Cholesterol is a waxy substance in the body that plays a vital role in the production of cell membranes, hormones, and vitamin D. There are two types of cholesterol: LDL ("bad" cholesterol) and HDL ("good" cholesterol). The human liver is capable of producing all the cholesterol the body requires; however, it is also found in many animal products and processed foods. Eating too many of these saturated fats raises cholesterol and has been correlated with heart disease, clogged arteries, and blood clots. While there are many foods that raise cholesterol levels, there are several foods that can help lower them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 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 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.
Barley offers a big boost to your nutrient intake with generous amounts of antioxidants and magnesium. Studies show that barley's soluble fiber promotes digestive health while reducing the absorption of bad cholesterol. All that fiber can help you feel full and reduce hunger and cravings. Hulled barley is the healthiest kind and is considered a whole grain that can lower the likelihood of heart disease and other chronic conditions. Pearl barley is more commonly available and a healthy choice, as well. The popular cereal grain is easy to eat and can be used for soups, stews, snacks, and cereal bars.
Eggplant is an excellent source of fiber, folic acid, and magnesium. Low in calories and rich in vitamins, eggplant juice has proven to lower bad cholesterol in recent studies. This nutrient-dense food has just 25 calories per 100 grams, and as long as it isn't covered in oil, it makes for a healthy meal. Eggplant dip, roast, pasta, and casserole are great ways to get more nutrients while controlling cholesterol levels. Eggplant also contains chlorogenic acid to aid the immune system.
Pectin is a natural fiber found in the peel and pulp of certain fruits. It's a favorite of jam and jelly makers, as heating pectin with a liquid causes it to thicken and form a gel. Some fruits, such as apples, pears, and plums, have higher pectin levels than others. The peels and pulp of citrus fruits also contain high amounts of pectin. Studies show that a rise in pectin consumption lowers total cholesterol. At least five servings of fruit a day, especially the high-pectin kinds, can bring down bad cholesterol and maintain adequate nutrient levels.
Soy products made from high-protein soybeans include tofu, edamame, tempeh, and miso. Soy protein has only a small amount of saturated fat, as well as lots of fiber to aid digestion and lower the chance of cardiovascular disease. Research demonstrates that 25 grams of soy protein each day can lower LDL cholesterol by 3 to 4 percent. This helps prevent cholesterol from clogging up the arteries; switching to soy-based proteins even a few times a week can make a difference in your diet.
Fish is a fantastic source of protein with lower fat content than other animal meat. Even fatty types of fish have health benefits thanks to an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids. These good fats are better for you than the unhealthy saturated fat in the majority of meat products. Salmon, tuna, and trout are a few examples; the healthy fats in these foods lower triglycerides and promote a healthy heart. Experts recommend enjoying baked or grilled fatty fish twice a week. Good choices are wild-caught salmon and sardines, as they're less likely to contain high levels of heavy metals relative to larger fish.
Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are shown to lower blood triglyceride levels and raise HDL or "good" cholesterol levels. Studies have also shown that a daily 1/2 cup of walnuts not only lowers LDL levels in the bloodstream, it also improves the quality of LDL particles.
This increase in quality prevents the particles from building up and sticking to artery walls, thus lowering the risk of heart attack and blood clots. Most of the time, stick to the 1/2 cup serving size—too must of this healthy fat food can actually lead to an increase in LDL numbers.
Flaxseeds and flaxseed oils boast naturally occurring alpha-linolenic acid. Correlated with improved heart health, this fatty acid lowers both cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Studies show that four tablespoons of milled flaxseed daily have the most significant improvements in LDL levels.
Ask a doctor before adding a lot of flaxseed to any diet, as it can interfere with anticoagulants and blood pressure medication. To get the most out of flaxseed, be sure to crush or grind before consuming.
Chia is a member of the mint family and most easily recognized by its playful sprouts. The seeds of this whimsical plant, however, are where most of the health benefits are found. High in soluble fiber, healthy fats, and antioxidants, chia seeds help with a variety of chronic ailments.
A few studies have shown, however, that the tiny seeds help lower LDL levels when eaten in conjunction with soy and oats. Be sure to consume in moderation, however, as chia seeds are a high-calorie food.
Whole grains have long been touted for their health benefits. Recent studies provide new evidence that these grains could be helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol levels. While these foods have no impact on HDL levels, they do tend to lower triglyceride numbers, which are also beneficial to improved heart health.
Examples of whole grains include qunioa, oats, brown rice, and whole wheat bread. Regular consumption of oatmeal proved to have the most profound effect on cholesterol levels.
Many cultures across the world value green tea for its ability to soothe, heal, and improve health. While green tea has no effect on HDL levels, many studies indicate its benefit in protecting against hyperlipidemia, also known as high cholesterol. Both green tea and black tea are high in antioxidant catechins, which researchers believe are beneficial for lowering cholesterol.
Leafy greens boast a myriad of health benefits. From spinach to kale, this bold veggie livens up any dish while offering boosts of vitamins A, C, E, and K. Dark leafy greens prevent LDL cholesterol particles from sticking to artery walls, which can prevent clogged arteries and heart attacks.
Some research suggests diets focusing on plants and plant-based foods result in the best outcomes for people with high cholesterol.
Most people love the flavor of garlic, but there is much more to the beloved vegetable than meets the palate. Some evidence suggests eating a single clove of garlic daily for an extended period of time could reduce cholesterol levels by a whooping 10%. Researchers propose the compound allicin is responsible for the lowering of LDL levels.
Cooked garlic does not yield as dramatic results as raw garlic, so preparation is key when using this bulb for cholesterol purposes. Raw garlic can be found in most health food stores in capsule form.
Legumes are well-known for their high fiber content, which can cause significant gas and bloating in many people. While this is an unpleasant side effect, legumes can also significantly improve cholesterol levels. A study showed that replacing red meat with a cup of legumes per day improved LDL cholesterol levels by eight points.
Examples of legumes include lentils, chickpeas, and black beans.
Researchers offer mixed opinions as to whether red wine actually improves cholesterol levels. Those that do suggest that the antioxidant resveratrol and other polyphenols may increase HDL cholesterol levels while lowering HDL numbers, thus improving heart health. As with most foods and drinks, moderation is key.
Psyllium husk, taken from a shrub-like herb, is full of soluble fiber. Many studies have linked it to lower LDL levels and improved heart health. Studies show most dramatic improvements occur when taken in conjunction with a prescribed cholesterol medication. Psyllium husk is most commonly found in laxative supplements and fiber powders.
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