Being told by your doctor that you need to lower your cholesterol can be extremely worrying, but the good news is it can be a very treatable condition. If your cholesterol is slightly raised, your doctor will probably ask you to make a few lifestyle changes and to change your diet, but if it is very high, you may be prescribed medication to help too.
But just what foods can help?
Soluble fibre is water-soluble and is broken down by the bacteria in your large bowel (unlike insoluble fibre). It can help to control your overall cholesterol level and with it your risk of cardiovascular disease and can also soften your stools, especially if you’re constipated, making bowel movements more comfortable.
Consumed in abundance in countries around the Mediterranean, monounsaturated fats are known to reduce cardiovascular risk by improving your cholesterol profile – especially through lowering the harmful LDL cholesterol level but also by increasing your level of healthy HDL cholesterol.
Like their mono-cousins, polyunsaturated fats will also reduce your cardiovascular risk by improving your cholesterol profile. They may also help to control your blood sugar levels, and lower your blood pressure as well as reduce your triglyceride level – a circulating blood fat that can accelerate the build-up of fatty plaques in your arteries.
Fish and omega-3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fats are a specific type of polyunsaturated fat and are particularly effective at reducing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by improving your blood’s cholesterol profile.
A word of caution for pregnant women
Increasing fish oil consumption beyond two servings of oily fish per week or relying on fish oil supplementation is not appropriate during pregnancy due to the potential effects on the unborn baby of heavy metal levels in fish and high vitamin A levels found in some fish oil supplements.