High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood can increase the risk of heart disease and strokes. Dr Sarah Schenker suggests foods to lower your levels.
Some spreads contain plant substances known as stanol or sterol esters. These compounds reduce LDL cholesterol by partially blocking its entry into the bloodstream.
Normally 50% of cholesterol is absorbed into the blood; the esters reduce that amount to about 30% and the rest simply passes out of the body. Approximately 2-3g of esters are needed to have an effect – about 2-3 20g (1tbsp) servings per day.
You could also try: Brussels sprouts, almonds, cashew nuts
Oily fish such as herrings are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which can reduce levels of harmful LDL cholesterol.
Oats contain soluble fibre which is also known to be effective in reducing cholesterol levels.
You could also try: Mackerel, walnuts
Flax seed oil
The flax plant is a rich source of the essential omega-3 fatty acid alpha linoleic acid. If you are vegetarian or do not like oily fish, flax seed oil is one of the best ways to boost your intake of omega 4s and lower your cholesterol levels.
Flax seeds have a pleasant, nutty flavour and can be sprinkled on cereals, yoghurts and smoothies. The oil can also be taken as a supplement in capsule form, or drizzled on salads and vegetables.
Red wine is thought to be the answer to the French paradox; despite high intakes of fat in the French diet, heart disease rates are low because most people drink a small glass of red wine with meals. Health benefits are lost if you regularly exceed the recommended 2-3 units a day (one unit equals one small glass, about 125ml).
Edamame are young soya beans in their pods. Boiled, they make a delicious snack or a versatile addition to a salad or stir-fry. The cholesterol-lowering ability is in the soya protein, so other soya products such as tofu, soya milk and soya nuts are all beneficial. Eating 25g of soya protein daily as part of a balanced low-fat diet can help to reduce cholesterol.
You could also try: Tofu, soya milk
Peppers are associated with lowering cholesterol levels and known to help prevent heart disease. Peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, beta-carotene and bioflavanoids, which can act as antioxidants in the body. These nutrients are important for preventing cholesterol from blocking and damaging arteries.
You could also try: Broccoli
Herbalists have long believed in the healing powers of garlic. Now studies have shown that compounds in garlic can lower blood pressure and suppress cholesterol production in the liver, reduce harmful cholesterol and raise levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol in the blood.
The recommended daily dose of fresh garlic is about 4g, equivalent to one or two small cloves. If you dislike the odour of fresh garlic, dried garlic preparations have a slight effect on lowering cholesterol levels but aren't as effective as fresh.
Avocados contain monounsaturated fatty acids know to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol levels without reducing ‘good’ high-density lipoprotein, (or HDL) cholesterol.
Avocados are a good source of vitamins E and C, which prevent the furring up of arteries as well as potassium which helps to control blood pressure. Avocados are a great snack as they do not interfere with blood sugar levels, but beware: they are high in calories, at around 400.
You could also try: Sweet potatoes