While many foods may raise levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol, countless healthy and tasty options also exist that can lower the amount of this problematic substance. Soluble fiber, for instance, binds to cholesterol in the digestive system, eliminating it before it can be absorbed. Polyunsaturated fats also lower LDL levels, while plant stanols and sterols prevent the body from absorbing unhealthy cholesterol. Foods that aid cholesterol don't have to be boring.
Almonds offer numerous health benefits. Primarily, their unsaturated fat content assists in raising healthy HDL cholesterol levels while also reducing unhealthy LDL. The fats in almonds also prevent LDL from clogging the arteries and reducing blood flow to the heart. Though good for you, almonds are high in calories and should be consumed in moderation.
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats and fiber, both great for lowering LDL and triglyceride levels and raising HDL. Incorporating this fruit into the diet is a delicious way to efficiently balance good and bad cholesterol levels. Plus, avocados are really versatile. They can be spread on toast, made into a guacamole, or simply peeled and cut into pieces for an on-the-go snack.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are full of protein and fiber. Because it takes time for the body to digest them, they also leave people feeling full for longer, which makes them a great choice for healthy weight loss. There are many varieties of beans and lentils, so it's easy to keep meals interesting. They are also a good option for those looking to cut back on the amount of meat they eat, another factor that can improve cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease.
Blueberries are widely known as a superfood. The minuscule fruit is the richest in antioxidant content and can help keep the arteries clear by reducing blood levels of artery-clogging LDL. Research shows blueberries help support liver function, which is vital to the removal of bad cholesterol. Fresh, frozen, and freeze-dried berries offer the same benefits.
Chocolate, especially the dark variety, is an excellent agent in lowering LDL cholesterol. The nutrients in pure cocoa can prevent oxidization of LDL cholesterol in the blood, but that doesn't mean the treat should be consumed in excess. Most chocolate contains sugar, which is equally problematic in high quantities. It is also important to choose chocolate with at least 70% cocoa to reap the nutritional benefits of this tasty snack.
Dark, Leafy Greens
Green leafy vegetables offer a host of health benefits. Kale and spinach are rich in lutein and other carotenoids that lower the risk of heart disease. Carotenoids are antioxidants that help rid the body of harmful free radicals that can cause atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries. The nutrients in leafy greens bind to bile acid that's released in the liver during digestion. This bile acid binding is related to a food's ability to lower cholesterol. Like carotenoids, lutein lowers levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol to prevent it from accumulating in the arteries.
Incorporating fish into the diet two or three times per week can lower LDL cholesterol in two ways. First, eating more fish usually means eating less red meat, which contains saturated fats that boost LDL. Second, fish and seafood are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that increase HDL, lower LDL, and reduce triglycerides. They can also prevent abnormal heart rhythms and reduce the risk of inflammation and stroke. Salmon and mackerels are excellent sources of omega-3s. Baked broiled, or grilled fish is healthier than fried.
Garlic is a delicious spice with great therapeutic benefits. The plant contains powerful compounds including allicin, which may lower blood pressure. Other studies show that garlic may help reduce LDL cholesterol slightly. Like many herbs and spices, large amounts of raw garlic are required to get any of the heart-protective benefits. Fresh garlic and garlic supplements are equally as effective.
Eating oats for breakfast may improve LDL bad cholesterol levels in only six weeks. The cholesterol buster here is beta-glucan, which forms a layer on the surface of the small intestine to block uptake of cholesterol and helps remove it from the body. Another advantage of oats is its fiber content — among all the whole grains, it is the best source of soluble fiber, the kind that forms a gel and prevents the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Two servings of oats provides around ten grams of fiber.
Many juice companies now fortify their products with plant-derived cholesterol-busting compounds, including phytosterols. Just two grams of this compound each day could help lower unhealthy LDL levels. As many know, however, juice is also high in sugar which, even when naturally occurring, should be consumed in moderation. Additionally, citrus can interfere with medications, so people taking prescription drugs should speak to a doctor before increasing their intake of orange juice. Other products, including margarine, milk, soy milk, cheese, and bread, are often fortified with sterols these days, as well.
Good news for lovers of red wine. As it turns out, the grapes used in making red wine are healthy and may be able to significantly lower LDL cholesterol. During the wine-making process, the skin of the grapes is macerated for weeks. The skin has the highest concentration of phenolic compounds, which reduce LDL.
In the past, soybeans were touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol levels, but recent studies suggest this benefit may be exaggerated. Consumption of 25 grams of soy protein per day can lower LDL, but only minimally. That said, soy-based foods contain less saturated fat than red meat, so switching to soy from animal-based products can contribute to lowering LDL.
Tea contains antioxidants that can combat cancer. Studies also indicate it can help protect against high cholesterol. Research conducted by the USDA showed that black tea can reduce blood lipids by as much as 10% in only three weeks. These findings were part of a bigger study on how tea can lower the danger of coronary diseases.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which can inhibit LDL production and help break down this artery-clogging fat. Most people require around 25 milligrams of this carotenoid each day to experience the full benefits. One medium tomato contains around 3.2 mg of lycopene, while 100 grams of tomato paste offers almost 30 mg.
Vegetables contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and much more. Furthermore, they are low in calories, which makes them a great option to fill up on when weight loss is the goal. Some vegetables also include pectin, a cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber found in apples and oranges, okra, eggplants, carrots, and potatoes.