What is normal cholesterol level? 5 food swaps to lower cholesterol

High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips

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Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the blood, used to build healthy cells. Cholesterol can also be found in some foods, such as saturated fat and trans fats. However, high cholesterol can cause a range of health issues and puts people at risk of stroke and heart attack. However, there are some healthy diet swaps you can make to lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk.

There are no actual symptoms of high cholesterol, with a test having to be done to check the levels in your blood.

If you are concerned about your cholesterol, you can book a GP appointment to test your blood.

A cholesterol test can measure:

  • total cholesterol – the overall amount of cholesterol in your blood, including both “good” and “bad” cholesterol
  • good cholesterol (called HDL) – this makes you less likely to have heart problems or a stroke
  • bad cholesterol (called LDL and non-HDL) – this makes you more likely to have heart problems or a stroke
  • triglycerides – a fatty substance similar to bad cholesterol

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So what are healthy cholesterol levels? According to the NHS these are the healthy figures –

  • Total cholesterol – 5 or below
  • HDL (good cholesterol) – 1 or above
  • LDL (bad cholesterol) – 3 or below
  • Non-HDL (bad cholesterol) – 4 or below
  • Triglycerides – 2.3 or below

So what causes high cholesterol? There are a range of dietary causes such as eating foods containing too much saturated fat.

Foods high in saturated fat include:

  • meat pies
  • sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • butter, ghee and lard
  • cream
  • hard cheeses
  • cakes and biscuits
  • foods containing coconut or palm oil

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However, there are some key healthy swaps you can make from foods containing saturated fats, to foods high in unsaturated fats.

  • oily fish – such as mackerel and salmon
  • nuts – such as almonds and cashews
  • seeds – such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • avocados
  • vegetable oils and spreads – such as rapeseed or vegetable oil, sunflower, olive, corn and walnut oils

And the way you cook your foods can also help, as instead of roasting or frying, you can try:

  • grilling
  • steaming
  • poaching
  • boiling
  • microwaving

When it comes to the weekly shop, opt for lean cuts of meat and choose lower-fat varieties of dairy products and spreads.

And including foods which contain plenty of fibre helps lower your risk of heart disease, and some high-fibre foods can help lower your cholesterol.

The NHS recommends adults should aim for at least 30g of fibre a day.

Your diet should include a mix of sources of fibre, which include:

  • wholemeal bread, bran and wholegrain cereals
  • fruit and vegetables
  • potatoes with their skins on
  • oats and barley
  • pulses, such as beans, peas and lentils
  • nuts and seeds

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