You hear a lot of talk about watching your cholesterol levels as a way to improve health, but taking the time to understand how it affects your health is important.  Listed ahead are some things you should know about cholesterol and how a low cholesterol diet may benefit your health and longevity.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is often talked about when it comes to your health, but the truth is it is a fatty, waxy substance that resides in the body.  Generally, cholesterol comes from the diet and the usual source is from animal products.  While the topic of cholesterol usually involves poor health, this substance is vital to your health.  Cholesterol is needed to aid in your cellular growth and for its boost on cell structures.  Not to mention, it is important for specific hormones in your body.  Without this substance, it would be hard to survive.  With that said, some cholesterol is needed in your diet, but too much can be an issue with your health.  Let’s take a look at two types of cholesterol that you should have an understanding of.

Bad Cholesterol 

Starting off with the bad form of cholesterol, LDL, which is short for low density lipoprotein, is harmful for your health when there is too much in your blood.  LDL cholesterol generally comes from foods that are processed, fried, and consists of your junk foods, so avoiding these foods is important for your overall health.  The issue with bad cholesterol is that it is strongly linked with heart conditions such as heart attacks and strokes.  One of the biggest causes of heart issues is due to a process called atherosclerosis (or the hardening of your arterial walls) and LDL cholesterol is the primary substance of this process.  Keeping your levels of LDL cholesterol low is important for preventing any heart conditions from affecting your health.

Good Cholesterol

In comparison to the bad stuff, good cholesterol actually has a protective aspect on your heart and health.  The good cholesterol is important for decreasing the amount of inflammation from your body, but it serves as a cleansing fatty substance that helps to eliminate the bad cholesterol from your blood.  This is why it is highly encouraged that you eat as many foods that are high in good cholesterol.

Health Risks of High Cholesterol Levels

One of the biggest things to worry about in your diet is high cholesterol.  When your cholesterol levels are elevated, you are at risk for heart and circulation issues throughout the body.  Let’s take a look at the two most common health risks associated with high cholesterol.

Stroke 

High cholesterol levels can cause issues within your arteries.  As buildup of cholesterol plaque generates on your arterial walls, blood flow becomes decreased.  If there is a complete blockage of blood flow to a certain part of the body, such as the brain, there could be serious health issues.  A stroke occurs when there is not adequate blood flow to the brain and high cholesterol is often a major cause.

Heart Attack

Similar to a stroke, a heart attack occurs when there is inadequate blood supply to the heart.  This is a very serious and life threatening condition that requires medical attention, but cholesterol is usually the factor that causes heart attacks in the first place.  Keeping your bad cholesterol levels low is important for your health so that you can prevent a heart attack or stroke.

How to Lower Cholesterol

In light of the harsh health consequences of having high cholesterol, it is important to take the preventative steps to keep your levels low.  For this reason, it is important to eat foods that aid in lowering your cholesterol.  Listed below are five of the best foods that help to lower your cholesterol.

5 Best Foods that Lower Cholesterol

Beans and Legumes

There are many diets that discourage the consumption of beans and legumes because they are similar to grains.  However, beans and legumes contain high amounts of fiber that help to cleanse the blood of the bad cholesterol.  Consider a variety of beans, lentils, and legumes as a way to help lower your cholesterol.

Fish  

The key here with this food is fatty fish.  Fatty fish varieties such as salmon and halibut are important for adding healthy fats and boosting good cholesterol, which helps to cut out the bad cholesterol.  Consider indulging on halibut, salmon, and other fatty fish varieties to lower your cholesterol levels for good.

Avocados  

This fatty fruit is one of the best for helping to lower your cholesterol.  For starters, the avocado contains compounds that naturally help to lower cholesterol.  In addition, avocados contain high amounts of healthy fats, which help to boost good cholesterol and decrease the bad.  Consider a fresh avocado as a healthy snack to boost your cholesterol health.

Nuts  

There is a great reason why nuts have been considered one of the healthiest foods around; they contain high amounts of good fats.  The good fats in nuts help to improve omega-3 fatty acids, which decrease inflammation and also boost your good cholesterol.  From this, your overall cholesterol levels should benefit.  Consider walnuts, almonds, pecans, and cashews for best results.

Oats  

One of the best ways to start your day is with a fresh bowl of oats.  Oats help to boost fiber consumption, which helps to decrease cholesterol in your blood.  Consider a bowl each morning to improve your cholesterol health.

Making The Low Cholesterol Diet Work

While only five foods were listed, the general theme to making the low cholesterol diet work is to increase your fiber consumption and to consume healthy fats.  Also, in order to make the low cholesterol diet work for you, it is best to void foods that can spike the bad cholesterol, such as fried, sweet, and junk food options.

Consider adding a food each day to your diet to improve your overall cholesterol levels.  Rather than snacking on chips at lunch, you can easily incorporate fresh carrots or fruit as a substitution.  In addition, rather than consuming ice cream at night as a regular dessert, consider fresh fruit as a healthy alternative.  There are many ways to add healthier foods to your diet to lower cholesterol and making small changes can certainly help you in the long run.

Wrapping It Up

A low cholesterol diet is usually something that adults jump onboard when overall levels get a bit elevated.  For this reason, incorporating foods that can promote an overall reduction in your cholesterol can be a great way to boost your health.  In addition, consuming foods that have high amounts of good fats can help to lower your bad cholesterol, boost your good cholesterol, and help to improve your overall heart and circulation health.

When making the jump to a low cholesterol diet, consider making small changes to your usual diet plan as a way to make it work.  Rather than harsh and sudden changes, small changes tend to go unnoticed, which means you are likely to succeed.