CHOLESTEROL levels are something that concerns us all and some foods punch well above their weight in helping to reduce these.

Choosing a healthy diet which is low in saturated fat is important in helping to keep levels low, but according to charity Heart UK, you can reduce your cholesterol levels further by including these super six foods in your every day diet.

Super Food One – Soya Foods

Being naturally low in saturated fat, soya foods help lower levels. The special proteins in soya also appear to influence how the body regulates cholesterol too.  Studies show you can lower your levels by around 6% by including as little as 15g soya protein per day.

Choose from: soya alternatives to milk and yogurt, soya desserts, soya meat alternatives, soya nuts, edamame beans and tofu. 

Super Food Two – Nuts

All nuts are rich in vegetable protein, fibre, heart healthy unsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, natural plant sterols and a host of beneficial plant nutrients. Eating between 30-35g a day of nuts (a handful) has the potential to lower cholesterol by an average of 5%

 

Super Food Three – Oats and Barley

Both oats and barley are rich in a form of soluble fibre called beta glucan.  Once eaten beta glucan forms a gel which helps bind cholesterol in the intestines and prevent it from being absorbed. It is recommended that we eat around 3g of beta glucan a day (a bowl of porridge or two slices of bread). Foods which contain 1g or more of beta glucan can carry a cholesterol lowering claim.

Superfood Four – Foods fortified with plant sterols and stanols

Plant sterols are structurally similar to cholesterol and can be divided into sterols and stanols. Their level lowering effects have been known for some time. Plant sterols/stanols are naturally found in a wide range of foods such as vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. However, for most people, it is not possible to achieve the optimum intake from ordinary foods, although fortified foods can provide this (milk, yoghurt etc). An intake of 1.5-2.4g plant sterols/stanols everyday has been shown to reduce levels by 7-10% over two to three weeks.  They work by blocking cholesterol absorption in the gut.

 

Super Food Five – Fruit and Vegetables

All fruits and vegetables are low in saturated fat so eating more helps to keep saturated fat intake low.  Fruit and vegetables are also a valuable source of cholesterol lowering soluble fibres.  Try to include at least one pulse (beans, peas, lentils) everyday.  Other rich sources of soluble fibre include sweet potato, aubergene, okra (ladies finger), broccoli, apples, strawberry and prunes.

Super Food Six – Foods rich in unsaturated fats 

 Keeping daily saturated fat intake below 20g (women) and 30g (men) is vital for cholesterol lowering, but it is equally important to replace this saturated fat with modest amounts of unsaturated fats such as those found in olive, sunflower, corn, rapeseed and other vegetable, nut and seed oils.  Other foods rich in unsaturated fats include vegetable spreads, avocado, oily fish and nuts. Avoid coconut and palm oil as, unlike other these vegetable oils, they are rich in saturated fats.

For more information visit www.heartuk.org.uk