Eat Your Way to Lower Cholesterol Levels
Having high cholesterol increases your risk of developing heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 71 million Americans have high LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Chances are it affects you or someone you know, which is why it’s important to know that there are healthy steps you can take to lower your levels. For example, eating specific foods regularly has been proven to improve your cholesterol.
Oats: Oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber, which keeps your bloodstream from absorbing too much cholesterol. It’s recommended that adults eat 10 grams of soluble fiber a day and a cup and a half of oatmeal provides six grams of it. Add some fruit on top and you’ll be even closer to your goal! Another tip is to throw some oats into your daily smoothie – it will thicken the shake but not affect the taste.
Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, pine nuts, almonds and pecans are the best nuts to include in your daily diet to help lower LDL because they contain polyunsaturated fatty acids. It’s recommended that adults eat one to two ounces (about two handfuls) of nuts each day to see the heart healthy benefits. Make sure you’re avoiding heavily seasoned, salted or sugared nuts, which can have a lot of extra calories. Just go for the plain, unsalted kinds to avoid unhealthy ingredients.
Beans: Beans contain high amounts of soluble fiber and take a while to digest (meaning you stay fuller longer) so a lot of individuals who are trying to lose weight and keep cholesterol low incorporate beans into their diet. Researchers at Arizona State University Polytechnic found that adding ½ cup of beans to your diet lowers total cholesterol, including LDL, by up to eight percent. Adding beans to salads or as a side to any entrée is a great way to incorporate them into your diet.
Fruit: Whole fruit contains a lot of dietary fiber and antioxidants, which help protect against high cholesterol. While we recommend picking seasonal fruits to snack on, some of the best fruits and vegetables for fighting cholesterol are blueberries, citrus fruits, figs and pears.
Fatty fish: Sardines and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help slow plaque buildup in arteries and thus help lower LDL. These kinds of fish can also help raise levels of your “good” cholesterol, or HDL.
Spinach: This leafy green contains a large amount of lutein, a pigment found in vegetables that have been shown to protect the arteries from cholesterol accumulation. It’s recommended that you try to get at least half a cup of lutein-containing foods every day. An easy way to get there: Add half a cup of spinach to your smoothie.
Olive oil: Olive oil contains oleic acid, the most common monounsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to lower LDL while leaving your good (HDL) cholesterol alone. The Mayo Clinic suggests adding two tablespoons of olive oil to your diet every day to get the heart healthy benefits. Adding olive oil to your salad dressing or sautéing vegetables in it is a good way to get there.
What foods do you incorporate into your diet to keep your cholesterol levels low?
Photo credit: Jacqueline