10 Foods to Battle Bad Cholesterol

by in Healthy Tips, February 11, 2010

Part of keeping your heart healthy means keeping your cholesterol levels in check or lowering those numbers if they’ve been creeping up. Exercise can help make this happen, and so can a healthy diet rich in these foods.

Cholesterol Basics
Ideally, you want the artery-clogging “LDL” cholesterol to be low (less than 130 mg/dL) and the clog-reducing “HDL” to be high (above 60 mg/dL). You want to keep triglycerides (a measure of certain type of fat in the blood) low for a healthy heart.

Cholesterol comes from animal-sourced foods (meat, dairy and eggs, for example). While many cholesterol-containing foods are good for you, experts recommend that you keep the daily amount of cholesterol you eat to about 300 milligrams per day. Foods high in saturated fat and trans fats also negatively affect cholesterol levels, so avoid those.

1) Oatmeal
This is the one you probably know about. The soluble fiber in whole grain oats helps lower LDL and total cholesterol. Try topping plain oatmeal with a little dried fruit, a sprinkle of nuts and a hint of maple syrup or honey for some sweetness.

2) Salmon
The omega-3 fats in salmon and other fatty fish such as tuna and sardines help lower triglycerides and increase HDL. Aim for two servings of fish a week.

3) Olive Oil
The monounsaturated fats and antioxidants in olives and olive oil help to lower LDL (they don’t really affect HDL levels). Use olive oil for sauteing, marinades and salad dressings. Heads up: oil has 120 calories per tablespoon so watch those portions.

4) Flax
According to David Grotto’s book 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life, women who eat 50 grams of ground flaxseed a day for four weeks lowered their LDL by 18%. Try adding these omega-3-rich and fiber-filled seeds to salads, smoothies, oatmeal and even baked goods.

5) Plant Sterols
Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds naturally contain compounds called sterols that block the absorption of cholesterol and help keep LDL low. Along with being in fruits and veggies, you can get more potent doses of these sterols from certain brands of yogurt and yogurt drinks, cereals, granola bars and spreads such as Smart Balance, Promise Activ and Benecol (they all add extra sterols). The downside is that you’ll need a pretty hefty amount (about 2 grams a day) to reap sterol’s cholesterol benefits.

6) Oat Bran
Another way to take advantage of the soluble fiber in oats is to bake with oat bran (available at health food stores). Add it to cookies, breads and these multigrain muffins.

7) Almonds
Eating 1.5 ounces a day (about 30 almonds) as part of a diet low in saturated fat can help reduce the risk of heart disease and help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Almonds are also high in vitamin E, too — an antioxidant that boosts heart health.

8 ) Soy
Soy products such as edamame, tofu and soymilk are plant-based proteins, so they’re naturally cholesterol free. Use these foods to replace animal proteins (like swapping soy milk for cow’s milk) — it can help reduce your cholesterol levels.

9) Alcohol
There’s research that supports the theory that a few cocktails can actually improve your HDL levels, but don’t hit the booze too hard — too much can raise triglyceride levels. Keep it to a maximum of one drink a day for women and two for the guys.

10) Citrus Fruit
Fruits such as oranges and grapefruit are not only good sources of soluble fiber, but research from the USDA finds that a compound found in orange oil can help to lower LDL. A 2006 study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that eating a red grapefruit a day resulted in lower LDL and improved triglyceride levels. (Note: Grapefruit juice may interfere with some medications so check with your doctor or pharmacist.)

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Comments (29)

  1. Janelle says:

    do you have the recipe for the photo featured? Is that a lentil salad under the salmon?

  2. Paul says:

    As any chemist will tell you, cholesterol is a single molecule. How then are there "good" and "bad" cholesterol molecules. It is at best scientifically imprecise and at worst a crass marketing ploy to talk about the levels of high and low denisty lipoprotein (say it again lipoprotein i.e. a protein – they are carrier proteins) as implying different cholesterol molecules. Then again the statin cholesterol lowering drug class alone is a 30 billion dollar a year industry.

    Cholesterol is an essential component of every cell membrane and important for myriad physiologic functions. When Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, MD PhD looked at the medical literature he found something quite surprising had been documented there. On average people with higher cholesterol live longer. Cholesterol is a mediator in heart disease but blood cholesterol levels have next to no effect on heart disease rates again heart disease rates mostly unchanged since the advent of the massive cholesterol lowering campaign. Not to mention the frequent and serious side effects seen with the statins. … All that said, with the exception of soy (too estrogenic for my taste) and (though I do enjoy it myself) alcohol I second your excellent dietary recommendations

    Paul Maher, MD MPH

  3. Niche Topics says:

    Great list, thanks! Also, be aware that too much carbs raises cholesterol. When you go on a low-fat diet, restrict low-fiber carbs such as white bread, pasta, cookies etc.

  4. By the Bay says:

    Where can I get the French green lentils that the recipe calls for? do they have to be French, or any green lentils will do? Thank you!

  5. Wally says:

    I googled French green lentils and they have their own website. French-green-lentils.com.

  6. Mary says:

    This article is very good. I personally had very high cholesterol and only tried a good amount of servings of only 4 of the items on this list (per my doctors request) and after 5 months my levels had gone down .. A LOT… was able to skip medication. Add a bit of exercise…30 min a day… and you will do much much better.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Elizabeth I always could not stand eating oatmeal. Untill I found Quaker Instant Oatmeal (weight control) Banana Bread. After I make it I put blueberries in it. It is so good this way! I also take the Omge 3,fish oil caps. Two times a day.Also in the winter time I have a Pilates Power Gym. With all of this it really has helped to lower my cholesterol.

  8. Axel LF says:

    CD White the only way both my wife and I enjoy oatmeal is to prepare it the Dutch way:
    1½ cups Old Fashioned Quaker Oats
    2½ cups reduced fat milk
    ½ cup raisins
    1/8 teaspoon sea salt
    cinnamon to taste
    raw sugar to taste

    Add the milk, raisins and salt to a large saucepan and let it come to a boil;stirring occasionally. Add oats, let it come a boil; stirring occasionaly. Simmer for about 7 minutes. Serve with cinnamon and brown sugar. Makes two servings.

  9. Renie says:

    My total cholestrol is 328 yep and I thought I ate healthy but I just recently had breast cancer DCIS which I was one of the lucky ones I had the lump removed and a surge of radiation so no more treatments are needed…I started juicing prior to my surgurey and I am feeling so good & healing beautifully from where the incision was made…I have one ? for everyone. I am taking the flaxseed capsules as the flaxseed ground and put into my food…I was taking the fish oil until I saw that it has cholesterol? I am on this journey of no cheese(my fav) and a lot of things I use to eat that was bad for me I am actually doing well and not missing them in my diet…Good Luck to each of you in the road to good health…

  10. fred says:

    You can also add old fasioned oat meal to your smothie. I use plain fat free yogurt, frozen berries, oatmeal, spoon of peanut butter, and soy milk or pineapple juice. Add parsley if you like also, I do : )

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