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The body already produces cholesterol on its own; the body requires this vital fat for the proper function of cell membranes. However, consuming foods and drinks high in cholesterol may give the body more than it needs, which poses an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, and other health ailments. The degree to which foods high in cholesterol raise blood cholesterol varies from person to person, but everyone can benefit from a balanced diet paired with daily exercise to maintain healthy levels. Some foods not only assist in lowering bad LDL cholesterol but also leave the good HDL cholesterol unaffected.

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Almonds

Rich in unsaturated fats, almonds work hard to raise healthy HDL cholesterol while lowering unhealthy LDL cholesterol. They also make LDL less likely to oxidize, which helps prevent build-ups in the arteries and restricted blood flow to the heart. When you snack on almonds, though, beware of their high calorie count.

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Orange Juice

Orange juice does great things for the body. Certain brands have a lot of phytosterols, plant-derived compounds known for lowering LDL cholesterol. Sterol-fortified margarine, soymilk, milk, cheese, and bread also have similar effects. An 8-ounce glass of OJ has healthy benefits, but it is important to check with a doctor to ensure the juice does not interfere with medications. Also check with your doctor if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, as fruit juice can raise blood sugar levels.

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Olive Oil

This miracle oil will increase the good and decrease the bad -- all thanks to an abundance of antioxidants and healthy monounsaturated fats. Olive oil is also rich in phenols, plant substances that lower the risk of blood clots. If you need to adjust your diet, consider substituting two tablespoons of olive oil each day in place of another fat.

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Steamed Asparagus

Steaming vegetables enhances a vegetable's ability to bind to bile acids in the gut. Bound bile acids use up more cholesterol to produce bile, leaving fewer harmful fats floating around in your bloodstream. This is not just true for asparagus. Okra, carrots, beets, green beans, eggplants, and cauliflowers are all a bit more heart-healthy after a quick steam.

Oatmeal

There is a reason breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Kickstarting your morning with a bowl of warm oatmeal incorporates some healthy elements into your diet, first thing. Whole grains are an ideal source of soluble fiber, and oats top the list. Soluble fiber is a gel that prevents cholesterol from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Eat anywhere from five to ten grams of soluble fiber each day -- at least one and a quarter cups of oatmeal -- to combat bad cholesterol. Adding toppings like chopped apples can further increase the fiber in your first meal.

Pinto Beans

Pinto beans also contain a lot of soluble fiber. Simply adding a half cup of pinto beans daily can slow cholesterol absorption. Chili, tacos, and other traditional Mexican foods taste delicious with the healthful addition of pinto beans. If using canned instead of fresh beans, be sure to rinse them well to wash away the excess sodium.

Blueberries

Blueberries are a nutritional superstar, and these benefits extend to cholesterol. The berries reduce levels of artery-clogging LDL, which may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Consume them frozen, freeze-dried, or fresh, and you are on your way to becoming healthier.

Tomatoes

Kick unhealthy LDL cholesterol to the curb with lycopene-rich tomatoes. Lycopene not only lowers bad LDL cholesterol, but it may also modestly increase beneficial HDL cholesterol. Eat at least 25 milligrams of tomato products a day for several weeks to reap the benefits.

Avocados

Avocados are full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats -- the same fats that are in olive oil. Eating avocados may slowly lower LDL cholesterol and boost HDL cholesterol. Avocados also may reduce blood triglycerides. You can mash the creamy, mild treat into guacamole or spread it on a cracker, slice it onto sandwiches, or stir it into salads.

Chocolate

Chocolate lovers everywhere, rejoice! In small doses, chocolate can be healthy for your heart. Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids, antioxidants that help lower bad cholesterol. Moreover, dark chocolate contains those beneficial monounsaturated fats. Always check the labels, though. For real benefits, ensure the chocolate is at least 70% cocoa. Otherwise, the snack contains too few healthy oleic acids for full benefits. Most people can benefit from up to one ounce of dark chocolate each day.

Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.