It’s not always about what you eat; sometimes it’s about what you don’t eat. In order to lower high cholesterol, it’s important to reduce your intake of bad fats, curb your use of salt and intake of high-sodium foods, and restrict or stop drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.
Once you make these changes in your diet, focus on the following five types of cholesterol-lowering foods to help reduce your risk of heart disease:
1. Eat Fruits and Vegetables
Packed with vitamins, minerals, the healthy plant chemicals called phytochemicals, and antioxidants, vegetables help fight low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol that can lead to the buildup of plaque in your arteries, a major risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Eat a variety of vegetables every week to get the full array of health benefits they have to offer. Fruits are excellent sources of healthy phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber, too.
2. Choose Healthy Fats
Not all fats are bad. You need the good ones, which include olive, canola, flax, walnut, peanut and sesame oils. These oils help fight internal inflammation, improve cholesterol levels, boost the immune system, and keep your brain and central nervous system healthy.
The American Heart Association suggests keeping your fat intake to between 25% and 35% of your total calories each day; in particular, keep saturated fats to less than 7%. Further, consumption of trans fats should be limited to less than 1% of your calories every day.
3. Eat Plenty of Fiber
Eat foods high in fiber, such as barley, oatmeal and apples, which contain soluble fiber that helps bind cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract and carry it out of the body. Make these foods a regular part of your diet.
While oatmeal and apples are familiar foods, not everybody is used to eating barley. Try substituting barley pilaf for rice. Barley adds a chewy, nutty-tasting side dish to meals and can help reduce your cholesterol.