There are two main types of fat in our diet, saturated and unsaturated. Cholesterol builds up in the walls of the blood vessels if you eat too much saturated fat, this can stop or slow the flow of blood to your heart, brain and rest of your body.
To lower cholesterol levels it is important to keep daily intake of saturated fat below 20g (women) and 30g (men). Trans fats can also raise cholesterol levels, they are found naturally in meat and dairy foods but are also found in foods containing hydrogenated vegetable oil such as cakes, biscuits and pastries.
It is important to replace saturated fat with a small amounts of unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fats (including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) are healthier and can improved cholesterol levels. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats are found in oily fish, nuts and avocado which also provide essential fatty acids to the body.
Choosing a healthy diet, low in saturated fat is important in helping to keep your cholesterol low but you can reduce your cholesterol levels further by including these five super foods in your diet every day.
1 – Fruit and vegetable
As well as being low in saturated fat fruit and vegetables contain cholesterol lowering soluble fibres.
Fruit and vegetables high in soluble fibre: sweet potato, aubergine, broccoli, apples, strawberry and prunes.
2 – Nuts
Nuts contain vegetable protein, fibre, unsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, natural plant sterols and many more beneficial nutrients. A handful of nuts (approx. 35g) a day has the potential to lower cholesterol by an average of 5%.
Portion of nuts: 11 walnuts, 21 hazelnuts, 21 macadamias, 28 peanuts, 28 cashews, 32 almonds or 35 pistachios.
3 – Oats
Oats are rich in a soluble fibre called beta glucan. Beta glucan forms a gel which binds to cholesterol in the intestines and prevents it from being re-absorbed into the blood stream. It is recommended that we eat about 3g of beta glucan per day.
Food that contains 3g of beta glucan: Porridge (30g), oatbran (13g) and 3 oatcakes.
4 – Soya
Soya is naturally low in saturated fat and also helps lower cholesterol. A protein contained in soya effects the way the body regulates cholesterol. Studies have shown eating 15g of soya protein per day can reduce cholesterol by around 6%.
Food that contains soya protein: soya alternative milk and yogurt, edamame beans and tofu.
5 – Plant sterols and stanols
Plant sterols and stanols are found naturally in foods such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Their cholesterol lowering properties have been known for a while, however it difficult to achieve the required intake from ordinary foods. You can now get stanols or sterols in fortified margarine spreads, yoghurt and milk.