High cholesterol is a condition in which a person has too much of a fatty substances (known as cholesterol) in their blood. As well as being caused by eating fatty food, lack of exercise, being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol can all contribute to high cholesterol levels. Not all cholesterol is bad – HDL cholesterol (‘good’ cholesterol) makes people less likely to have heart problems. But too much LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol) makes people more likely to have heart problems or a stroke.
To reduce cholesterol, the NHS recommends cutting down on fatty foods, especially food that contains a type of fat called saturated fat.
But certain foods have also been found to have cholesterol lowering properties, such as avocado, garlic and dark chocolate.
Avocados are a rich source of monounsaturated fats and fibre, which are two nutrients that help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.
Clinical studies support the cholesterol-lowering effect of avocados.
In one study involving overweight and obese adults, participants with LDL cholesterol who ate one avocado daily lowered their LDL levels more than those who didn’t eat avocados.
An analysis of 10 studies determined that substituting avocados for other fats was linked to lower total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides.
Garlic contains various powerful plant compounds, including allicin, and it’s this that’s been believed to have a positive impact on cholesterol levels.
Studies suggest garlic may help lower total and bad cholesterol. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26764326)
While it may seem too good to be true, research has shown dark chocolate and cocoa, its main ingredient, can lower bad cholesterol.
In one study, participants drank a cocoa beverage twice a day for a month.
They experienced a reduction in bad LDL cholesterol of 0.17 mmol/l.
Their blood pressure also decreased and their good cholesterol increased. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26348767)
Other ways to lower cholesterol include exercising more – you should aim to do at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.
Stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol can also help.