According to an article published by Harvard Medical School in February 2019; changing the foods we eat can, and does, lower LDL cholesterol while also improving the healthy fats our bodies need. Since different foods lower cholesterol in various ways, like soluble fiber which binds with cholesterol and its precursors and prevents them from entering the bloodstream, thus preventing artery-clogging atherosclerosis; and, some have plant sterols and stanols that block the body from absorbing cholesterol; we’ll take a look at the top eleven foods and specifically why they help lower cholesterol.
This list is quoted from Harvard Medical School:
- Oats: are an easy first step to lowering cholesterol due to one to two grams of soluble fiber. Adding a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram provides more protection. Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20-35 grams of fiber a day, with at least five to ten grams coming from soluble fiber.
- Barley and other whole grans: like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fiber they deliver.
- Beans: are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take a while for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That’s one reason beans are useful for people trying to lose weight. With so many choices from navy and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eye peas and beyond, and so many ways to prepare them, beans are a very easy and versatile choice.
- Eggplant and okra: these two lower-calorie vegetables are good sources of fiber.
- Nuts: many studies have shown eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts is good for the heart. Eating two ounces of nuts a day can slightly lower LDL, on the order of 5%. Nuts also have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways.
- Vegetable oils: using liquid vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower and others in place of butter, lard, or shortening when cooking helps lower LDL cholesterol. Keep in mind oils should be used sparingly.
- Food fortified with sterols and stanols: sterols and stanols extracted from plants gum up the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol from food. Companies are adding them to foods ranging from margarine and granola bars to orange juice and chocolate. They’re also available as supplements. Getting two grams of plant sterols a day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10%
- Apples, grapes, strawberries and citrus fruits: these fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL.
- Soy: eating soybeans and foods made from them, like tofu and soy milk, was once touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol. Analyses show that the effect is more modest, consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day (10 ounces of tofu or 2 1/2 cups of soy milk) can lower LDL by five to six percent.
- Fatty fish: eating fish two or three time a week can lower LDL in two ways; by replacing meat, which has LDL-boosting saturated fats, and by delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms.
- Fiber supplements: these supplements offer the best appealing way to get soluble fiber. Two teaspoons a day of psyllium, which is found in Metamucil and other bulk-forming laxatives, provide about four grams of soluble fiber.
Putting together a low cholesterol nutrition plan:
With so many options, each with there own LDL lowering properties, the key to building a good nutrition plan is diversity. It’s important to add in several foods to lower cholesterol, rather than relying on only one or two.
A mostly vegetarian plan substantially lowers LDL, triglycerides and blood pressure. The key components are plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of highly refined ones and protein mostly from plants. Add margarine enriched with plant sterols; oats, barley, psyllium, okra, and eggplant, all rich in soluble fiber.
While shifting to a cholesterol-lowering diet takes some effort and focus on the foods you eat, it’s better than popping a daily statin. The best approach is expanding the variety of foods you usually put in your shopping cart and getting used to new textures and flavors. Doing so provides a natural way to lower cholesterol, and it avoids the risk of statin side effects.
Lastly, and just as important, a nutrition plan heavy on fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts is good for you; beyond just lowering cholesterol. It keeps blood pressure in check, helps arteries stay flexible and responsive, it’s good for bones and digestive health, and protects vision and also mental health.
Please be sure to consult your doctor before beginning any exercise or nutrition program. Your doctor can help you determine an individualized plan that’s best for you.