Foods to lower your cholesterol

 

If you’re worried about getting a handle on your high cholesterol level, or maintaining your current healthy levels, it’s natural to think about which foods you should ban from your diet once and for all. Maybe you say to yourself, I’ve been eating too much cheese or Why did I put so much butter on that toast? While limiting certain foods — namely saturated fats in meat and full-fat dairy and trans fats in many baked goods — helps lower high cholesterol, what you do eat is also important in decreasing “bad” LDL cholesterol and raising “good” HDL cholesterol.

Oats and Barley

These whole grains are among the best sources of soluble fiber, which blocks your body’s ability to absorb cholesterol and “is your best friend for lowering LDL cholesterol,” says American Dietetic Association spokesperson Ximena Jimenez, MS, RD.

The soluble fiber that oats and barley contain — called beta-glucan — is particularly powerful. Eating oats with at least 3 grams of soluble fiber every day, for example, can lower LDL and total cholesterol by 5 to 10 percent.

Try this: Eat oatmeal for breakfast and sprinkle oat bran into yogurt. Use cooked barley, a versatile, nutty-tasting grain, as you would rice — in soups, in salads, or as a side mixed with veggies.

Beans and Other Legumes

Beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts are also wonderful soluble fiber sources: Every half-cup of cooked lima beans provides 3.5 grams, for example. One study in The Journal of Nutrition found that consuming a half cup of cooked dried pinto beans (2 grams of soluble fiber) daily for 12 weeks decreased LDL cholesterol by about 7 percent.

Try this: Make rice and beans or bean-based soups. Toss beans, lentils, or peas into salads, or swap them in for meat in pasta dishes, suggests Jimenez. The TLC diet recommends three to five half-cup servings daily of vegetables, dry beans, or legumes.

Green Tea

Fire up your water kettle, because according to a new meta-analysis of 14 studies, green tea significantly reduced total and LDL cholesterol levels (by 7.20 mg/dL and 2.19 mg/dL, respectively). In some studies participants drank tea; in others, they took green tea supplements.

Try this: Although in some of the studies participants consumed the equivalent of 18 cups of green tea daily, experts don’t recommend that everyone start binging on green tea. More research is needed to know how much green tea to drink to improve cholesterol levels.

Oils

While butter and other solid fats raise cholesterol, the unsaturated fats in oils help lower it. Polyunsaturated fats, found primarily in corn, safflower, sesame, soybean, and sunflower oil, slash LDL cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats, found mainly in olive, avocado, and canola oil, not only lower LDL, but may also raise HDL.

Try this: Cook with oils instead of butter, mix them with vinegar for salad dressing, or drizzle them along with herbs and spices on vegetables before roasting. Moderation is key, since oil is high in fat and calories.

Nuts

Nuts are another good source of monounsaturated fats. Eating 1 ounce of any kind of nuts daily for one month may lower LDL cholesterol by 8 to 20 percent.

Try this: Nosh on an ounce a day — the equivalent of 23 almonds, 35 peanuts, 14 English walnut halves, 49 pistachios, or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. Or add chopped nuts to salads, pasta, or yogurt. Nuts do have a lot of calories, so don’t eat them by the fistful.

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