An avocado a day keeps the cholesterol away!

Pop your apples back in the fruit bowl. Recent research claims eating an avocado a day is the way to keep the doctor at bay. In particular it can significantly lower cholesterol. Today Nikki takes a look at why we need to keep cholesterol in check and what other lifestyle changes we can make to keep it under control.

We have known that avocados possess magical properties for quite sometime.

Heralded as one of the superfoods, this creamy fruit is absolutely bursting with vitamins and minerals and healthy fats.

Now a new study has revealed they are also a great way to lower your cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all cells of the body.

Your body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods but it makes all that it needs.

Extra cholesterol – found in some of the foods you eat – can push your levels too high and this can lead to health problems.

Good and bad cholesterol

Cholesterol can’t dissolve in the blood; it must be transported through your bloodstream by carriers called lipoproteins, which got their name because they’re made of fat (lipid) and protein.

The two types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol to and from cells are low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, and high-density lipoprotein, or HDL.

LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and make them less flexible.

HDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries.

What foods should you avoid?

Some foods boost your HDL cholesterol. Others contribute to your LDL cholesterol levels.

The latter is what we want to avoid.

The level of bad cholesterol in your blood is directly influenced by the amount of saturated fat that you eat.

The most important thing to do to reduce your cholesterol level is to cut down on foods containing saturated fat.

This includes pies, fatty cuts of meat, butter, ghee, lard, cream, cheese, cakes and biscuits.

Trans fats can also raise bad cholesterol levels. Trans fats can be found naturally in some foods, such as those from animals, including meat and dairy products.

Artificial trans fats can be found in some processed foods such as biscuits and cakes.

Healthy swaps

Eating foods that contain unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat can actually help reduce bad cholesterol levels and boost good cholesterol levels.

Foods containing unsaturated fats include oily fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.

Soluble fibre can also help reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood.

Good sources of soluble fibre include oats, beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, fruit and vegetables.

It’s also a good idea to increase your intake of fruit and vegetables.

Top tips

Here are some of the best foods to add to your diet if you want to lower your LDL cholesterol:

Oats

Oatmeal contains soluble fibre which can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Five to 10 grams or more of soluble fibre a day is advised. Consider the Deluxe Nutrition ultra fine oats with no added salt or sugar.

Fish

Eating fatty fish can be heart healthy because of its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These can reduce your blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. Aim to eat at least two servings of fish a week.

Nuts

Walnuts and almonds in particular can reduce blood cholesterol. Rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, walnuts also help keep blood vessels healthy.

Eat about a handful a day but make sure any nuts you eat aren’t salted or coated with sugar.

Olive oil

Olive oil contains a potent mix of antioxidants that can lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels but leave your good (HDL) cholesterol levels untouched.

Try using about two tablespoons a day in place of other fats.

Avocado

Just like olive oil and nuts, avocados contain monounsaturated fatty acids which are good for you. New research suggests we eat one a day but avocados are definitely not low-calorie food. If you are watching your waistline as well, make sure you cutback elsewhere to allow for this inclusion in your diet.

Cholesterol-lowering products

There’s evidence that foods containing certain added ingredients, such as plant sterols and stanols, can reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood.

Sterols and stanols can be found in specially developed products, such as some spreads and yoghurts.

These foods are aimed specifically at people who need to lower their cholesterol levels but if your doctor has told you that you have high cholesterol, you can lower it by changing your diet and without having to eat special products.

Diet can reduce cholesterol levels by 10 to 20 per cent, which significantly decreases heart-disease risk.

Get moving

Don’t forget, an active lifestyle can also help.

Exercise reduces bad cholesterol and helps with other risk factors of cardiovascular disease, such as being overweight.

Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise a day will go a long way in aiding you to reduce your cholesterol. Even a brisk walk a day will help.

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