What Fish Is Best for Lowering Cholesterol? – 10 Heart-Healthy Fish

High cholesterol is commonly found in people aged over 40 though there are some cases in which even young children have developed unhealthy cholesterol levels. Eating healthy food for your heart can help you reduce harmful cholesterol levels. Heart-healthy fishes or fishes rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help you keep your bad cholesterol in check. In this write-up, we will look at the types and causes of high cholesterol levels and discuss what fish is best for lowering cholesterol levels in your body.

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1. What is cholesterol?

In simple words, cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all our body’s cells. Cholesterol is necessary for specific purposes, such as making hormones, Vitamin D and substances that help digest food. Our body produces all the cholesterol we need.

Higher levels of cholesterol increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Cholesterol is of two main types: Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is also known as bad cholesterol and High-density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is also known as good cholesterol.

2. Good Cholesterol vs. Bad Cholesterol

Cholesterol can be categorised into two main types: High-density lipoprotein or HDL, which is also referred to as the ‘good’ cholesterol and Low-density lipoprotein or LDL, which is also referred to as the ‘bad’ cholesterol.

2.1. Good Cholesterol or HDL

High-density Lipoprotein or HDL is referred to as the ‘good cholesterol’. HDL absorbs cholesterol in the bloodstream and carries it back to your liver; the liver then flushes the absorbed cholesterol out of your body. High levels of High-density Lipoprotein cholesterol or HDL cholesterol lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke. In simpler words, HDL acts as a scavenger, removing LDL from your blood. Higher levels of this cholesterol are considered protective against heart diseases, whereas lower levels of HDL may increase the risks of heart diseases.

2.2. Bad Cholesterol or LDL

Low-density Lipoprotein or LDL is referred to as the ‘bad cholesterol’. Its function is to carry cholesterol to various tissues such as adrenal glands, gonads, muscles, and adipose tissue. In other words, LDLs are the primary carriers of cholesterol. LDL makes most of your body’s cholesterol but higher levels of bad cholesterol increase your risks of heart diseases and strokes; therefore, it is necessary to keep LDL cholesterol levels in check.

3. What fish is best for lowering cholesterol?

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Fatty fish is good for your heart as they are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids have several benefits for the body; they reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol as well as triglyceride levels in your bloodstream.

3.1. Anchovies

Anchovies are oily fish, famous in countries like Spain, Italy, Greece, Scandinavia and most Asian countries. These fish are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which boost heart and brain health and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Anchovies also contain selenium, which, if consumed daily, may reduce the risks of certain types of cancer.

3.2. Herring

Herring is another popularly recommended heart-healthy fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fish are found in the shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans, including the Baltic Sea, and off South America’s west coast. Herring fish spend most of their lives in salt water but travel to freshwater to spawn or deposit eggs. Europe is the leading consumer of herring fish.

3.3. Black Cod

Black cod, also popularly known as Sablefish and Butterfish, has a buttery flavour and a silky texture. It has so many different names because it is popular worldwide. These fish are deep-sea species living along North America’s continental slope from northern Mexico to the Bering Sea. This fish, also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, is widely considered one of the most luxurious seafood in the market.

3.4. Mackerel

Mackerels, also, are oily fish containing large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. These predatory fish are rounded and torpedo-shaped, with a slender, keeled tail base, a forked tail, and a row of small fillets behind the dorsal and anal fins. The American Heart Association recommends eating two or more servings of fatty fish like mackerel per week. Thus, mackerel is recognised as a heart-healthy fish worldwide; it helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels in the body. The most significant consumers of mackerel fish are the countries Japan and South Korea.

3.5. Sardines

These silvery elongated fish are one of the most popular fish varieties in South India and are consumed worldwide. Just like other heart-healthy fishes such as Anchovies, mackerel, and herring, sardines are also oily fish that help lower cholesterol levels. In addition to this, sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and these fish play a very important role in Portugal’s cuisine and culture.

3.6. Salmon

Another species of oily fish packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids, salmon has been shown to protect and improve heart health, brain processes and thyroid function. These fish are medium in size and a great source of protein. Besides lowering cholesterol in your blood, eating salmon is an excellent choice if you want to be environmentally conscious. Salmon fish has one of the lowest mercury levels, so experts claim that the benefits of this heart-healthy fish outweigh the risks of mercury poisoning.

