What actually is cholesterol and why is everyone always going on about lowering it? In simple terms, cholesterol is a type of fat found within the body, and there are two kinds; HDL or “good” cholesterol and LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Despite the belief that the only way you can get it is from eating certain foods, it is actually naturally produced by the liver.
Yes, you do intake certain kinds of cholesterol, known as dietary cholesterol, from the foods you eat, but your liver also naturally manufactures it in order to help cell production and regulate our hormones, amongst other important bodily processes.
Here is the catch though; when you eat foods that contain high levels of sugar, saturated fats and salt, this is when your cholesterol can increase, leading to increased risk of heart attack, stroke and arterial disease.
The simplest solution? Work on changing your diet. Lucky for you, we are here to help you – here’s 5 science backed foods that can easily help you lower your cholesterol!
The chia seed has long been used for both dietary and medicinal benefits, going as far back as the Mayans & the Aztecs. Chia & flaxseeds may be tiny in size, but they pack a nutritional punch! This is because they are rich sources of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, an essential fatty acid which we can only get from our diet, as the body cannot naturally produce them.
Omega-3 fatty acids are critical to the bodies overall health as they protect from inflammation, enhance cognitive performance, and you guessed it…they can aid in lowering your cholesterol! These essential omega-3 fatty acids work overtime to ensure that our friend the liver, decreases triglyceride (a different type of fat produced by the body) production, while also working to reduce plaque build-up in the arteries and helping to increase our “good cholesterol” and decreasing our “bad cholesterol!”.
Chia & flaxseeds are super easy to include in your diet as they have little taste, and they are so versatile. Both of these seeds can be substituted as a vegan egg alternative into any of your baking as they gel in water (3TBSP chia/flaxseed to 1TBSP water), or you can find these in a variety of our range of Plantshakes such as the Blackberry & Chia or the Strawberry & Banana (which contains flaxseeds!)
Oats are one of the most highly-regarded functional foods, because they contain a powerful element of dietary fibre called beta-glucans (or B-Glucans, for short!).
B-Glucans are a type of carbohydrate which has been thoroughly researched and been found to have a range of beneficial effects on the human body such as lowering blood sugar, being anti-carcinogenic and lowering cholesterol. Oats are an excellent source of this powerhouse and are a readily available food source that can be easily incorporated into your diet. A quick and delicious way to incorporate more oats (and b-glucans) into your diet is through making an easy overnight oat porridge or through our range of Oatshakes which contain approximately 5g of fibre per serving!
We all have memories lodged in our brains of our mum telling us to “eat your fruits & vegetables!” and it turns out, that she was right all along!
These foods are loaded with health benefits, particularly those such as berries like strawberries & blueberries and cruciferous greens like spinach and kale, because they contain fibre, which is great for lowering cholesterol, in the same way as we previously mentioned with the beta-glucans found in oats, but these foods also contain high levels of a powerhouse compound called antioxidants!
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Antioxidants are extremely powerful inside the body, as they inhibit oxidation, a process which fights free radicals within the body, fighting against heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants also are thought to help fight the change that occurs in cholesterol molecules, changing them into things like plaque that build up on the walls of our arteries, causing heart and arterial diseases. Including these fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet is so beneficial to your health, and we all know that we should be aiming for our 5 a day.
An easy tip to include more fruits and veggies in your diet is to include them in smoothies, bake with them, or you can simply empty, swirl and shake one of our Plantshakes, such as the Blueberry & Acai or for a savoury twist, use our Super Greens Powder in your cooking, for a big hit of antioxidants, which also counts towards 1 of your 5 a day.
Green tea is just one of those things, you either love it, or you hate it! Listen, it is never going to be a cuppa Yorkshire tea, but it can be such a great addition to your diet. Green tea has been extensively researched over in the past for its health benefits, and has been used in Asian cultures for centuries.
Green tea has shown a range of health improvements from improving brain function, increasing metabolism, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and even helping bad breath!
Why, you may wonder, is tea of all things some wonderous superfood? Well, most importantly, green tea contains a type of plant compound called polyphenols, and tea catechins (a type of polyphenol!) are the most abundant in green tea.
The polyphenols found in green tea are revered for their effect on the reduction of both serum & liver cholesterol, as they target the enzymes which regulates cholesterol. Which makes-up, breaks-down & converts into fat, therefore decreasing not only LDL (the “bad” type of cholesterol), but total cholesterol as well. Brewed green tea is great on its own, steeped with honey and lemon, but it’s trendy younger sister Matcha is really having a moment right now, and is great hot, iced, in smoothies or even in baking! Alternatively, FOGA includes matcha in a range of our products such as the Matcha & Moringa Plantshake, as well as our FOCUS Matcha Latte blend!
Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you… improve your gut microbiome & decrease your risk for heart & arterial disease? That’s the rhyme right?! But seriously, beans and legumes are a “superfood” all on their own, despite their reputation, and they are seriously underrated as a “health food!” Research on increasing your levels of bean and legume intake has shown that not only do these little gems help to lower your cholesterol but they also help reduce blood sugar and improve the health of your gut!
This is because beans and legumes are packed with plant power, and have loads of vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, all packed into one tiny little bean! The main thing that beans & legumes have that help lower your cholesterol is FIBRE; both soluble (the kind that can easily be broken down & absorbed by the body) and insoluble (the kind that the body has a tougher time with, and cannot completely break down). These fibres do a lot for our body and for helping to regulate cholesterol within it by tackling it in the gut, where they promote the growth of good bacteria, and therefore lower its ability to absorb cholesterol! The best part? Beans are so versatile, they can quite simply be put into anything or be swapped in the place of another! Our favourite recipe is a sweet potato, cauliflower and chickpea curry.
So, we have been talking a lot about how you can use your diet to lower your cholesterol and be healthier overall, but what about the medication that your doctor is bound to prescribe you? They certainly do the same, or work better, right? Not quite.
Statins are medication which is prescribed to patients who already have quite high cholesterol levels, and their job is to do lower that nasty LDL cholesterol. They do this by reducing the production of LDL cholesterol in the liver, and sure, that may work, but does it work as well as changing your diet? Apparently not, as there has been loads of research which suggests otherwise! In fact, there is substantial evidence to suggest that a diet low in saturated fats and high in plant sterols can actually achieve even better results than prescribed statins! What can we say, I guess food really IS medicine!
There you have it; 5 foods that can help you to lower your cholesterol, and this is important, because unfortunately high cholesterol levels play a huge part in putting you at risk for heart and arterial disease. Currently there are around 7.6 million people living with these diseases in the UK, and is one of the leading causes of death. What is amazing is that these risks are easily decreased by improving your diet! Food truly can be medicine, and we are here to help you along the way. Whatever way you choose to do it, just know that you are on the right track and you’re making a great decision for both you and your health.
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