The British Heart Foundation says high cholesterol is linked to a quarter of all deaths from heart and circulatory diseases in the UK. If your cholesterol is creeping up, you need to make some lifestyle changes to bring it back down. Experts say some dietary changes could lower your reading in as little as a fortnight. So what foods can lower your cholesterol?
When was your last cholesterol test?
If you can’t remember, or you’ve never had one, you may well be overdue a cholesterol test.
New research for National Cholesterol Month has shown a third of the UK population has never had a cholesterol test as they assume they’re fine and don’t need one.
However, high cholesterol can sometimes be nicknamed the ‘silent killer’ and without being tested, you won’t know the danger you’re in.
Having high cholesterol puts you at greater risk of developing heart disease, or having a stroke.
Out of one in five Brits surveyed who had been diagnosed with high cholesterol, half of them weren’t sure about how to lower their dangerous cholesterol levels.
But, here’s the better news. Although one in 10 Brits think cholesterol levels “can’t be changed”, with some dietary changes and healthier habits, they can change in as little as two to three weeks.
Anna Wheeler RNutr, Registered Nutritionist explained some of the myths around cholesterol and the most important steps you can take to lower yours.
Anna said: “All foods can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet, however, it’s a good idea for people with raised cholesterol to limit their intake of foods high in saturated fat, for example, high-fat dairy foods such as butter and cream; fatty and processed meats; and foods such as biscuits, cakes and pastries.
“A few myths still persist when it comes to cholesterol. Even though they contain dietary cholesterol, for most people, eggs and prawns don’t affect blood cholesterol.
“It is more important to focus on reducing saturated fat.”
What foods are high in cholesterol?
When it comes to cholesterol, eating a healthier diet and having a more active lifestyle can reduce your risk overall, but the main culprit is saturated fat.
Anna said: “In order to lower cholesterol, we should reduce saturated fats, found in foods such as fatty meats and meat products and higher fat dairy products.
“You can replace them with unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), which can be found in foods like nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, avocado and oily fish.”
There are even some foods that will actively help to lower your cholesterol.
Anna said: “Some foods can help to reduce cholesterol when consumed in the right quantities, and these include oats due to a substance called beta-glucans; and plant sterols and stanols that are added to certain foods.”
Plant sterols and stanols help to reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed by your gut and therefore reduce the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood.
Anna said: “A daily consumption of 1.5 – 2.4g plant sterols or stanols can lower cholesterol by seven to 10 percent in two to three weeks as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle with sufficient fruit and vegetables.”
Look out for foods such as spreads, milk and yoghurts with added sterols.
High cholesterol diet: Nine swaps to lower your cholesterol
Anna has recommended nine “easy changes” you can make today to lower your cholesterol.
1 – Choose leaner meats e.g. chicken or turkey instead of fatty red meat or meat products
2 – Cut the visible fat off meat e.g. the rind on bacon and skin off chicken
3 – Choose skimmed or semi-skimmed milk instead of full fat milk
4 – Use a vegetable spread or oil high in unsaturated fats instead of butter or ghee for spreading and cooking
5 – Reduce intake of foods such as pastries, biscuits and cakes
6 – Choose low-fat yogurt or lower-fat cheese – you can also grate cheese to make it go further or choose a strong mature cheese so you need less of it
7 – If eating out, choose a tomato-based sauce instead of a sauce containing cream or coconut milk
8 – Have a small handful of nuts or seeds as a healthy snack
9 – Try swapping some meat in recipes for pulses such as beans or lentils. This works really well in a chilli or spaghetti Bolognese and also helps towards your five a day
Anna added: “It is also important to keep an eye on portion sizes and check labels to make sure you are choosing products with less saturated fat.”