Despite its reputation as a potentially harmful substance, cholesterol actually plays an important role in keeping the healthy function of the body. This waxy compound is used by cells to produce walls and structures as well as to help them adjust to sudden changes in temperature.

The body is able to manufacture most of the cholesterol it needs through the liver, but small amounts of the substance are also produced by the small intestine and even by individual cells.

Consuming food such as fish, chicken, and beef adds to the levels of cholesterol already present in the body. Excess cholesterol, particularly low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), can collect on the inside of blood vessel linings, causing them to impede the normal flow of blood. This could lead to serious health problems such as heart disease and stroke.

To prevent these negative health effects from setting in, read on to find out which superfoods you can eat that can help keep your cholesterol level manageable.

Oils

Many recipes feature the use of different oils for cooking or flavoring. To help turn your favorite dish into a healthier one, you can try switching out animal-based oils with plant-based ones that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These acids have been found to lower LDL levels, lower blood pressure, and prevent the buildup of cholesterol in arteries.

Some of the most commonly used plant-based oils are derived from flaxseed, soybean, walnut, and canola.

Fish

Another good source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish meat, particularly salmon, herring, trout, sardines, mackerel, and tuna.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), people should eat two servings of fish at least twice a week in order to receive the recommended amount of omega-3 acids.

While consuming fish is enough to benefit from the cholesterol-lowering effects of omega-3s for some people, those who suffer from coronary artery disease or high triglyceride levels may need to consult their doctors about taking supplements as well.

The AHA also cautions people about other harmful substances that some types of fish may contain, such as mercury, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other environmental contaminants.

Whole-Grain Cereals And Breads

Dietary fiber can also help prevent the buildup of LDL cholesterol in the body. You can get your necessary daily dose of dietary fiber by eating whole grain cereals and breads instead of those that were made using refined grains.

Try making it a habit to eat a bowl of oatmeal or bran flakes cereal for breakfast so you can receive enough fiber to last you the whole day.

Fruits And Berries

Looking for a snack? Substitute your usual unhealthy options with fiber-rich fruits and berries to keep your cholesterol levels in check. Eating a whole banana, orange, or grapefruit is enough to give you about 3 grams of dietary fiber.

You can also munch on a handful of blueberries (4 grams of fiber per cup) or raspberries (8 grams per cup) while studying or doing work.

Beans And Lentils

A study featured in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that eating beans and lentils while also following a low-fat diet has helped a group of volunteers lower their LDL cholesterol by as much as twice its original level. The participants also increased their consumption of whole grains and vegetables throughout the duration of the research.

Alcoholic Beverages

Drinking a glass of wine while eating a meal can help increase the levels of good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) and lower the risk of heart attack in people.

Excessive consumption of alcohol, however, can produce an opposite effect as it raises the likelihood of a person to develop heart disease.

Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture | Flickr 

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