5 Cholesterol-Lowering Foods
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.
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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.
4. Go Nuts for Nuts
Eaten in moderation, certain nuts, such as walnuts, almonds and peanuts, can help to lower bad cholesterol. Nuts contain healthy fats and antioxidants that can keep your cardiovascular system healthy.
Each week, you should include three to five servings of nuts. One serving of nuts is usually about one-third of a cup. But be sure to keep strict tabs on how much you eat, because nuts are also high in calories. Also, choose unsalted nuts when possible.
All variety of beans, such as kidney, chickpeas (garbanzos), lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas, and white beans, are high in antioxidants and fiber, can help improve your cholesterol profile and are good for heart health.
The Facts About Meat and Cholesterol
Animal fat is a big culprit of elevated cholesterol levels, but not all meat is bad for you. Here are some tips to keep in mind when cooking and eating meats:
• Choose lean cuts of meat with minimal visible fat, and broil rather than fry the meat.
• When it comes to poultry, eat chicken or turkey rather than goose or duck, which are high in fat. Remove the skin before cooking, and if not before cooking, at least before eating.
• Limit processed meats, such as bologna, sausage and hot dogs, because they’re often high in fat and sodium.
• Organ meats of all kinds should be eaten only occasionally because they are extremely high in cholesterol.
• Eat two servings of fish a week, preferably an oily kind, such as salmon or trout.
Combined with exercise and other lifestyle changes, a healthy diet can do wonders for cholesterol levels. By incorporating these healthy-eating tips into your daily routine, you can reduce your cholesterol level and keep your weight in check.