Lower your LDL cholesterol with these diet additions.
An estimated one out of three people has high cholesterol and many don’t even know it. While your body requires some cholesterol for good health, too much low-density lipoprotein (a.k.a. LDL or “bad” cholesterol) leads to hardening and narrowing of the arteries, stroke, and heart attack. HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is the good kind of cholesterol because it actually helps remove excess cholesterol from the blood.
Most people rely on medications to control high cholesterol when simple dietary and lifestyle changes could do the trick. That’s right! By eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong foods, most can lower cholesterol levels by up to 15 percent. You’ll see your numbers go down by avoiding processed baked goods, excess sodium, and foods with animal fats (red meat and high-fat dairy), while adding the following foods to your weekly meal plan.
Make these dietary changes for two months and have your levels rechecked to track your progress. You may be able to say bye-bye to your daily medication!
If your go-to dinner is beef, chicken, or pork, it’s time to add in some fish. Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat that raises your HDL cholesterol, reduces inflammation in the body, and helps prevent blood clots. By eating fish, you’re also avoiding the saturated fat found in beef. Plan to eat baked or grilled fatty fish (salmon, tuna, herring, anchovies, and sardines) at least two times a week.
Foods high in fiber work to prevent your body from absorbing cholesterol from the food you eat. Many whole grains are also rich in plant sterols. Similar in composition to cholesterol, sterols help displace cholesterol in the digestive system so that it’s eliminated from the body instead of absorbed into the blood. You may not be used to eating whole-grain foods like oats, barley, rye, wheat, and quinoa, but they can do wonders for lowering cholesterol. Eat oatmeal for breakfast, whole grain bread for lunch, and a quinoa salad for dinner.
Butter, shortening, and lard may be your go-to fat for cooking, but it’s time to make heart-healthy choices. Olive, canola, corn, sesame, and sunflower oils all contain fats that actually work to lower LDL cholesterol instead of raise it. These oils are also some of the best sources of phytosterols—plant-based sterols. Use healthy oils to dip your bread, make salad dressing, or bake your muffins without the risk of harming your heart.
Enjoy diced avocado in your salad, sliced on your sandwich, or in the form of avocado oil for a dose of heart-healthy fat. Full of monounsaturated fatty acids and fiber that help lower LDL levels, hunt down avocadoes when they’re on sale and incorporate them into your meals as often as possible. One of the healthiest foods you can eat, enjoy avocadoes in moderation because of they’re also high in calories.
Tree nuts are rich in fatty acids that improve blood vessel health, lower cholesterol, and keep your heart healthy. They’re also high in fiber and plant sterols, which help eliminate cholesterol from the body. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and pistachios are especially good for you. Just avoid the kind made with added sugars or sodium. Since they’re high in calories, only eat a small handful (two ounces) a day.
Another food rich in soluble fiber are beans, legumes, and peas. The soluble fiber binds to cholesterol and removes it from the body before it reaches the blood. Take your pick from kidney beans, navy beans, lima beans, chickpeas, black beans, or black-eyed peas.