1. Think fibre, fibre, fibre!
Many fibre-rich foods can help to lower cholesterol, but why and how? This important food component is a great help when it comes to lowering cholesterol, as it reduces the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream.
Achieving a low cholesterol diet
While it isn’t always easy there are some small steps you can take to lower your cholesterol through diet.
When thinking about fibre, remember that some fibres are better than others – such as water-soluble options like oat bran, psyllium seeds, guar gum or pectin. These form a gel that binds bile and cholesterol in the gut to allow for excretion as part of your bowel motions.
They have also been found to decrease the bad (LDL) cholesterol and improve the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol. Try swapping your current breakfast with Spiced Oat and Coconut Porridge
and beware of added sugars in store-bought cereals that claim to be healthy.
2. Go fish
To maintain heart health, the Heart Foundation recommends that Australian adults consume about 500 milligrams of omega-3 (marine source) every day.
You can achieve this by eating a combination of two to three 150 gram serves of oily fish every week and/or by supplementing your intake with fish oil supplements (capsules or oil) and omega-3 enriched food and drinks.
3. No, sweetie
Few people realise that eating sugar promotes the production of cholesterol in the body. Sugar intake is high in the average person's diet to the point that many people are no longer able to identify more subtle degrees of sweetness.
Sugar and cholesterol levels
If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, then it is good to take a look at your sugar intake. Added sugar is found in many processed foods and sugar is addictive.
If you eliminate sugar from your diet for a while, you'll find that simple foods such as carrots and grains actually taste sweet. If you then try to introduce highly-sweet foods or drinks such as soft drink into your diet, you will often find that you can no longer stand how sweet they are.
Studies suggest that even if you have a healthy diet otherwise, excess sugar intake increases the risk of poor heart health. Keeping added sugar calories to less than 10% of of your total calorie intake is recommended by the World Health Organisation
Just remember that added sugar is found in many unexpected foods too – like cooking sauces, some dried fruit, tomato sauce and even coleslaw!
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4. Reduce caffeine
Sadly for caffeine addicts, there's a link between cholesterol levels and the consumption of coffee – particularly if you’re drinking a lot of it- around six cups per day.
However, on the other hand, coffee has been linked to a number of health benefits
when consumed in moderation.
5. The happy hour hazard
While you may have heard that drinking red wine lowers cholesterol, don’t be too quick to raise a glass or two to that!
While alcohol consumption has been found to increase HDL (good) cholesterol; there is also evidence that even a moderate intake of alcohol increases LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Until we know for sure, stick to the recommended Australian Guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol.
6. Get moving
There's a direct correlation between a person's level of physical activity and their cholesterol levels. Exercise has been shown to decrease total cholesterol while improving good HDL cholesterol.
7. Eat more plant sterols
To lower LDL cholesterol, the Heart Foundation recommends adults consume 2 to 3 grams of plant sterols per day from plant sterol enriched foods.
Plant sterols for lower cholesterol
What is a plant sterol? A plant sterol is a naturally occurring substance found in foods such as vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, wheat germ and bran. Many foods are also fortified with sterols, like some cereals and margarine.
As a guide, one serve of plant sterol enriched foods is approximately: 10 grams of margarine spread (about 2 teaspoons); 45 grams of cereal (about 1 cup or two breakfast biscuits); 250 millilitres low-fat milk (about 1 cup); 200 grams of reduced-fat yoghurt (1 small tub). Find out more about what foods can lead to healthier cholesterol
8. Stomp out stress
The link between stress and cholesterol has garnered more attention in recent years, so take time to relax.
Regular relaxation will help to keep your stress levels under control. Some suggestions include meditation, relaxation CDs, exercise, yoga, reading or getting your worries down on paper.
Cholesterol and stress
While the link between stress and cholesterol
has been studied across the years, it can be vague.
Researchers believe that the link is more indirect and that those who are stressed tend to make unhealthier lifestyle choices. For example, stressed individuals can be more inclined to smoke or drink, have little time for exercise and have less varied/nutritional diets.
Try to keep this in mind if experiencing a stressful period. While you may not feel that you have the time to make yourself a healthy breakfast or go for a short walk, prioritising your health is always a good investment.
A less-stressed you will also be able to function better, which in turn will help you to work through what is putting you under pressure.
Take the Smart Heart™ Cholesterol Challenge
Managing healthy cholesterol levels is about eating the right kinds of fats, and taking care of other lifestyle factors including getting regular exercise and leading an active lifestyle.
Take our 8-week challenge designed to help you lower your cholesterol.