Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance present in all the cells of the human body. The body needs cholesterol to make hormones like Vitamin D, which is a fat-soluble hormone, and other substances that help the body digest foods. The body produces all the cholesterol it needs; however, some foods that we consume also contain cholesterol. Examples of such foods are egg yolks, meat, and cheese, to name a few.
If the cholesterol concentration in the body is too high, it can combine with other substances in the blood to form “plaques”. These plaques stick to the walls of the arteries, narrowing the walls of the arteries. The narrowing of the arteries is what causes the condition known as atherosclerosis, which is a precursor to coronary heart disease.
Types of cholesterol
There are three types of cholesterol present in the body. They are:
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL), Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), and Very Low-Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol. They are a combination of fat (Lipid) and protein, hence the name Lipoprotein. The proteins attach to the lipids and carry them through the blood. Each of these lipoproteins have different functions in the body.
HDL is also known as ‘good’ cholesterol. It is so named because it carries cholesterol from other parts of the body back to the liver, where it is broken down and excreted.
LDL is also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol because it is the one that clogs the walls of the arteries when it is in a high concentration in the body.
VLDL is sometimes called ‘bad’ cholesterol too because it also contributes to the build-up of plaques in the arteries. It differs from LDL in that while LDL mainly carries cholesterol, VLDL mainly carries triglycerides.
So, when we talk about Nigerian cholesterol-lowering snacks, we are referring to snacks that can help lower the levels of LDL in the body.
10 Nigerian Cholesterol-lowering snacks
The pectin and polyphenol components found in apple and apple juice make it a great snack option when you are concerned with lowering your Low-Density Lipoprotein, which is known as bad cholesterol.
Studies have shown that eating an apple or two a day lowers the level of cholesterol in the blood by a great margin. The pectin in the apple lowers cholesterol by absorbing biliary salts, which play an important role during the formation and development of cholesterol in the body.
Taking two to three medium-sized apples per day can lower your bad cholesterol level by at least 7% while simultaneously increasing your good cholesterol level (High-Density Lipoprotein) by up to 12%.
Avocado has a high concentration of heart-friendly monounsaturated fats (the good kind of fat) and phytosterols, especially beta-sitosterol. These two components are responsible for raising good cholesterol levels in the body (HDL) and lowering bad cholesterol levels. They also reduce the amount of cholesterol that can be absorbed from the food that you eat.
However, you have to be careful of the quantity of avocado you take if, in addition to lowering your cholesterol levels, you are concerned with losing weight. An average avocado has about 200 to 300 calories and if you are on a 1200 to 1500 calorie diet, you need to factor this information into the other things you will take for the day.
Bananas have fiber, which is important for weight loss. The fiber is a component of all plant cell walls. However, there are two types – soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber is tough and indigestible and it is very important in aiding digestion. Soluble fiber, while it also not digested, becomes viscous and forms a gel-like substance when it comes into contact with fluids. This gel-like substance is what binds with cholesterol and carries it out of the body.
This soluble fiber is not found in every plant food, but just a few like bananas. A powerful way to incorporate bananas into your regular meals is by slicing them into your morning oatmeal. If you are someone that does not like oats, a few slices of banana and a few pieces of nuts will help make it more interesting and thus appealing.
Oats are high in fiber and combined with the amazing properties of bananas, you will give yourself a yummy, heart-friendly, and filling breakfast.
Nuts are great options when you are interested in lowering your cholesterol levels. Nigeria has a variety of nuts that can help in this regard. They are peanuts, almond nuts, walnuts, and tigernuts.
These nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, the good kind of fat. They help to lower the levels of LDL and also prevents LDL from oxidizing – a vital step in the formation of atherosclerosis in the body. Almonds are particularly famous for this.
A note of caution, however: nuts are high in calories, so ensure that your serving is in moderation. A single serving should not be more than 24 almond nuts or seven walnuts. For peanuts, a single serving of 20 pieces is sufficient.
- Butter made from nuts
Another powerful snack is butter made out of these nuts, e.g, peanut butter. Slather a tablespoonful of peanut butter onto four slices of apple and you have yourself a powerful combo of fiber, pectin, and monounsaturated fats in one delicious package.
There is a protein in the body called “Nrf2”. The function of this protein is to lower both cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. The chemical makeup of strawberries makes them a great option for lowering cholesterol in the body as they have distinctive extracts that activate Nrf2 in the body. A serving of between two to three cups of strawberries in a day will work wonders in lowering cholesterol levels.
Strawberries are not a common Nigerian snack, but you can get them from malls around.
In a study carried out on 69 people with high cholesterol levels, it was discovered that after taking three cups of red grapes a day for eight weeks, their total and ‘bad’ cholesterol levels were significantly reduced.
Grapes, too, are not typical Nigerian snacks, but they are quite common in Nigeria and can be got from any roadside fruit stall.
Chickpeas are composed of unsaturated fats, fiber, complex carbohydrates, folate, and minerals. This composition makes it a great option when you are looking for snacks that can help lower cholesterol in the body.
The emulsification of fat in the liver produces bile acid, which is then used for the digestion of foods. Fonio is rich in fiber, which aids digestion. As the fiber content of your body increases, your digestion improves. As your digestion improves, the liver pulls cholesterol from your blood to emulsify and create bile acid. Thus, the level of bad cholesterol in your body is reduced.
We have discussed different snacks that have cholesterol-lowering properties. Now let’s talk about one snack that pulls them all together in one great combo. Drum rolls please…..introducing….Granola!
Granola is made from a combination of almonds, walnuts, and oats, to mention a few. The health benefits of the individual components make granola an all-in-one package.
For a power-packed breakfast, get a serving of granola, slice a couple of strawberries in it and dribble a serving of Greek yogurt on it. Yummylicious and heart-friendly!
Adebusola Adefeso is a Medical Doctor, Certified Personal Nutritionist and a Weight loss Expert.
She’s the Founder of Fit4healthng, a weight management, health and wellness company.
She became passionate about weight loss, health, and wellness after seeing a lot of patients suffer from diseases that could have been well managed if they were at a healthy weight; she personally addressed her own belly fat struggles.
She does not only offer her professional expertise but also incorporates her first-hand knowledge of weight loss and healthy living in providing simple and actionable strategies for her clients.
She has used her successful lifestyle change to touch the lives of thousands globally.
She’s a strong believer in empowering people for a healthy lifestyle and she has shared her expertise on platforms like docotal, thriveglobal, newmumshub, smooth FM etc.