Cholesterol is not intrinsically harmful, in fact, your body needs it to build healthy cells. High levels of cholesterol is harmful, however, because it causes fatty deposits to develop in your blood vessels. This increases your risk of heart disease, a major cause of death in the UK and worldwide.
Unfortunately, high cholesterol does not produce any warning signs.
According to the NHS, you can only find out if you have it from a blood test.
“Your GP might suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high,” explains the health body.
If it is determined that you have high cholesterol, you will be advised to make healthy lifestyle changes to lower it.
Diet plays a key role in reducing high cholesterol and certain items have been touted for their cholesterol-lowering properties.
One such item belongs to the root vegetable family – carrots.
Intake of carrots has been linked to lower cholesterol levels in human and animal studies.
In one notable study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants who ate two hundred grams of raw carrot for breakfast each day for three weeks observed an 11 percent reduction in their serum cholesterol.
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Serum cholesterol, otherwise known as total cholesterol, refers to the overall level of cholesterol in your blood.
The cholesterol-lowering effects are attributed to pectin – the main form of soluble fibre in carrots.
According to research, certain soluble fibres can impair the absorption of cholesterol from your digestive tract, thereby lowering blood cholesterol.
General dietary rules to lower high cholesterol
To reduce your cholesterol, try to cut down on fatty food, especially food that contains a type of fat called saturated fat.
Saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol levels – a harmful type of cholesterol that gums up the inside of your arteries.
According to the NHS, saturated fat can be found in the following:
- Meat pies, sausages and fatty meat
- Butter, lard and ghee
- Cream and hard cheese, like cheddar
- Cakes and biscuits
- Food that contains coconut oil or palm oil
You can still have foods that contain a healthier type of fat called unsaturated fat.
Unsaturated fats are found in plant foods, such as olive and vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, as well as oily fish.
In fact, you can find most of these items in the Mediterranean diet, which offers a potent weapon against high cholesterol, according to a study published in The BMJ.
The other key component to lowering high cholesterol is keeping active.
According to the NHS, you should aim to do at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of exercise a week.
“Try a few different exercises to find something you like doing. You’re more likely to keep doing it if you enjoy it,” it advises.
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