High cholesterol is when you have too much of a waxy substance called cholesterol in your blood. The body actually needs a moderate amount of cholesterol to build healthy cells but having too much of it can increase your risk of heart disease, a condition whereby the heart’s blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a buildup of fatty substances in the coronary arteries. The fatty substance in question is cholesterol so it is vital that you keep it in check.
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Luckily, eating a heart-healthy diet offers a bulwark against cholesterol buildup.
Certain foods contain properties that specifically target cholesterol, staving off the threat of heart disease.
One such item is okra, also known as “lady’s finger”, a juicy vegetable that is prized for its green seed pods.
Okra contains a thick gel-like substance called mucilage, which can bind to cholesterol during digestion, causing it to be excreted with stools rather than absorbed into your body.
Evidence points to its cholesterol-lowering prowess.
One eight-week study randomly divided mice into three groups and fed them a high-fat diet containing one percent or two percent okra powder or a high-fat diet without okra powder.
The mice on the okra diet eliminated more cholesterol in their stools and had lower total blood cholesterol levels than the control group.
Total cholesterol is the overall amount of cholesterol in your blood, including both “good” and “bad” cholesterol.
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The heart-healthy benefits of eating okra are attributed in part to its polyphenol content.
Polyphenols are compounds found in plants that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
One four-year study in 1,100 people showed that those who ate a diet rich in polyphenols had lower inflammatory markers associated with heart disease.
General dietary principles to lower high cholesterol
Okra can be enjoyed as part of a well balanced diet that consists of all the nutrients you need to keep high cholesterol at bay.
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According the British Heart Foundation, you should try to eat:
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables
- Plenty of starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. Choose whole grain varieties wherever possible
- Some milk and dairy products
- Some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of Protein
- Only a small amount of foods and drinks high in fats and/or sugar.
Foods to avoid
You should specifically avoid eating too much saturated fat as it can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which can increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease, warns the BHF.
Foods high in saturated fat include:
- 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
Unsaturated fats, which can be monounsaturated fats (for example olive oil, rapeseed oil, almonds, unsalted cashews and avocado) or polyunsaturated fats (including sunflower oil and vegetable oil, walnuts, sunflower seeds and oily fish) are a healthier choice, notes the BHF.
A healthy, balanced diet should be complemented with regular exercise.
According to the NHS, you should aim to do at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of exercise a week.
If starting out, the health body recommends trying the following:
- Walking – try to walk fast enough so your heart starts beating faster
“Try a few different exercises to find something you like doing. You’re more likely to keep doing it if you enjoy it,” it adds.
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