If your cholesterol levels are causing you concern, we asked a nutritional therapist for her top recommendations for eating your way to better health

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According to the NHS, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and is responsible for approximately 73,000 deaths in the UK each year. With high cholesterol levels becoming a growing problem among the population, we wondered whether there were some easy yet effective ways that we could change up our diet to help offset its negative side-effects. The good news is there are.

We asked nutritional therapist and founder of GP Nutrition Gabriela Peacock  for her top picks of foods that lower cholesterol to help provide a more natural way to improve our overall health both in the short and long-term.

1. Plant stanols and sterols

“These ‘functional foods’ occur naturally in small amounts in a range of plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, cereals and vegetable oils,” says Gabriela. “They have a similar structure to cholesterol and therefore actively block cholesterol absorption from the gut. This can help achieve reductions in LDL (low-density lipoproteins) cholesterol levels in the blood, (LDL is the cholesterol that we don’t want),” she adds.

2. Oats

“There is plenty of evidence to show that oats help manage cholesterol levels,” says Gabriela. “They’re rich in a soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which attaches to cholesterol and inhibits its absorption. A daily intake of about 3g is considered an adequate amount to make a difference,” she recommends.

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3. Soluble fibre

“Soluble fibre can trap some of the cholesterol in our digestive system and help get rid of it (through the stool) before it’s absorbed,” explains Gabriela. “It is found in oatmeal, barley, beans, pulses, sweet potatoes, peas and lentils.”

How much should you aim for a day? “20g daily,” Gabriela recommends.

4. Healthy fats

Another way to reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and increase ‘good’ HDL (high-density lipoproteins) cholesterol is to swap trans and saturated fats for more heart-friendly versions. “Choose healthier fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in olive oil, rapeseed oil, avocado, nuts and seeds,” says Gabriela.

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5. Oily fish

“Eat oily fish regularly,” recommends Gabriela. “Omega-3 fats found in oily fish can help lower blood triglyceride levels. Include herring, mackerel, pilchards, sardines, salmon, trout and fresh tuna and aim for 2-3 portions a week.”

Follow us  @getthegloss , Gabriela  @GP_Nutrition  and Ayesha  @Ayesha_Muttu .