Doctor says this one food can help you slash cholesterol levels

Woman eating salad
Diet can have a significant impact on our levels of cholesterol -Credit:Getty

A doctor has urged people to make one dietary change in a bid to tackle the UK's growing raised cholesterol challenge. According to the NHS, high cholesterol is when you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood.

It is mainly caused by eating fatty food, not exercising enough, being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol. It can also run in families. Healthy diets and lifestyles can cut cholesterol levels, although some people may also need medication.

From 1998 to 2019, the percentage of adults with raised cholesterol actually dropped to 40 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women. However, by 2021 it had gone up to 56 per cent among men and 61 per cent among women - a climb of 16 per cent for both groups respectively.

Too much cholesterol does not provide day-to-day symptoms, but can block your blood vessels, and it makes you more likely to have heart problems or a stroke.

Speaking on BBC's Morning Live, Dr Ranj Singh said: "There is good cholesterol, which we want lots of because it is protective, and then there is bad cholesterol, which contributes to things like stroke and heart disease.

"Here is an interesting fact though, your dietary intake of cholesterol doesn’t affect your blood cholesterol, so you can eat cholesterol and it won’t impact your blood. It is your intake of saturated fat which drives up cholesterol and that is what you want to keep down."

With that in mind, Dr Singh stressed the importance of diet in cutting cholesterol. In particular, he urged people to eat more fibre to combat it. Dietary fibre is carbohydrates found naturally in plants which, unlike other carbohydrates, is not digested in the small intestine and reaches the large intestine intact.

It helps to keep our digestive system healthy and can prevent constipation. A high-fibre diet may also help to reduce our risk of some diseases.

"Fibre works in lots of different ways," Dr Singh explained. "Firstly, it is a bulking agent which means you tend to eat slightly less so you should consume less fatty stuff. The second thing that it does is that it changes the way your body absorbs fat from the gut, so it can help drive down cholesterol.

"The final thing is that it is good for your gut bacteria. Increasingly, we are learning that these gut bacteria are helping to manage these levels as well, so there are lots of different ways that fibre is helpful."

fibre-rich foods include a variety of plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. Oats, legumes such as split peas, dried beans such as red kidney beans, baked beans and lentils, wholemeal or granary breads and wholegrains like wholewheat pasta, bulgur wheat or brown rice are all good examples.

In terms of changes to our diets to cut cholesterol, using oils instead of lard and butter can help, as can avoiding processed meats - which can be replaced with oily fish like mackerel. People are also urged to avoid 'red' foods on the traffic light system found on packaging and look for amber or green foods instead. The NHS food scanner app can also be used to find out nutritional values of foods and suggest substitutes.