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13 ways to naturally promote healthier cholesterol levels

Attention all French fry lovers and burger connoisseurs. According to Heart UK, over half of all adults in England have high cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. At Shoptimix we have been working on putting together a great list of options to lower cholesterol if you are among this group. Find out how to optimize your body´s cholesterol by eating these amazing foods; discover our suggested recipes (without compromising on taste) and how the upcoming trend of “Earthing” might help you reduce your risk of heart disease.

Cholesterol-lowering foods

1. Flaxseeds. These miniature golden seeds are brimming with omega-3, manganese and vitamin B1. In a study conducted by the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto in Canada, participants consumed 50g of flaxseed for 4 weeks in the form of healthy baked goods and their plasma LDL cholesterol was reduced by up to 8%. Flaxseeds are a necessity for any cholesterol-conscious cook as they can be used as an egg replacement. Simply mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds with 3 tablespoons of warm water, and then let it sit for 15 minutes to congeal. This creates a consistency similar to that of eggs. How about making these delicious No Bake Energy Bites to get your Flaxseed-Fix, and feel pretty smug whilst devouring them, knowing that you´re fighting LDL cholesterol?

oatmeal with chia seeds, banana and walnuts

2. Avocado. Split one! In a study by the Dietary Department, Wesley Hospital in Queensland, Australia, people put on an avocado diet saw an 8.2% decrease in their cholesterol. As if you needed another reason to add nature’s buttery goodness to your meals, because who doesn´t love avo, anyway?

3. Oats. Create some “hygge” with a warming bowl of oatmeal. In Scandinavia, they like to come together during the winter months to share a bowl of porridge. The sense of warmth, comfort and togetherness which comes with this is best described as “hygge”. Coincidentally, in a study by the Medical & Pharmaceutical Statistics Research Unit at Lancaster University found that the consumption of oats was shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels. You can try this creamy maca, coconut and banana porridge for a particularly delicious start to your day.

4. Chia Seeds. Jump on the bandwagon! Taking chia daily helps to sweep out old debris (like excess LDL cholesterol) in your intestine. Chia seeds contain long chains of triglycerides which have the ability to dislodge the bad cholesterol from the artery walls. Chia seeds are also known to contain an extra outer covering of soluble fibre, which can absorb 10-12 times the weight of the seed in water and form gel-like beads. While digesting this substance, it keeps the colon and the body hydrated. Take a look at our recipe pick for inspiration: Vanilla raspberry chia pudding.

coconut rice dessert with beans and mango

5. “Beans, beans, good for the heart.” A study by Arizona State University found that baked beans have been linked to reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Who would have guessed this old favourite was so good for us? And there´s further proof that the trusty bean is helping our bodies. A study from the Department of Nutritional Science at the University of Toronto found that consuming one daily serving of beans, chickpeas or lentils can reduce LDL cholesterol. Pick up a tin from the supermarket on your way home and ad d it to your dinner tonight or - even better - try making these homemade baked beans for a low sugar version.

Dark Chocolate pralines

6. Indulge in a kiwi or two. Forty-three subjects participated in a study which showed that after 8 weeks, 2 kiwis per day raise HDL (“good” cholesterol) and significantly lower LDL (“bad” cholesterol). You can try this spinach, kiwi and chia seed smoothie to combine two cholesterol-fighting benefits in one, because who doesn´t love two-for-one?

7. Go nuts. Almonds, walnuts and peanuts have all been found to be beneficial for cholesterol levels. Interestingly, one study by the Institute of Nutrition and Health Science at Taipei Medical University found that ingesting just a single serving of 4 Brazil nuts could be enough to improve your levels of LDL and HDL for up to 30 days. Nuts are low in saturated fatty acids and high in unsaturated fatty acids.

8. Get your fill of fatty fish. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish can reduce your blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. According to Harvard Health Publications: Harvard Medical School, The omega-3´s in fish reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by preventing the onset of abnormal heart rhythms. Try to bake or steam your fish for best cholesterol-reducing results.

9. Get your cacao fix: This study by the Food and Health R&D Laboratories in Japan found that pure cocoa powder, which has no sugar or fat, can lower LDL, and boost HDL. Cocoa also unstiffens our arteries and scrubs away arterial plaque. When it comes to getting your chocolate fix, your best bet is to opt for chocolate in its purest form: cacao! Why should you opt for raw cacao as opposed to cocoa? Well, cacao is the unprocessed form of cocoa. It is higher in antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. Cocoa, on the other hand, is stripped of nutrients and antioxidants due to the high heat during the roasting process, thus reducing the cacao beans’ powerful health benefits. So if you want to get the full benefits opt for cacao and try the raw chocolate from Booja-Booja by searching for it on the Shoptimix app.

Lifestyle tips

But, it isn´t all about the food you eat. When high levels of cholesterol occur in the bloodstream, excess LDL begins to seep into the inner wall of the artery. This triggers an inflammatory response, which actually speeds up the accumulation of cholesterol in the artery wall producing more and more inflammation.  "Inflammation is the common denominator in nearly all of the diseases we deal with," says James O'Keefe, MD, director of preventive cardiology at the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri." We have compiled some lifestyle ideas below to help reduce inflammation in your body and lower your risk of heart disease.

  • Chill out. Meditate. We all know stress isn´t that great, but we tend to underestimate its effect on us. Dr. Paul J. Rosch at The American Institute of Stress, argues that stress is a greater risk factor for heart disease than having high LDL levels. He cites a studyby the American Heart Association journal, which followed 200 high risk patients for 5-9 years, and showed that 15-20 minutes of meditation a day is even more effective for reducing our risk of heart attacks than educating ourselves about healthy diets is.
  • bare feet on the sand
  • “Earthing.” Take your shoes off. An innovative idea from the alternative field of “energy medicine” is “earthing.” Dr James Oschman, an expert in the subject, suggests that walking barefoot is hugely beneficial to our health preventing high cholesterol and other diseases. According to Oschman, earthing allows your body to “soak up” the earth’s energy through your soles. Dr. Oschman says "Damage [in the human body] (is) not intended to take place but does take place because we have disconnected ourselves from the Earth by putting rubber and plastic on the bottoms of our shoes." He believes that when you're grounded, there's a transfer of free electrons from the Earth into your body, and these free electrons cause your blood to thin and flow easier. It´s liberating! and at the very least you will have a great time trying it.
  • Dust off those trainers; exercise! The more your exercise, the more LDL your body excretes. This is because exercise stimulates enzymes which help move LDL from the blood to the liver, where it is then converted into bile for digestion.
  • Ditch the cigs. In this study published in the Europe PubMed Central, men and women who were smokers had significantly lower HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels than non-smokers. Heavy smokers also had lower HDL cholesterol levels than lighter smokers. In other words, the more you smoke, the lower your levels of “good cholesterol” become.

Need some help to lower your cholesterol levels? Take a look at nutritionist Leo Pemberton's Cholesterol Shopping List