10 Top Foods to Help You Fight High Cholesterol
Close to 107 million U.S. adults have cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL or higher, a level that the American Heart Association says increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. At least 12 million of these people are taking statin drugs to lower their cholesterol levels, but there are more natural options out there.
According to the American Heart Association, “You can reduce cholesterol in your blood by eating healthful foods, losing weight if you need to and exercising.” What follows is a listing of the most potent foods to add to your diet if you want to fight high cholesterol and drive your levels down using your diet as a primary tool.
Along with eating healthy, the American Heart Association recommends regular exercise to help reduce your cholesterol.
1. Shitake Mushrooms
The active component in shitake mushrooms–eritadenine–has been found to lower cholesterol levels in animal studies. The more eritadenine the animals received, the more their cholesterol levels dropped.
A study in the April 2004 issue of Circulation found that when walnuts were substituted for about one-third of the calories supplied by olives and other monounsaturated fats in the Mediterranean diet, total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol were reduced. Walnuts contain the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to be excellent for the heart.
3. Uncooked Soy
A new study found that eating two servings of soy protein a day can lower cholesterol by up to 9 percent–but it must be uncooked to have benefit. “Soy protein increases the activity of low-density lipoprotein receptors primarily on the liver that clears it from the body. Eating soy protein increases the activity of these enzymes that break down the cholesterol,” said study author James Anderson, a scientist at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
Good soy sources would be edamame or soy nuts. “Soy-fortified muffins, cereals or nutritional bars in which the soy protein was baked at high temperatures do not provide the benefit,” Anderson said.
Researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture have identified an antioxidant in blueberries called pterostilbene (it’s similar to resveratrol, the antioxidant found in grapes and red wine). This compound has effectively lowered cholesterol levels in animal studies.
This fish is a particularly good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to lower LDL cholesterol while raising the good (HDL) kind.
Yes, walnuts are high in fat, but it’s the good monounsaturated kind, which will actually help to lower your LDL cholesterol.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that eating garlic regularly reduces LDL cholesterol and raises HDL levels.
Avocados are rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat known to help lower cholesterol. In fact, one study found that people with moderately high cholesterol levels who ate a diet high in avocados for one week had significant drops in total and LDL cholesterol levels, and an 11 percent increase in the good HDL cholesterol.
8. Black Beans
Black beans and other legumes are high in dietary fiber, which is an excellent cholesterol fighter.
Rich in both pectin and fiber, along with powerful antioxidants, including quercetin, catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid, apples help lower bad cholesterol while raising the good kind.
10. Dark Green, Leafy Vegetables
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Family Heart Study, participants who ate four or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day had significantly lower levels of LDL cholesterol than those who ate fewer servings. Among the most powerful veggies are the dark green, leafy variety, such as spinach, kale, collard greens and Swiss chard.