Excessive cholesterol levels, especially bad cholesterol, are a severe problem that affects most of us. However, the good news is that modifying our diet can help normalize cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is an essential fat that our body produces and circulates in the blood. Too much of it becomes a risk factor for cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack or stroke.
The recommended values for blood cholesterol are:
Total cholesterol – < 190 mg/dl;
LDL cholesterol – <115mg/dl;
HDL-C – >40 mg/dl for men and >45 mg/dl for women
Beta-glucans can help reduce “bad” (LDL) cholesterol.
Beta-glucans, which can help reduce “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, are vital to controlling cholesterol levels. Beta-glucans are a type of soluble fiber that can be found in foods rich in unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids.
A meta-analysis of dozens of previous investigations showed that approximately three grams of beta-glucans per day can reduce LDL cholesterol by 5 to 10 percent in people with normal or high cholesterol levels. A bowl of 30 grams of oatmeal daily will give you enough beta-glucan to help lower cholesterol. Walnuts are also a good source of unsaturated fats. Add a small handful a day to your diet, avoiding salted nuts.
More ways to lower cholesterol levels
Other ways to lower cholesterol levels include replacing butter with vegetable-based spreads, reducing hard cheeses, sausages, sugar, and high-fat products, and consuming less red meat, white meat, fish, and beans.
The importance of Vitamin D
Vitamin D becomes essential in this cholesterol issue. A meta-analysis found that people who took vitamin D supplements for six weeks to three years had lower total and LDL cholesterol levels, which was not valid for HDL. As you may know, there are two types of cholesterol: HDL (“good”) and LDL (“bad”). Good cholesterol is responsible for removing excess cholesterol from the blood deposited in the arteries and transporting it back to the liver, where it is eliminated. On the other hand, bad cholesterol transports cholesterol from the liver to the tissues where the cholesterol can be used. It turns out that the symptoms of high cholesterol are not very noticeable, and it is only possible to identify the problem through a blood test.
Although it is possible to lower cholesterol through healthy eating and frequent exercise, some people may need to take medication to control it. Talk to your doctor and have your blood tests up to date.
Whitehead, A., Beck, E. J., Tosh, S., & Wolever, T. M. (2014). Cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 100(6), 1413–1421. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.114.086108
Wang, H., Xia, N., Yang, Y. et al. Influence of vitamin D supplementation on plasma lipid profiles: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Lipids Health Dis 11, 42 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-511X-11-42