Ten foods that help lower cholesterol

Over the years many people see their cholesterol numbers increase; and, as we all know, higher cholesterol numbers can lead to heart disease. Specifically, its the LDL that is most harmful because it can build up in artery walls and trigger an inflammatory response that increases the risk of a heart attack.

According to Dr. Jorge Plutzky, director of preventive cardiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “to prevent heart disease, your LDL should be 100 mg/dl or lower.” Unfortunately, too many Americans have LDL values well above 100 mg/dl; many are between 100 to 129 mg/dl and borderline high of 130 to 159mg/dl.

There is some good news for those who have higher than desired cholesterol; in addition to any medications your doctor might prescribe, you may be able to lower your LDL by adopting a healthy nutrition plan that includes fiber-rich foods and avoids saturated fats.

“To prevent heart disease, your LDL should be 100mg/dl or lower.”

Dr. Jorge Plutzky, director of preventive cardiology at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

It’s important to note, making dietary changes isn’t as simple as avoiding high cholesterol foods; rather, changing your overall diet, especially the types of fats and carbohydrates you eat, has the most impact. According to the American Heart Association, you’ll get the most benefit by lowering saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fat. Meaning, you should avoid meat, cheese and other high-fat dairy products like butter and ice cream. Instead replace those calories with healthy unsaturated fats, including vegetable oils, avocados, and fish. You should also avoid refined carbs like white bread, pasta, and white rice as they promote weight gain and are low in fiber. Fiber plays in important role in flushing cholesterol out of your body. Since our bodies can’t break down fiber, it passes through undigested. There are two types of fiber, insoluble and soluble. The soluble fiber (dissolves in water creating a gel) traps some of the cholesterol and eliminates it as waste, preventing it from entering your arteries.

These high fiber foods can help

  • Oatmeal: is a whole grain and one of the best sources of soluble fiber, along with barley. Try starting your day with steel-cut or old-fashioned rolled oats, topped with fresh berries for flavor and extra fiber.
  • White beans: commonly referred to as navy beans ranks highest in fiber. But other beans, like black beans, kidney beans and garbanzo beans are also good sources of fiber. Try adding beans to salads, soups or chili. Avoid baked beans, they are usually in sauces loaded with sugar.
  • Avocado: are rich in monounsaturated fat and contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Add them to a salad, healthy taco, or on a slice of whole-grain toast.
  • Eggplant: one of the highest sources of fiber, try oven-roast or grilling them until soft.
  • Carrots: baby carrots are an easy and convenient snack and have a decent amount of insoluble fiber.
  • Almonds: are the highest in fiber among nuts. Also try walnuts, which are a good source of polyunsaturated, plant-based omega-3 fatty acid.
  • Kiwi: slice one in half and scoop out the inside for a fiber rich snack
  • Berries: most berries contain seeds and their fiber content is higher than most other fruits. Raspberries and blackberries provide the most, but strawberries and blueberries are also great sources.
  • Cauliflower: is a cruciferous vegetable that contains fiber and also can be a substitute for white rice or mashed potatoes.
  • Salmon: eating cold-water fish twice a week can lower LDL by replacing meat and delivering healthy omega-3 fats.

As always, please consult your doctor before beginning an exercise or nutrition program and discuss an individualized plan that’s best for you.

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