3.7. Trout

Trout are freshwater fish native to the Northern Hemisphere but have been widely introduced to other areas. These fish are popularly consumed in regions with freshwater sources, such as parts of Sichuan, Yunnan, and Tibet. These semi-fatty fish are rich in protein, niacin, vitamin B12, and omega 3 fatty acids. Types of trout popularly eaten are rainbow trout, brook trout and brown trout.

3.8. Tuna

Tuna are saltwater fish, scientifically known as Thunnui and is a part of the mackerel family. This heart-healthy fish prevents cardiac disorders, lowers your blood pressure, lowers triglycerides, prevents eye disorders, improves your bone health, aids in weight management, reduces cancer risks and strengthens your immune system. Varieties of tuna fish include Blackfin tuna, Longtail tuna, Bigeye tuna, Yellowfin tuna, Northern Bluefin tuna, Southern Bluefin Tuna, Albacore and Skipjack.

3.9. Whitefish

Whitefish like Cobia, in particular, is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which makes it a heart-healthy fish. Moreover, these fish are also rich in essential nutrients such as Vitamin D and protein. Whitefish lowers heart attack and stroke risks, boosts brain health, and may improve sleep quality and treat or prevent depression.

3.10. Striped Bass

Besides being another heart-healthy fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, striped bass fish are good sources of Protein, Phosphorus, Selenium, and Vitamin B12. They are also rich in Niacin, Magnesium, and Vitamin B6. Striped bass also supports your immune system, prevents B12 deficiency, and combats anxiety and depression.

4. Function of cholesterol in our body

  • Cholesterol has specific functions in our body. They are as follows.
  • Cholesterol helps build new tissue and repair damage to existing tissue.
  • The body uses cholesterol to produce steroid hormones, including oestrogen.
  • Cholesterol helps create bile in your liver.
  • Cholesterol also aids in the production of Vitamin D.

5. Effects of high cholesterol in the body

High cholesterol levels in your blood can make you susceptible to various conditions, especially cardiovascular diseases. Let us look at some of the possible consequences of high cholesterol.

5.1. Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a condition characterised by the thickening and hardening of the arteries. This happens due to the build-up of plaque in the inner lining of the artery. Plaque is created due to deposition of fatty substances, cellular waste products, cholesterol, calcium and fibrin. Therefore, if you have excess cholesterol in your blood, the cholesterol may get deposited in the inner lining of an artery, leading to the formation of plaque and causing thickening of the artery, causing atherosclerosis.

5.2. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

Coronary Artery Disease or CAD refers to damage or abnormalities in your heart’s major blood vessels. This condition is also caused by plaque deposits in the artery and is characterised by the narrowing of the artery, limiting blood flow to the heart. This is the most common form of heart disease and the leading cause of death in the United States. Forms of coronary artery disease include Stable ischemic heart disease, Acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and Atherosclerotic coronary artery disease.

5.3. Stroke

As we already know, plaque formation in the inner lining of arteries is possible if cholesterol levels in your blood are high. These deposits narrow the arteries and cause them to harden up, gradually leading to reduced blood flow through those arteries. These deposits may sometimes break, forming a clot, which will then lead to a stroke or heart attack.

5.4. Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Peripheral Artery Disease or PAD is a circulatory condition where, due to the narrowing of blood vessels, blood flow is reduced to the limbs. The narrowing of the blood vessels is the formation of plaque, a waxy substance created by deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium, fibrin and cellular waste products. Patients with peripheral artery disease typically feel leg pain, especially while walking.

5.5. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

High levels of cholesterol increase one’s chances of developing hypertension, high blood pressure, or hypertension. If your cholesterol is high, your heart must work much harder to pump blood through the arteries or vessels. This leads to high blood pressure or hypertension. Hypertension and high cholesterol are two leading causes of heart disease.

5.6. Heart Attack

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As mentioned earlier, plaque formation in the inner lining of an artery causes it to harden and may suddenly break, forming a clot and leading to a stroke or heart attack.

5.7. Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

This is a condition where the patient experiences a brief stroke-like attack, which resolves within minutes to hours. Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is often referred to as a ‘mini-stroke’ and may be a warning sign of a future stroke. This condition is generally treated through blood thinners and statins that prevent such episodes further. High cholesterol levels increase your chances of TIA.

