When it comes to our health and general well-being, there’s probably a very strong chance that you will have heard people talking about the dangers of cholesterol. People go to the doctors to get their cholesterol levels checked, they use drugs and medications designed to lower their cholesterol levels, but what exactly is cholesterol? Well, for starters there are two types of cholesterol. There is good cholesterol (HDL), and there is bad cholesterol (LDL). HDL cholesterol is known as good cholesterol because it helps to remove bad LDL cholesterol from the body. It helps to carry LDL cholesterol out of the arteries and into the liver, where it is then broken down and excreted from the body. LDL cholesterol is known as bad cholesterol because forms a thick fatty deposit within the arteries, which calcifies overtime and turns into plaque. This then blocks arteries, slows down circulation, oxygen and nutrient transport, and can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, renal failure, and strokes amongst other things. LDL cholesterol is found mainly in greasy fatty foods rich in saturated and trans fats. The good news however, is that there are healthy foods you can eat that have been proven to lower harmful cholesterol levels.

Healthy fats – Just like cholesterol, there are good fats, and there are bad fats. Bad fats are saturated and trans fats, whilst good fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Foods such as olives, nuts, avocados, olive oil, peanut oil, and coconut oil are all great sources of healthy fats, and numerous studies have revealed that diets rich in healthy fats can reduce harmful cholesterol levels by close to 20%. Healthy fats do still contain high calories however, so you must still watch your daily intake and try not to go above your daily allowance.

Beans – Beans such as cannellini beans or red kidney beans are another great food for reducing harmful cholesterol levels because they’re so high in fiber, specifically in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is broken down in the stomach and digestive tract and dissolves in natural water, forming a thick gel like paste. This paste binds harmful acids and cholesterol in the digestive tract and forms a protective layer, preventing them from being reabsorbed into the body. The gel like paste is then excreted along with other waste products.

Salmon – Salmon is another food rich in healthy fats, specifically omega 3 fatty acids. These Omega 3’s have been found to reduce harmful cholesterol levels, to increase healthy cholesterol levels, which in turn reduce bad cholesterol levels even more, and they also help to naturally lower triglycerides. Two fatty acids that make up the omega 3’s are known as DHA and EPA and have also been found to be extremely beneficial for the heart.

Garlic – Garlic is a very popular staple ingredient in most kitchens but as well as helping to make foods taste great, garlic has also been found to be very healthy as well. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, which help to strengthen the immune system, but it has also been found to be great at reducing bad cholesterol too. Garlic actually prevents fatty cholesterol deposits from sticking the walls of arteries, where ordinarily they would build up and turn into plaque. As they’re prevented from sticking, they make their way out of the body before they have chance to build up and turn into plaque.