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Cholesterol levels are often a matter of concern for many. Considering the fact that high levels of cholesterol in your body can lead to a variety of ailments like heart disease, hypertension (high BP), angina (chest pain), heart attacks, strokes and peripheral vascular diseases, it is best that the levels are controlled. To do so, keeping a watch on your diet and exercise regimen is absolutely essential. But there are some foods that can help you keep your cholesterol levels in check. Here are 8 foods that can help you do just that.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a component that is normally synthesized in the body and is also present in many of the foods we eat. It is important to maintain the integrity and permeability of cell membranes, process important hormones including estrogen, androgens and cortisol and helps metabolize fat soluble vitamins. However, when the total cholesterol levels increase beyond 200 milligrams per deciliter, you can be at risk for several other associated problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Cholesterol buster #1: Oats
Oats are a rich source of fibre that contains beta glucan; this fibre is of the soluble variety and has the capacity to bind cholesterol circulating in the blood. This binding facilitates the excretion of cholesterol from the body and therefore, if you are looking at reducing your cholesterol levels, it makes sense to consume oats on a regular basis.
Remedy: Having about five grams of soluble fiber in a day can help cut down your LDL or 'bad' cholesterol levels by almost 5 percent. The best thing about oats is that it can be worked into Indian dishes if you don t like taking it in the form of porridge. When preparing khichadi, pongal or dosa batter, substitute oats for a small part of the rice and you have food that is filling as well as good for reducing cholesterol levels. You can also read about some healthy oats recipes.
Cholesterol buster #2: Garlic
With its rich store of sulphur-containing antioxidants, garlic plays an important role in regulating the cholesterol levels. Not only can it reduce LDL cholesterol levels, but studies have shown that a regular consumption of fresh garlic can also help boost levels of the 'good' or HDL cholesterol.
Remedy: Sprinkle a little freshly peeled and chopped raw garlic onto your salad dressings, work it into your sandwich or use it to garnish soups, dal or rasam and you have a tasty dish that is healthy, too.
Cholesterol buster #3: Soybean oil and corn oil
Plant oils such as soybean oil and corn oil contain plant sterols or phytosterols; these have the ability to prevent your body from absorbing the cholesterol that is naturally present in the foods you eat. It has also been found that these compounds enhance the cholesterol-lowering effects of statin drugs that are generally prescribed to combat high cholesterol levels. You may also like to read about the various cooking oils and their effect on your health.
Remedy: These sterols and stanols are also found in several vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, legumes and seeds and adding these to your diet can help reduce levels of LDL and total cholesterol.
Cholesterol buster #4:Brown Rice
Brown rice refers to rice that has not been completely processed but has only the outermost husk removed during the milling process. Therefore, this rice has the lower layer of bran intact and therefore, it is a rich source of not just vital vitamins and minerals but also fiber.
Remedy: If you are looking at reducing cholesterol through a healthy diet, simply substitute brown rice for all the white rice that you eat. The bran of the brown rice contains oil that is highly unsaturated and this plays an important role in ensuring your cholesterol levels stay low. Not convinced that you should make the healthy switch? Here are 10 reasons brown rice is better than white rice.
Cholesterol buster #5: Turmeric
We know of turmeric s excellent wound healing properties as well as expectorant action. But some studies have also found that it also has a protective action on the heart. Turmeric has been shown to lower the levels of LDL cholesterol and therefore, it can help cut down on the build-up of plaque on the walls of the arteries.
Remedy: Adding a pinch of turmeric powder to the curries and vegetable preparations is one of the best ways to ensure you get your daily dose of this powerful herb.
Cholesterol buster #6: Brinjal
Brinjal contains a substance called chlorogenic acid that is a potent antioxidant. As a result of this action, it has the ability to counteract the increase of LDL cholesterol and therefore, consuming brinjals may prove to be useful in the fight against high cholesterol. A word of caution, though. Brinjals are known to be rich in oxalates and their consumption can lead to health problems for people with pre-existing gall bladder or kidney ailments.
Remedy: Add brinjal to your meals at least once a week.
Cholesterol buster #7:Green Tea
Since green tea is not excessively processed beyond a withering and steaming process, it contains greater concentrations of a substance called epigallocatechingallate than black tea. This substance is a very strong antioxidant that researchers have found to be useful against high levels of LDL cholesterol.
Remedy: Have about 3-4 cups of green tea a day to help lower your cholesterol levels. But make sure you do not have too much, as green tea has side effects too.
Cholesterol buster #8: Artichoke Leaf or hathichouk
The leaves of the artichoke plant contain a compound called cynarin; preliminary research work shows that this has the ability to increase the production of bile in the liver. As a result, there is a more rapid excretion of cholesterol from the body, preventing it from being deposited on the arterial walls and blood cholesterol levels also drop. While artichokes are not native to India, there are a few agro companies based at Tamil Nadu, New Delhi and Mumbai from whom you can purchase these nutritious vegetables.
Remedy: Adding artichoke leaf extract to your diet or having it as a part of a salad helps lower cholesterol levels.
These remedies can help reduce your levels of cholesterol but for truly significant results, it is vital you combine diet with a regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle. For those who are overweight, losing even 2 to 5 kilograms can markedly reduce high cholesterol levels. Cutting down on smoking and alcohol consumption are other measures you should also consider when seeking to lower cholesterol levels.
Image source: Getty Images
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