Many types of beverages contain compounds that can help lower cholesterol levels or keep them at a healthy level, such as oat and soy beverages.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that the body uses to make cells and hormones. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) are two different types of cholesterol. When cholesterol levels are unhealthy, they increase the risk of serious health problems, such as stroke or heart attack. This article looks at drinks that can help control cholesterol levels, as well as drinks to avoid. It also lists alternative approaches that may be helpful for people who want to achieve healthier cholesterol levels.
The best drinks to improve cholesterol
Many types of drinks can help lower or control cholesterol levels. These include in particular:
1. Green tea
Green tea contains catechins and other antioxidant compounds that appear to help lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. In a 2015 study, scientists gave rats drinking water infused with catechins and epigallocatechin gallate, another beneficial antioxidant in green tea. After 56 days, the scientists noted that “bad” cholesterol and LDL levels had decreased by about 14.4% and 30.4% in the two groups of rats fed the high-cholesterol diet. However, more human studies are needed to further explore this issue.
Black tea can also have a positive impact on cholesterol, but to a lesser extent than its green variant. This is mainly because the different amounts of catechins in teas cause the body to absorb the liquid differently. Additionally, caffeine can also help raise HDL levels.
2. Soy milk
Soy is low in saturated fat. Replacing cream or high-fat dairy products with soy milk or creamers may help lower or control cholesterol levels.
One can consume 25 grams (g) per day of soy protein as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Additionally, soy is best consumed in its whole, minimally processed form, with little to no added sugar, salt, and fat.
3. Oat drinks
Oats contain beta-glucans, which create a gel-like substance in the intestine and interact with bile salts, which can inhibit cholesterol absorption and help lower cholesterol levels. A 2018 review found that oat drinks, such as oat milk, may provide more consistent cholesterol reduction than semi-solid or solid oat products. A 250ml glass of oat milk can provide 1g of beta-glucans. Be sure to check the labels of oat drinks to make sure they contain beta-glucans, which may be listed in fiber information, and how much per serving.
4. Tomato juice
Tomatoes are rich in a compound called lycopene, which can improve lipid levels and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Additionally, research suggests that juiced tomatoes increase their lycopene content. Tomato juice is also high in cholesterol-lowering fiber and niacin. A 2015 study found that 25 women who drank 280 ml of tomato juice daily for 2 months experienced a reduction in their blood cholesterol levels. The participants were between the ages of 20 and 30 and had a body mass index of at least 20.
5. Berry smoothies
Many berries are high in antioxidants and fiber, two things that can help lower cholesterol levels. In particular, anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant found in berries, can help improve cholesterol levels. Berries are also low in calories and fat. Make a berry smoothie by blending together two handfuls (about 80g) of any berry. Mix the berries with 1/2 cup of low-fat milk or yogurt and 1/2 cup of cold water.
Here are some examples of particularly healthy berries
6. Drinks containing sterols and stanols
Sterols and stanols are plant chemicals that are similar in shape and size to cholesterol and block the absorption of part of the cholesterol. However, vegetables and nuts contain low levels of sterols and stanols that cannot lower cholesterol. Companies add these chemicals to various foods and beverages, which can include fortified plant-based spreads, yogurt drinks, milk, and fruit juices. Most people should aim to consume 1.3 g or more of sterols and 3.4 g of stanols per day. People should try to consume these sterols and stanols with a meal.
7. Cocoa drinks
Cocoa is the main ingredient in dark chocolate. It contains antioxidants that doctors call flavanols, which can improve cholesterol levels. A 2015 study found that consuming a 450mg drink containing cocoa flavanols twice daily for 1 month lowered “bad” LDL cholesterol levels while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol levels. Cocoa contains high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids, which can also help improve cholesterol levels. However, drinks that contain processed chocolate are high in saturated fat. People looking for healthy options may want to limit chocolate with added sugars, salts, and fats.
8. Plant milk smoothies
Many types of non-dairy milks contain ingredients that can help lower or control cholesterol levels. A person can make a suitable shake base with soy milk or oat milk. Make a soy or oat milk shake by mixing 1 cup (250 ml) of soy or oat milk with low-cholesterol fruits or vegetables, such as:
1 handful of raisins or prunes
1 slice of mango or melon
2 small plums
1 cup kale or Swiss chard
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
Drinks to avoid
People who want to improve their cholesterol levels or keep them at a healthy level can avoid Safe Source drinks that are high in saturated fat, such as:
coffees or teas with added cream, whipped cream, high-fat milk, or cream
drinks or shakes containing coconut or palm oil
drinks made from pressed coconut
ice cream drinks
high fat dairy products
Avoid sugary drinks
Here are some examples of sugary drinks:
sodas or soft drinks
sweet coffees or teas
chocolate or sweetened milk products
Some research has shown that low to moderate alcohol consumption may be more beneficial for heart health than not drinking at all. Moderate alcohol consumption can help raise HDL “good” cholesterol levels. Moderate consumption consists of drinking up to 1 glass of alcohol a day for women and up to 2 for men.
However, the impact of alcohol on cholesterol levels largely depends on factors such as the amount of alcohol consumed, the person’s age and gender, and the type of alcohol consumed. In addition, excessive alcohol consumption raises cholesterol levels, and drinking alcohol carries so many health risks that its negative effects probably outweigh its benefits.
Other ways to lower cholesterol
Several changes in behavior or habits can help lower cholesterol levels, such as:
Limit consumption of foods high in saturated fat, such as:
limit the consumption of foods high in sugar
Get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week.
eating healthy foods, especially
fruits and vegetables
lean meats in moderation
fat-free or low-fat dairy products
increase fiber intake
give up smoking
treat or manage type 2 diabetes
maintain a healthy or moderate weight
Doctors may also prescribe medications, such as statins, to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
High circulating cholesterol can lead to increased health risks.
However, there is more than one type of cholesterol.
LDL may be a “bad” type of cholesterol because it can build up on the inside lining of blood vessels and form plaque. As plaque progresses, it can narrow the blood vessels, reducing the amount of blood they can carry. Plaque buildup is especially dangerous when it forms in the arteries that supply vital organs like the brain or heart. Narrowing of the arteries also increases the risk of a blood clot or other substance getting stuck there. This can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
HDL may be a “good” type of cholesterol. It absorbs circulating cholesterol and returns it to the liver for excretion. To stay healthy, most people need to limit or lower their LDL levels and increase their HDL levels. This helps ensure that there is enough HDL circulating to keep LDL levels in check.
Foods high in unsaturated fats can help the body absorb HDL, while foods high in saturated and trans fats increase LDL levels in the blood.
Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is essential for general health and cardiovascular health in particular.
Many drinks contain chemicals and natural compounds that can help improve these levels. These include in particular:
oat and soy milk
sterol and stanol fortified beverages.
However, there is no quick fix to lower cholesterol levels. Sometimes lifestyle or dietary changes can take weeks or months to take effect.
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