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The 6 foods that will cut your cholesterol

Your cholesterol is too high. Well, perhaps not specifically you, but thousands of Britons have this news broken to them by doctors ev...

The big six: TV sports presenter Gabby Logan, right, is backing the drive to lower Britain's cholesterol using these six food groups

Your cholesterol is too high. Well, perhaps not specifically you, but thousands of Britons have this news broken to them by doctors every day. We all have an amount of this special type of fat in our blood. It is essential for many bodily functions, but most of us – 60 per cent  – have too much.
High cholesterol is a key factor in developing heart disease, which claims three times more lives than breast cancer and twice as many as lung cancer. The good news is that lowering your cholesterol is the biggest thing you can do to reduce your risk.
It's something TV personality Gabby Logan, for one, is keen to promote. 'A key risk factor for heart disease is high cholesterol but you can protect yourself with simple changes to lifestyle and diet,' says Gabby, who is supporting the British Heart Foundation Love Your Heart campaign.

The big six: TV sports presenter Gabby Logan, right, is backing the drive to lower Britain's cholesterol using these six food groups

But just how can you do this? Much of the health advice on the matter, including that on the NHS Eat Well site, is vague, leading to many misconceptions and myths.
So can diet alone be used to bring down high cholesterol – or should we leave it all to statins? The answer for very many people is yes, you CAN reduce your levels significantly through making changes in your diet. Should we stop eating eggs? Aren't they high in cholesterol?  In fact, the answer is no. No food  is prohibited, so you can still eat cheese, red meat and chocolate, within the limits of a low-fat diet.

Confusingly, countless foods carry labels claiming they can protect your heart or cut cholesterol. They work, but you have to take them in  a specific way to reap the benefits. To find out what we should – and shouldn't – be eating to lower cholesterol levels, we spoke to leading diet and heart health experts.
Now turn over for our brilliantly simple step-by-step guide – which includes building six food types into your diet – and you may be able to lower your reading by up to 20 per cent in three months . . .


These include Flora pro.activ and Benecol yogurt shots, as well as other products containing stanols and sterols. These naturally occurring molecules, which are found in plants, block the absorption of dietary cholesterol, which is then excreted with other waste.

Studies have shown that plant sterols reduce cholesterol levels by seven to ten per cent within three weeks, as part of a diet low in saturated fat.

You need to consume 2g in one go alongside your biggest meal of the day, each day, to get the full effect. The best form is the yogurt shot drinks that provide this amount of plant sterols alongside just under 40 calories and 1.4g of fat. You need to eat six teaspoons of fortified margarine to get the same amount of sterols, which delivers 150 calories and 18g of fat, although low-fat margarines  with sterols are now also available.

Drink with your main meal as sterols reduce the amount of fat absorbed. 'A shot with your morning coffee or little bits of margarine through the day will not produce the same benefits,' says Catherine Collins, principal dietician at St George's Healthcare NHS Trust.


The high fermentable-fibre content of beans and pulses means that they cannot be digested easily by the gut. This fibre binds to cholesterol so that it is removed through waste. High-fibre bread can be added to the  diet to boost fibre intake further.

PROOF A meta-analysis of 67 studies on dietary fibre and cholesterol levels revealed that consuming more  fibre helped reduce 'bad' LDL cholesterol by a small but significant amount.
Fibrous foods such as beans  also trick the body into absorbing less saturated fat, which can help control weight and protect arteries from heart disease.

Eighteen grams a day. Around 5g will come from oat-based products and you can get the rest from just a slice of high-fibre toast and two tablespoons of beans. Fruit and veg will also boost fibre intake.

Just swapping white bread for wholemeal can lower cholesterol levels, a manageable step for everyone.
'It's easy for most people to add fibre to their diet,' says Linda Main, of the cholesterol charity HEART UK.


Most nuts, including almonds, walnuts, pecans and peanuts, are good for lowering cholesterol. However, avoid salted varieties, especially if you have raised blood pressure. It is not clear how nuts lower cholesterol, but it might be because they contain plant sterols as well as monounsaturated fats that protect blood vessels from damage. They are also high in fibre and Vitamin E.

In 2010, an American analysis of 25 studies on nut consumption and blood fat levels found that eating  a portion every day (eight to ten nuts, or a small  palm-full) reduced overall cholesterol by five per cent and was particularly good for people with high levels  of 'bad' LDL cholesterol.

Between 25g and 50g of nuts daily.

Linda Main says: 'Nuts are very filling, so not only do they reduce cholesterol, but they can stop you snacking on too many other fatty foods afterwards. While nuts are in theory very calorific, it is unlikely all the energy  is available to the body.'


Soya milk, soy nuts, tofu and soya yogurts  may help the liver to take 'bad' LDL cholesterol out of the bloodstream. Using soya to replace dairy and meat can also displace saturated fat from the diet.

PROOFThere is some evidence, including a 2011 study, that soy protein can help reduce total cholesterol.
Although the effects were modest, some experts say that because soy products such as tofu often replace meat in the diet, they reduce the intake of saturated fat from other sources.

Experts recommend having at least two to three portions a day. That is equivalent to half a litre of soya milk and a soya yogurt. The reduction in cholesterol may be as much as five per cent, but scientific proof  for this is limited.

Start with one portion a day and slowly build it into  the diet from there. 'If you don't like soya, follow the other tips instead,' advises Catherine Collins.


Olive oil and rapeseed oil, which contain mainly monounsaturated fats, neither increase nor decrease cholesterol levels.

However, they help to make the  artery walls stronger, meaning that they are less likely  to be damaged by cholesterol. These fats are also cleared easily by the body.

Studies suggest that replacing saturated fat such as lard and butter with these oils results in a fall in cholesterol. It may also stop LDL causing inflammation in the arteries, a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Two tablespoons a day used in cooking. A 2002 study found that consuming this amount of olive oil each day decreased total cholesterol by eight per cent in six weeks. Generally, studies suggest that virgin olive oil is best.

Polyunsaturated fats from sunflower oils were considered to be as good as olive oils, but recently it has emerged that having too much of them causes oxidation, meaning they may increase furring of the arteries. However, remember that polyunsaturated fats are still better than butter and lard.


Oats contain compounds called beta glucans, which give them their paste-like consistency. The beta  glucans form a thick gel inside the digestive tract  and bind to cholesterol in the gut, helping to prevent cholesterol from being absorbed by the body. The  gel and cholesterol are then excreted as waste.

Analysis of 12 studies involving more than 1,000 people showed that adding beta glucans each day to your  diet via porridge, other oat-based cereals and oatcakes reduced cholesterol by up to five per cent within three months.

Three grams of beta glucans a day. This is equivalent  to a small bowl of porridge, three oatcakes and two slices of oat bread. This would also contribute about  5g of your daily fibre intake (see panel, left).

'Studies show beta glucan is good for heart health  and it's easy to eat more oats,' says Linda Main. 'There are now even breads with added oat bran. But people need to try to eat three portions a day  on a regular basis to have an effect. HEART UK have an Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan fact sheet  that explains it all.'

What else can I eat?

Read more: dailymail

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