If you're a fan of bananas, your cholesterol levels will thank you. Like all fruits, bananas are a good source of fiber, especially soluble fiber. Eating more of this type of fiber has been found to help lower cholesterol.
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Bananas are rich in soluble fiber, which can help reduce bad cholesterol levels.
All About Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy substance your liver makes. Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is actually necessary for your health, as it helps synthesize hormones and digest fatty foods. Your body makes all the cholesterol it requires, so problems arise only when you get a lot of it from your diet.
Foods rich in saturated fat — primarily animal fats — increase one type of cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein, or LDL. This is known as the "bad" cholesterol because it can build up on artery walls, causing your arteries to narrow and harden. LDL cholesterol makes up the majority of cholesterol in your body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A smaller portion of your body's total cholesterol consists of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol. These cholesterol particles actually help remove some bad cholesterol from your body. Therefore, the goal is not just to lower your total cholesterol levels, but to alter the proportions of LDL and HDL cholesterol. Lifestyle and dietary changes are the most effective ways to do this.
Read more: What to Eat to Lower LDL Cholesterol Quickly
Bananas, Cholesterol and Fiber
Bananas have no cholesterol, but they do have fiber — a part of all plant cell walls. Insoluble fiber is the tough, indigestible fiber that is so important for digestive health. Soluble fiber also isn't digested, but it becomes viscous when it comes into contact with fluids. This gel-like substance can bind with cholesterol and carry it out of the body.
Soluble fiber is found in fewer plant foods than is insoluble fiber. According to Cleveland Clinic, the best sources are:
There is no recommended daily intake for soluble fiber, but there is one for total fiber. According to the National Academies of Medicine, men need 38 grams and women need 25 grams daily.
To make a noticeable change in your cholesterol levels, aim to get at least a quarter of your fiber as soluble fiber, suggests UCSF Health. According to the National Lipid Association, eating 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber daily can lower total and LDL cholesterol by five to 11 points.
One medium banana has 0.7 grams of soluble fiber, reports Dietitians of Canada. This is a small fraction of the soluble fiber you need each day, but if you eat a variety of soluble fiber-rich foods throughout the day, it shouldn't be too difficult to hit the mark. If you like to eat oatmeal for breakfast, for example, one bowl provides 1.4 grams of soluble fiber. Top it with a sliced banana and you've got a total of more than 2 grams in your morning meal.
Eating a banana a day is one way to promote healthy cholesterol levels, but it takes more than that to really make a change. Risk factors for high cholesterol include a diet high in saturated fat from red meat and full fat dairy, obesity, lack of exercise and smoking. Eating healthier, losing weight, getting more exercise and quitting if you smoke can all help you improve your cholesterol numbers.
- Cleveland Clinic: "Improving Your Health With Fiber"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "LDL and HDL Cholesterol: 'Bad' and 'Good' Cholesterol"
- National Academies of Medicine: "Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Total Water and Macronutrients"
- UCSF Health: "Increasing Fiber Intake"
- National Lipid Association: "Adding Soluble Fiber to Lower Your Cholesterol"
- Dietitians of Canada: "Food Sources of Soluble Fibre"
- Mayo Clinic: "High Cholesterol"