High level of cholesterol in our blood can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. A few simple dietary changes can help bring down bad cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels. To increase good cholesterol levels, we should get to know the foods that helps increase HDL cholesterol. Not surprisingly, the foods that raise good cholesterol are traditional foods that our ancestors having been consuming for so many years.
What Is Cholesterol ?
Cholesterol is a fat like substance found in our body. Our body needs certain amount of cholesterol to perform vital functions. But when the cholesterol levels exceeds the normal amount required by the body, it can lead to many health problems like blocked arteries, heart attack, stroke, etc. Cholesterol is carried in the blood by two types of protein. One is low density lipoproteins also referred to as LDL. The other is high density lipoprotein also referred to as HDL.
What Causes High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol is generally linked to a diet rich in saturated fats found in animal products like whole milk, eggs, butter and regularly consuming foods cooked in oils like coconut oil and palm oil that contains high amount of saturated fat. But now it has been proven that not only animal foods but many other factors like inflammation are also responsible.
Genetics, excess weight, smoking and lack of physical activity also can lead to high cholesterol levels. When there is high cholesterol and the amount of LDL protein is high and HDL is low, the chances of getting heart disease is higher. Doctors generally recommend that the total cholesterol be less than 200 mg per deciliter and HDL as high as possible.
What Are Good Cholesterol Foods?
Generally foods that raise HDL levels are considered good cholesterol foods. These are foods that are rich in fiber, low in sugar and trans fats, high in omega 3 fatty acids and they also help reduce inflammation. If you look closely, you will notice that all the traditional diets are rich in fiber and nutrients that kept our blood cholesterol levels in normal range. It is only when we started eating processed foods high in trans fats and sugar, our cholesterol levels started creeping up.
Top 10 List Of Good Cholesterol Foods
If you are suffering from high cholesterol levels, try consuming garlic regularly. Garlic contains a compound called allicin which helps lower cholesterol. You can consume raw garlic easily by soaking it in honey. But if you don’t want to consume raw garlic, you can try taking garlic supplements too. There also enteric coated garlic supplements available now, it will prevent garlic odor very effectively.
2. Oily Fish
Since fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which lowers LDL cholesterol, it is good to regularly include fish in our diet. Some of the best varieties of fish for reducing high cholesterol levels or wild caught salmon, tuna and mackerel. Try consuming fish weekly twice or thrice regularly. But if you don’t like fish or if you are allergic to it, try taking a fish oil supplement.
3. Soy Products
Try to consume unprocessed soya products in moderation regularly. Soy protein helps to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. Though fermented soya products like tempeh are not easily available in India, we do get soya milk and tofu easily in the markets. We can include soya milk in smoothies and tofu easily in stir fries.
Another simple tip that will greatly help lower high cholesterol levels is consuming adequate amount of vegetables every single day. They are very filling as they are high in fiber, low in fat, cholesterol free and are full of vitamins and antioxidants that helps lower cholesterol levels. Try to consume a wide variety of vegetables, here at home we make a lot of vegetable based dishes on a regular basis. When cooking with vegetables opt for steamed vegetables or stir fry vegetables instead of deep frying them.
6. Whole Fruits:
Try to include whole fruits regularly in your diet. Fruits are rich in vitamins and antioxidants that are very good for our heart and they are also full of fibre that that helps reduce cholesterol levels. Even consuming high fat fruits like avocado will greatly help as it lowers LDL levels very significantly as it is rich in unsaturated fat.
7. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Sesame Oil:
Try to use oils like extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil for cooking instead of oils that are rich in saturated fat. Studies have shown that olive oil lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol. When buying oils, try to buy cold pressed oils for best results.
8. Have Nuts In Moderation:
Try to consume nuts in moderation everyday. Though they are high in calories, they are packed with healthy unsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids that helps lower cholesterol levels. Though all nuts are good, walnuts and almonds are especially good at lowering LDL cholesterol.
9. Consume Whole Grains:
Till a few years back, it was rare for people to consume processed foods filled with trans fats and sugar. Even all traditional sweets were made with whole grains. Nowadays sadly this is changing, we are consuming refined flour more than ever. If suffering from high cholesterol, try to consume whole grains that has been used in India for long time like ragi, millets, sorghum, etc.
They are available very cheap and greatly helps reduce high cholesterol levels. In our village,we used to regularly consume only hand pounded brown rice but this traditional habit is also changing. Many are switching over to white rice which is devoid of nutrients and fiber, sticking to our traditional practices is key to remaining healthy.
10. Consume Orange Juice
Though consuming fruits whole with the fiber intact is best, if you are a person who consumes soda and canned juice regularly, try switching over to natural orange juice. Participants in a study who drank 3 glasses of orange juice a day for 30 days, increased their HDL levels significantly and lowered their LDL levels.
Tips to Reduce High Cholesterol:
- Try to completely stop consuming foods with trans fats as they are the worst in increasing bad cholesterol. Trans fats are found in many foods that we regularly consume like bread, cakes and snacks. I was shocked to find that it is even added to some traditional foods like khichdi to enhance the taste.
- Get regular exercise. Regular physical exercise will decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. It also helps prevent diabetes and high blood pressure, both which increases the risk of heart disease. Even if you don’t like to go to a gym, try to go for a brisk walk every single day.
- If you are a person who loves to eat non veg foods, try to completely cut processed meats from your diet as it greatly increases the risk of heart disease.
- Even when you’re eating out, try your best to avoid dishes made with refined flour. In India, luckily we have plenty of healthy choices to order when eating out. Choose dishes like whole wheat roti without oil, millets based dishes and steamed dishes like idli, etc.
- Try to avoid sugary drinks that increases the risk of heart disease. Instead try to consume traditional drinks like buttermilk, coconut water and herbal teas which are low in calories and high in nutrients.