5.8. Other Health Complications

High levels of cholesterol can increase your susceptibility to developing other conditions, including diabetes and pancreatitis.

5.8.1. Diabetes

High cholesterol may cause diabetes and vice versa; The American Heart Association or AHA has stated that diabetes may often lower HDL or good cholesterol levels and elevate Triglycerides and LDL or bad cholesterol levels. Both of these cases increase one’s risk of heart attacks as well as strokes.

5.8.2. Pancreatitis

Severe Hypertriglyceridemia (high levels of triglycerides in your blood), though uncommon, is a well-known cause of acute pancreatitis. This condition also raises your risk of atherosclerosis and related heart diseases. Unfortunately, most often, patients do not experience any symptoms of elevated triglyceride levels in their blood.

6. Normal level of cholesterol in an adult

In people aged 19 or younger, the healthy level of total cholesterol is Less than 170mg/dL; the healthy level of non-HDL cholesterol is Less than 120mg/dL; the healthy level of LDL is Less than 100mg/dL; and the healthy level of HDL cholesterol is More than 45mg/dL.

In men aged 20 or older, the healthy level of total cholesterol is 125 to 200mg/dL; healthy level of non-HDL cholesterol is Less than 130mg/dL; the healthy level of LDL is Less than 100mg/dL; and healthy level of HDL cholesterol is 40mg/dL or higher.

In women aged 20 or older, the healthy level of total cholesterol is 125 to 200mg/dL; healthy level of non-HDL cholesterol is Less than 130mg/dL; the healthy level of LDL cholesterol is Less than 100mg/dL; and healthy level of HDL is 50mg/dL or higher.

7. How do you lower your cholesterol levels?

Below is a list of ways to lower cholesterol levels in your blood.

7.1. Eating Heart-Healthy Food

7.1.1. Eliminating Trans Fats

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Trans fats are found in foods such as commercially baked products (such as cake, cookies or pies), fried foods (such as french fries, fried chicken and doughnuts), stick margarine and nondairy coffee creamer, to mention a few. These fats raise your cholesterol level; therefore, to keep your cholesterol levels healthy, you should avoid foods containing trans fats as much as possible.

7.1.2. Reducing Saturated Fats

Saturated fats that are primarily present in red meat and full fat dairy products increases your total cholesterol level. Therefore, it is advised to decrease consumption of such products; doing so will reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or bad cholesterol.

7.1.3. Increasing Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber reduces the absorption of cholesterol in your blood. Foods such as oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears contain soluble fibre. To lower cholesterol levels in your body, you need to increase consumption of food items that contain soluble fiber.

7.1.4. Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids

As mentioned earlier, fish like salmon, mackerel and herring, and walnuts and flaxseeds are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Though they do not directly affect LDL cholesterol, they provide other heart-healthy benefits, such as reducing blood pressure. Therefore, you should eat adequate food rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

7.1.5. Adding Whey Protein

Whey protein is found in dairy products and accounts for most of the benefits attributed to dairy products. Consumption of whey protein helps in lowering cholesterol as well as blood pressure. Therefore, to lower bad cholesterol, add whey protein to your diet.

7.2. Engaging in Physical activities and Exercises every day

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Regular exercise will help you improve your cholesterol levels as moderate physical activity raises High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol or the ‘good’ cholesterol. Exercising for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes 3 times a week is recommended to maintain good cholesterol levels in your blood.

7.3. Quitting Smoking

You should quit smoking to improve good cholesterol or HDL cholesterol in your blood. Once you quit smoking, your body will soon recover from the cigarette-induced spike, your lung function as well as blood circulation will improve and after a year of quitting, your risks of heart disease will be half of that of a smoker.

7.4. Losing Weight (If you are overweight) or Maintaining Healthy Weight

Being even a few pounds extra than the healthy weight limit makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol. Therefore, to prevent this, you need to keep your weight in check. Keep track of your calorie consumption, avoid food containing fats as much as possible, and incorporate more physical activity in your daily routine for some exercise.

8. Conclusion

Leading a proper lifestyle can help you prevent high cholesterol. Still, in case lifestyle changes are not enough, feel free to consult a doctor who can recommend medication to help you lower your cholesterol levels. Follow the doctor’s prescription while maintaining a healthy lifestyle for the best results.

Last Updated on January 6, 2024 by Gautam