If your doctor has talked to you about your cholesterol, he’s probably asked that you lower it. Cholesterol is a wax-like substance found in your body and the foods you eat. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones and aid digestion, but too much of it can lead to a build-up in your arteries. This build-up increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. There are usually no symptoms that alert you to cholesterol problems, so it’s important to visit your doctor regularly. Doctors can perform blood tests to reveal your cholesterol levels.
If your cholesterol is high, you may be able to bring it down with these foods:
Apples and Citrus
It seems an apple a day may truly keep the doctor away. According to Forbes, fruits high in pectin have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels by 7 to 10 percent. Pectin is often used as a binding agent and it may bind to cholesterol and help carry it out of the blood along with excess sugar. Oranges, lemons and apples are the fruits highest in pectin, try adding them to your diet if you need to lower your cholesterol.
Oats are an excellent source of a soluble fiber called beta glucan, which most Americans need more of. Fiber helps keep your digestion and bowel movements regular but it also absorbs the cholesterol in your intestines. This prevents the cholesterol from traveling to other parts of your body where it can cause problems. Look for cereals that list rolled oats and oat bran in their ingredients. You can eek out some extra fiber by topping your breakfast with pears, blueberries or raspberries.
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to drink more, here it is. A study at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain showed that the grapes used to make red wines are high in fiber. This fiber is not lost when the grapes are turned to wine, and study participants who ate the same grapes used in wine reduced their LDL, or bad cholesterol, by 9 to 12%. Other studies have suggested that several different types of alcohol may have similar effects, including beer. So raise a glass but remember, drinking to excess increases your risk of heart disease.
Nuts, particularly pecans, almonds, walnuts and peanuts, all lower cholesterol naturally. Nuts are so effective at lowering cholesterol that the Food and Drug Administration has approved claims from nut growers that their products are heart healthy. A handful of nuts a day can reduce cholesterol by up to 10%. Almonds, in particular, contain a chemical that stops cholesterol from oxidizing. This oxidizing process can damage the lining of the blood vessels, making almonds an excellent choice.
Beans are a favorite among dieters as they work so well to keep you full. Like the high fiber in oats, the fiber in beans is soluble and able to bind with cholesterol in the digestive tract. This allows your body to pass cholesterol rather than holding onto it. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed a 5% cholesterol drop in those who added beans to their diet. Beans are also extremely versatile, which means you can eat a lot of them without growing tired of their flavor. You can eat beans in burritos, salads, chile, dips, humus and more.
Often suggested as a substitute for mayonnaise due to their creamy textures, avocados are heart health champions. Avocados are rife with monounsaturated fat which is believed to lower your LDL cholesterol while raising HDL, the so-called good cholesterol. As excellent as avocados are for cholesterol reduction, they are high in plant fats. Plant fats are healthier than animal fats but should still be consumed in moderation.
According to Harvard Medical School, eating fatty fish like salmon two or three times a week can lower cholesterol naturally. Fish is low in cholesterol, so replacing other meaty main dishes with fish reduces the amount of cholesterol you consume. The fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce cholesterol in the blood. In addition to salmon, try tuna, sardines, mackerel and trout to add healthy fish to your diet.