10 Foods to Battle Bad Cholesterol

by in Healthy Tips, February 11, 2010

Salmon
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. Char says:

    Great ideas everyone. My mom used to make Dutch Oatmeal as Axel LF calls it. I always thought it was a hillbilly recipe.
    Since joining Weight Watchers, my husband and I have learned to eat healthier. Today after losing 67.4 pounds, he has hit his goal weight. His cholesterol medicine was reduced (for 6 months) and the next step is to be taken off of meds completely. He no longer takes 2 blood pressure pills, per day, as well. Before meds and WW, he was a walking time bomb. We try to eat a lot of the foods listed in the article, everyday. Healthy eating doesn't have to be boring.
    Paul (the MD MPH), as someone who has lost a sister and 2 brothers due to high ldl levels, I listen to my doctor and take any meds necessary to prolong my life. I will be off my meds, hopefully within 6 months to a year. I certainly hope your patients are not dying because you don't give then statins, especially if they naturally produce high ldl levels. I think your comment was reckless.

  2. Kris says:

    One no-brainer to reduce blood cholesterol is to eat none of it. NONE. There have been many rigorous studies done by well-respected nutritionist/scientists that prove heart disease can be prevented and even reversed by eating a plant-based, low fat, high fiber diet. More studies have shown this type of diet is related to lower incidences of many types of cancer, diabetes, and other nasties. Believe it or not, too much animal protein is just as responsible for some health problems as too much fat. The food industry doesn't want us to know this, and even many doctors are either uninformed or resistant to the idea.

  3. Hazel says:

    I find the comments for and against taking statins very informative. I also have refused to take most medications prescribed by my MD such as for borderline high cholesterol ,prediabetes and joint pains, instead eating high fiber low fat diet. I am a registered nurse and have seen the good that medication can do. However we need to get back to PREVENTION instead of CURE. It is unconscionable that pharmaceutical companies become uger rich while consumers use medications with such toxic side effects that while treating one condition many damage major organs like the liver and the heart. Please listen/read all of the possible side effects in fine print!!

  4. Ira Estok says:

    There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.Keep working ,great job!

  5. Wow, thanks a bunch m8

  6. franceza says:

    When I first saw this title 10 Foods to Battle Bad Cholesterol | Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy Living Blog on google I just whent and bookmark it. I will also like to express that most people who find themselves without the need of health insurance are normally students, self-employed and people who are jobless. More than half of the uninsured are really under the age of Thirty-five. They do not feel they are requiring health insurance simply because they’re young plus healthy. The income is generally spent on homes, food, along with entertainment. Many individuals that do go to work either 100 % or part-time are not supplied insurance via their jobs so they head out without with the rising valuation on health insurance in the us. Thanks for the suggestions you reveal through this site.

  7. Jenna says:

    I bet it's this recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/sal

    I've made it a couple times and it's really good. Usually there is so much of the lentils, that I freeze half so I can easily make the meal at another time.

  8. janelle says:

    thanks Jenna!
    janelle

  9. sarah says:

    Omg yes Ina makes the best lentils. If you're afraid to try lentils cause you don't know how to make them or think they taste gross… haha, try this recipe. The red wine vinegar gives it a great taste, making them almost baked bean like but without that sugary sweetness

  10. sue says:

    There are diffterent types of cholesterol. LDL and HDL. One is bad, one is good. High cholesterol isn't neccesarily good when it's a high LDL cholesterol.

  11. Sarah says:

    Paul, thank you for your post! It makes perfect sense; however I'm sure some won't "get it!" as evidenced by previous comment re HDL & LDL : )

  12. CD White says:

    My triglycerides were almost 400 and my "bad" cholesterol was off the charts. In 3 weeks, my triglycerides were 118 and my cholesterols were within normal limits. My MD had wanted to put me on a statin, but I researched it and said "NO WAY!" Who needs joint pain and loss of cognition? Instead I did it with diet, niacin and polycosanate (might have spelled that wrong) and had blood tested again in 3 weeks. After that last test showed good results, I reduced the niacin and kept up with the diet changes. There's no need for statins unless you're in some kind of emergency. My homeopath doc agrees that you can go too far in lowering cholesterol, which the body does need. Everything in moderation.

  13. By the Bay says:

    Thanks, Wally! i was hoping I can buy any green lentils. Maybe I will try whatever lentils my grocery store has and see what comes out :)

  14. Angela says:

    Hi Sarah: what receipe are you talking of?
    I've tried some but they are very rough opposite to the smooth beans. I would thank you alot if you share with me. Thanks anyway. Angela (angelabrunfeld@aol.com-I would appreciate it). All the best.

  15. Philip123 says:

    You know I went through 4 years of med school, internship, residency and nearly ten years at the FDA and it never occurred to me until someone mentioned it that HDL and LDL are not variant types of cholesterol. Sue the molecular formula of cholesterol is C27H45OH, if I knew how I would post a picture of the structural formula for you to see. It is one thing so there are not good and bad versions of it. The two different protein molecules LDL and HDL shuttle this one thing cholesterol around the body. It is at best imprecise when people talk about good and bad cholesterol and really more likely a misleading marketing ploy.

  16. Philip123 says:

    The HDL/LDL thing is sort of picking a nit but it just annoys me that language that is passed off as scientific is used so misleadingly. Though I knew the chemistry, I also fell into the "good and bad" cholesterol meme until someone pointed out the inaccuracy. I think the more important thing is that cholesterol is not unmitigated evil as it is portrayed, it is necessary for the function of all cell membranes (along with a host of other functions) some 70% of all our cholesterol is to be found in our brains.

  17. Philip123 says:

    Yes, I didn't mention statins, but I agree with your concerns. It sounds like you may be familiar with Dr. Duane Graveline, the physician and former NASA astronaut who after experiencing transient global amnesia from statins cataloged dozens if not hundreds of similar cases and then wrote "Lipitor:Thief of memory". I hope to review his book on my website someday in the not too distant future. I think no matter how you approach it people such as Drs Ravnskov and Graveline would be considered highly credentialed in the traditional Western medicine paradigm, but their findings and views aren't, at least in my opinion, heard widely if at all.

  18. Philip123 says:

    Some of the very good evidence for a plant based diet is found in the dietary studies of the Seventh Day Adventists from a couple decades ago, However, there is also evidence of very healthy meat or fish centric diets as well. I take the position in a post on my site that as a starting point one should just not eat anything that wasn’t a food 100 years ago. Gets rid of the aspartame, bleached GM flour, high fructose corn syrup garbage they try to pass off as food these days. And if you are eating in a culturally accepted way that has been around for centuries or millenia it is quite unlikely to be harmful.

    Paul Maher, MD MPH
    http://healthjournalclub.blogspot.com/

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