Eating a diet rich in fiber, fruits and vegetables helps to lower your cholesterol levels. Replacing foods high in saturated fat with foods containing unsaturated fat plays a role in lowering cholesterol as well, since saturated fat raises the level of bad cholesterol in your blood. Lowering your cholesterol is a crucial way to reduce your heart disease risk. Talk to your doctor about diet and lifestyle changes you can make to lower your cholesterol.
Red meat such as beef has more cholesterol and saturated fat than chicken and fish.
Chicken: Swap out red meat for lean cuts of chicken like the breast. Remove the skin or purchase skinless and cook it using a method that doesn't require extra oil like baking, grilling or broiling.
Fish: Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna and sardines contain two omega-3 fats that are linked to heart health -- EPA and DHA. While omega-3 fats don't lower cholesterol, the National Institutes of Health recommends these fats be part of your cholesterol management plan.
In adults with coronary artery disease and elevated triglycerides, EPA and DHA significantly lower triglycerides, according a study published in the December 2006 issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Triglyceride is another type of fat that circulates in your blood. Aim to have two servings of fish per week, recommend the NIH.
Soluble fiber helps decrease cholesterol by reducing absorption, so it's recommended that you increase your intake to help manage cholesterol. Choose fiber-rich foods and aim for a total of 21 to 38 grams and at least 10 grams of soluble fiber per day. Foods rich in soluble fiber are beans and other legumes, whole-grain foods, fruits, flaxseeds and vegetables. Get started by swapping out refined breakfast foods with fiber-rich options like whole oats, bran muffins and bran cereal. Add a serving of beans and legumes to your lunches and dinners. A 3/4-cup serving of black beans contains 5.4 grams of fiber, for example.
Sterols are compounds found in plants that help block absorption of cholesterol, which reduces LDL. Eating foods rich in sterols is part of a heart-healthy eating plan. Many plants contain small amounts of sterols, and a few provide a rich amounts. Sterol-rich foods include wheat germ and oils like sesame, rice bran, corn and canola. Other good sources are peanuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, rye bread, Brussels sprouts and wheat bran. Some foods, such as sandwich spreads, are fortified with sterols. These are typically labeled in some way to let you know they contain added sterols.
Build your meals around a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat protein. Aim to have six or more servings of grains, two to four servings of fruit, three to five servings of vegetables and two to three servings of low-fat dairy. Have a variety of nuts in moderation, and choose unsaturated oils like olive, safflower and soybean. Choose 5 ounces or less of healthy skinless chicken or turkey and fish like salmon and cod. Incorporate ground flaxseeds -- which contain a plant source of omega-3 fats -- by adding some to your low-fat yogurt, whole-grain cereal or fruit smoothies.
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC
- Dietitians of Canada: Food Sources of Soluble Fiber
- Linus Pauling Institute: Phytosterols
- American Heart Association: Eat More Chicken, Fish and Beans
- American Family Physician: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: The Triglyceride-Lowering Effects of a Modest Dose of Docosahexaenoic Acid Alone Versus in Combination With Low Dose Eicosapentaenoic Acid in Patients With Coronary Artery Disease and Elevated Triglycerides