Lower your LDL (or “bad") cholesterol and raise your HDL (or “good”) cholesterol with these 10 heart-healthy foods.
Mark Barroso and Brittany Smith 1 / 11
10 Foods to Lower Bad Cholesterol
The leading cause of death in the United States, cardiovascular disease is the result of various symptoms and genetic predispositions. Hyperlipemia, or having high levels of lipids (fats) such as cholesterol and triglycerides, in the blood is a significant factor in developing heart disease. While weight loss, exercise, and diet can help raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels and lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, there are also specific compounds in foods that can work to protect your heart by promoting healthy cholesterol levels.
Because September is National Cholesterol Month, we've rounded up 10 cholesterol-friendly foods to make staples in your everyday diet.
Beans really are the magical fruit after all. A recent study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that consuming one daily serving of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can reduce LDL cholesterol by 5%, lessening the risk for heart disease.
According to research published in theJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry, eating strawberries can significantly reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood. To reap the benefits, volunteers ate a lot of strawberries (500 grams every day for a month to be exact) after which better platelet function, antioxidant levels, and plasma lipid levels were recorded.
A 2011 study in the American Dietetic Association reviewed the effect of green tea catechins (extracts) on lipid levels. Individuals who consumed 145 to 3,000mg of green tea catechins for three to 24 weeks experienced decreased total and LDL cholesterol levels.
A 2010 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that snacking on almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, peanuts, and pistachios can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Volunteers who ate 2.4 ounces of nuts a day reduced their triglycerides by 10.2%, total cholesterol by 5.1%, and LDL cholesterol by 7.4%. Results were even greater in subjects who had higher baseline LDL levels. So go ahead, get cracking.
Moderate consumption (.8L for a maximum of five times a week) of red and/or white wine can help keep colesterol levels in check, but you’ll have to exercise to reap the benefits, according to results from a recent study. In a year-long experiment, the only group of wine drinkers that saw their HDL increase and LDL and total cholesterol decrease were those who exercised at least twice a week.
Cocoa contains plant compounds that can prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing. (When LDL is oxidized, it gets exposed to free radicals and may produce more inflammation in your arteries.)
Luckily for all chocolate lovers, 12 weeks of eating 26 grams of cocoa powder per day increased resistance to LDL oxidization, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Also, the cocoa powder caused a 24% increase in HDL levels compared to only 5% in those who had just sugar and no cocoa powder.
Naturally occurring substances found in plants (and used to make many butter-like spreads), sterols can help block the absorption of bad cholesterol in the small intestine, thus lowering levels of LDL in the body. But don’t go chowing down on plant sterols just yet. To protect your heart, small, frequent servings are more effective then getting plant sterols all at on meal, according to a 2008 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In the study, 19 people ate either regular margarine with each meal, sterol-enriched margarine with breakfast only, or sterol margarine with every meal, and the more frequent sterol eaters were the only ones to significantly reduce their LDL cholesterol.
In a 2013 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, people consumed whole apples, apple pomace (pulp), clear apple juice, cloudy apple juice, or no supplement for four weeks. Most saw their cholesterol health improve. The whole apple eaters saw the largest decrease in LDL, while clear juice actually increased LDL by 6.9%, compared to whole apples and pomace.
An apple a day may keep the LDL away, but steer clear of clear apple juice.
Swapping foods rich in saturated fat with foods high in oleic acid, like sunflower oil, can help prevent heart disease, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Volunteers who stuck to a monounsaturated fatty acid diet had lower triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels compared with those who consumed a diet rich in saturated fatty acid. Just keep in mind that oils are high in calories, so consume in moderation.