Whether your doctor’s told you it’s time to change your diet a little, or you’re just looking to eat a bit healthier on your own, chances are you’re wondering which foods to lower cholesterol you ought to be eating. We’ve all seen the TV commercial for Cheerios that promises eating the cereal will lower your cholesterol, but a girl can’t live on Cheerios alone, so what are some of the other foods to lower cholesterol? I’ve chatted with my family doctor and did a little research of my own, and gathered this list of eight foods to lower your cholesterol. Some you may already know, but some might be a surprise.
1 Whole Grains
Whole grains, like those found in oatmeal and in cold cereal, like those Cheerios, contain healthy amounts of soluble fiber, which has been proven to lower cholesterol over just a short amount of time. How much soluble fiber should you get in one day? Aim for about 25 grams… and since a bowl of Cheerios is 1 gram, starting your day with those little oaty Os and some fiber-rich berries is a marvelous idea. Whole grains are also tasty, earning them the top spot on my list of foods to lower cholesterol.
Certain types of fish, like tuna and salmon, contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. To reap the benefits of these omega-3s, experts recommend eating fish two times a week. But be careful: if you prefer your tuna in a sandwich, don’t mix in a lot of fattening mayonnaise; that’ll completely ruin the heart-healthy effect.
3 High-pectin Fruits
Turns out that old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” was spot on. Apples, and lots of other fruits – like grapes and strawberries – are loaded with pectin, a soluble fiber that helps your body combat cholesterol. Not a fan of strawberries, grapes, or apples? No worries. Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits, contain pectin, too.
Nuts are something of a miracle in a hard shell. They contain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to keep blood vessels healthy. A handful of nuts each day is all you need to get the benefits of these cholesterol-fighting acids, but beware: some nuts are covered in fattening candy coatings or are sprinkled with salt, neither of which you need.
5 Olive Oil
While no one’s suggesting you should forego butter forever, or even every day, it’s a good idea to replace it when you can with extra-virgin olive oil, loaded with antioxidants and other chemicals that leave your HDL “good” cholesterol in tact but demolish your LDL “bad” cholesterol. Swap the butter you use to baste your meat with a little olive oil, or use it as a dip for bread, rather than slathering on the butter. That’s very Mediterranean – and heart-healthy!
6 Low-Fat or Skim Dairy
It’s a sad fact: full-fat dairy, like whole milk, yogurt, and cheese, is full of the trans fats that raise LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. It’s important, then, to eliminate them from your diet, swapping them for low-fat or skim versions. As hard as it may seem to switch from whole milk to 2%, no worries – in a few weeks, you’ll come to prefer it, and if you ever do try whole milk again, it’ll seem like cream.
7 OJ with Added Plant Sterols or Stanols
Getting 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols a day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10%. But where can these plant sterols and stanols be found? They’re most easily consumed by drinking orange juice fortified with it, which is something of a double cholesterol-fighting bonus, when you remember that citrus fruits contain soluble fiber from pectin.
Beans work marvelously well at reducing cholesterol on two fronts. One, they’re loaded with soluble fiber, and two, if you consume your proteins from beans rather than meat, even just once a week, you’ll be cutting out all of the other unfriendly, unhealthy fats in those meats. A black bean burger instead of a ground-beef one? Why not? They’re delicious!
See? There are lots of tasty foods that can help you lower your cholesterol without feeling deprived. How many of these foods have you already added to your diet, before you knew they were so heart-healthy? Which of these cholesterol-busting foods will you try next? Or is there another food to lower cholesterol I didn’t include that you’d like to add?