When was the last time you thought about your cholesterol? It can be easy to forget about unless you’ve recently been to the doctor, since high cholesterol doesn’t usually come with noticeable symptoms. While medication may be necessary in some situations, making dietary changes is often enough to manage cholesterol naturally. We’ve put together a list of the nine best foods to lower your cholesterol, in addition to a little preface on the difference between “good” cholesterol (HDL) and “bad” cholesterol (LDL).

“Good” Cholesterol vs. “Bad” Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in our cells. You may have heard people use the terms “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol.  They’re referring to HDL and LDL. Because cholesterol can’t dissolve in the blood, it has to be carried through your blood by lipoproteins.

LDL is labelled the “bad” cholesterol because it creates plaque, which clogs your arteries. If a major clog occurs, it can result in stroke or heart attack. The “good” cholesterol in your body is your HDL. HDL is good because it helps remove LDL from your arteries and transport it back to your liver, keeping your arteries clear. You also have triglycerides, which are fats carried in the blood from the food you eat-you want your triglyceride count to be low, like your LDL cholesterol.

What Is Considered High Cholesterol? And Why Is It Dangerous?

High Cholesterol is one of the leading causes of heart disease. High cholesterol itself usually doesn’t cause symptoms, so the best way to diagnose it is with a blood test at your doctor’s office called a lipid panel.

A cholesterol test, in addition to giving you a total cholesterol reading, this will also tell you what percentage of that number is LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol) and your triglyceride count. It’s important to not only know your total blood cholesterol level, but to ask your doctor to break down what amount is LDL and what amount is HDL.

Overall, a desirable total blood cholesterol level is less than 200 mg/dL.Your cholesterol may be borderline high if it is 200-239 mg/DL; and 240 mg/dL and above is generally considered high. Again, these are guidelines for your total number; you still want to ask your doctor what percentage is HDL and what percentage is LDL. (Remember you want more HDL and less LDL!)

What Foods Can Help Lower Cholesterol?

You’ve now learned about what cholesterol is and the different lipoproteins that it contains; so what foods can you eat to lower your cholesterol naturally?

1. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are not only delicious; it turns out they’re a major source of soluble fiber, which is bad cholesterol’s worst nightmare. Soluble fibre helps the body excrete cholesterol by binding to bile acids.

2. Oats

There’s a reason oatmeal is touted as one of the healthiest ways to start your day; it’s been proven that eating oats regularly can lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) by 5.3% in only 6 weeks. In addition to its high soluble fibre content, oats also contain something called beta-glucan, which works to absorb LDL from the blood.

3. Olive Oil

Make the switch from butter to olive oil and your cholesterol levels will thank you. Olive oil is a healthy fat that plays a big part in most Mediterranean diets, keeping your heart healthy with monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which naturally lower LDL cholesterol. Healthy fats can also help you naturally lose weight.

4. Brinjal

Brinjal is loaded with fiber, which you’ve now learned is key to reducing LDL levels.

5. Grapefruit

Grapefruit contains antioxidants and fibre which has been shown to prevent plaque build-up and lower both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

6. Dark Chocolate

Loaded with antioxidants, dark chocolate increases your HDL (good!) cholesterol levels and keeps blood platelets from sticking together. Of course, remember everything in moderation-and stick with organic dark chocolate as an occasional indulgence, not milk chocolate candy bars.

7. Nuts

Eating peanuts, almonds, or walnuts can lower your LDL cholesterol. Their high calorie count means it’s important to keep portion sizes small-around one to one and a half ounces per day-to get the most benefit.

8. Garlic

Garlic has immune-boosting properties and it can prevent LDL particles from clogging up artery walls.

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