High cholesterol poses a significant danger to arteries and ultimately to the heart. Lowering and managing cholesterol levels involves a lifestyle change that includes regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet. It's not difficult to think of ways to become more physically active. However, knowing which foods to eat to help lower cholesterol and maintain healthy levels is a mystery for some. Discover which foods are best for lowering cholesterol and why.
What the American Heart Association Has to Say
The American Heart Association (AHA) stands by a diet low in saturated and trans fats as being best for the overall health of the heart. Limiting the consumption of meats, eating reduced-fat dairy products and consuming beverages with little or no sugar are key points in its recommendation. Here a few of the specific foods the AHA recommends you stay clear of when trying to lower your cholesterol: foods high in dietary cholesterol (organ meats, egg yolks, shellfish, whole and 2 percent milk), foods and drinks containing added sugars, sodium-rich foods (seasoning salts, soy sauce, steak sauce, canned pickles and olives) and foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Staying clear of these food types will improve your cholesterol readings and overall heart health.
Oatmeal and Nuts Help to Lower Cholesterol
Walnuts have been proven in studies to lower blood cholesterol. Other nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and pecans have shown similar effects in lowering cholesterol. However, moderation is key, because these nuts are also high in fat. Consuming a handful of these nuts a day will suffice. Oatmeal and oat bran are the super foods in lowering cholesterol. They contain soluble fiber, which studies have shown specifically lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. LDL is the bad cholesterol that significantly contributes to coronary heart disease. If you do not like oatmeal, you can also get soluble fiber from prunes, apples, pears, barley, psyllium and kidney beans.
Foods High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are the fats found in fish that lower cholesterol. Fatty fish--not all seafood--contain these cholesterol-lowering fatty acids. Shellfish is high in fats, which are not good for you and can raise your cholesterol. Good fish choices include salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, lake trout and albacore tuna. These fish contain the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids. It is recommended to eat two servings of fish a week and to limit frying the fish. Boiling, grilling and baking are the best ways to cook these heart-healthy fish.
Olive oil, especially extra-virgin olive oil, contains a mix of antioxidants that lowers LDL cholesterol and leaves the good HDL cholesterol intact. It is recommended that two tablespoons of olive oil a day is enough to help lower cholesterol while not adding too much fat to your diet. There are many ways to add olive to your daily diet, such as mixing it with vinegar to make salad dressing, adding it to marinades and basting meat with it instead of with butter or margarine.
Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables
Eating whole fruits and vegetables provides a lot of antioxidants and soluble fiber that help to lower cholesterol. Consuming five servings a day of these foods will help improve your blood cholesterol levels. The greatest benefits come from eating the whole fruit or vegetable, skin included, because the juices do not contain the same levels of fiber as the whole food does.
Speak to Your Doctor
Your doctor can help you develop a diet plan that will address your specific cholesterol-lowering needs. If you have other health issues or food allergies, your doctor can help you find safe food alternatives to lower your cholesterol.