Do you want a diet to lower cholesterol? We all know that butter, ice cream, and fatty meats raise cholesterol, but do you know which foods make up a low-cholesterol diet? Find out here. Here’s some good news. To lower your cholesterol, you can actually eat more of certain foods. A handful of some “functional foods” have been shown to make a big impact on your cholesterol levels. They’re also much tastier than a pill chased with a glass of water.
“These foods may not be magic, but they’re close to it,” says Ruth Frechman, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Researchers have found that some foods—such as fatty fish, walnuts, oatmeal, and oat bran, and foods fortified with plant sterols or stanols—can help control your cholesterol. Some studies have shown that a diet combining these “super foods” may work as well as some cholesterol-lowering medicines to reduce your “bad” LDLcholesterol levels.
It’s no secret that certain foods can help you lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries that leads to heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. But what may surprise you is that many of these foods are delicious and easy to incorporate into your everyday meals without sacrificing flavor or fun.
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, antioxidants that help lower LDL levels. Just make sure to eat in moderation, as chocolate is also high in saturated fat and sugar. You can also use dark, unsweetened cocoa powder in your cooking to get similar heart-healthy effects.
There’s more to avocados than just guacamole. They give you oleic acid, which helps lower the bad cholesterol in your bloodstream. Try putting a few slices on your turkey sandwich, or add them to a salad. Avocado oil, which has a subtle, sweet flavor, can also be used in place of other oils in cooking.
Red wine contains resveratrol, a substance found in the red grape skin, which may prevent damage to blood vessels by reducing the risk of blood clots and lowering LDL. Drinking too much alcohol can cause a host of other health issues, however; so while a glass of red wine at dinner is fine, don’t overdo it.
Both black and green teas contain powerful antioxidants that may reduce cholesterol levels. Green tea typically contains more of these antioxidant powerhouses, as it is made from unfermented leaves and is less processed. Just go easy on the cream and sugar.
Fish like salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, and halibut are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce triglycerides in the blood. Aim for 8 ounces of fish a week, and bake or grill the fish—don’t fry it—to keep it healthy.
Versatile Olive Oil
Olive oil is a plant-based fat, so it’s a better choice when you’re trying to lower your “bad” cholesterol than fats that come from animals. It’s great mixed with red wine vinegar, a minced garlic clove, and a little ground pepper for a salad dressing. For something different, try braising vegetables like carrots or leeks. Just drizzle 3 tablespoons of oil over vegetables in a snug baking dish, scatter some herbs, cover with foil, and put in a 375-degree oven for about 45 minutes.
Black beans, kidney beans, lentils, oh my! All are rich in soluble fiber, which binds to cholesterol in the blood and moves it out of the body. Recent studies show eating 4.5 ounces of beans a day can reduce LDL levels by 5 percent. Try black bean burritos, or dip some veggies in hummus, which is made with chickpeas, for an afternoon snack. Or try this Caramelized Onion and White Bean Flatbread—beans are so versatile, the possibilities are endless.
“Eating a healthy diet is not just about eating a few special foods,” says Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “There’s a bigger picture. You need to practice moderation, eat a variety of foods, and get enough physical activity.”