindi

Red meat like mutton and pork have a high fat content, which may increase your cholesterol levels. Processed meats like sausages, salami, cold cuts, etc are easy to use, but they are also full of unhealthy fats and sodium.

To be sure, researchers have not yet found a direct link between food cholesterol and body cholesterol. However, years of clinical evidence show that a high fat diet - especially one with more unhealthy fats and processed foods - leads to poorer health outcomes, one of which is higher cholesterol buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Read more: Heart and blood related diseases

Avoid desserts and sweets in high cholesterol

Most cakes, cookies, Indian sweets, etc., are filled with sugar and added calories, which can spike your cholesterol levels. What’s more, a number of Indian sweet dishes, like gulab jamuns, boondi laddoos, gujiya, etc., are deep-fried - which is also likely to increase your cholesterol levels.

High cholesterol levels also increase your risk of other diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. 

Avoid alcohol in high cholesterol

Consuming alcohol can lead to increased triglycerides, weight gain, and lower your HDL levels. Alcohol consumption should, therefore, be avoided or limited to two small drinks a day for men and one small drink a day for women, according to the US National Library for Medicine.

Read more: How to quit alcohol

Quit smoking in high cholesterol

Cigarette smoke contains a chemical called acrolein which reduces the efficiency of HDL (good cholesterol) to take cholesterol from the body to the liver for excretion. Over time, the ill-effects build up and make smokers more prone to atherosclerosis.

Research shows that smoking causes damage at the cellular level, which affects how cholesterol is processed in the body. Smoking also affects the health of our blood vessels, making them more susceptible to the buildup of cholesterol plaque.

Read more: How to quit smoking

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References

  1. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. US National Library of Medicine. Bethesda. Maryland. USA; How to Lower Cholesterol with Diet
  2. Health Harvard Publishing: Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Harvard University, Cambridge. Massachusetts. USA; 11 foods that lower cholesterol.
  3. National Institute of Health. [Internet]. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; YOUR GUIDE TO Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC
  4. Thuesen, L. et al. One-year Experience With a Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Diet in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease. Am J Clin Nutr , 44 (2), 212-9. PMID: 3728358
  5. Bruckert, E. and Rosenbaum, D. Lowering LDL-cholesterol Through Diet: Potential Role in the Statin Era. Curr Opin Lipidol , 22 (1), 43-8. PMID: 21233620
  6. Harland, Janice I. Food Combinations for Cholesterol Lowering. Nutr Res Rev , 25 (2), 249-66. PMID: 23069003
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