07_39_51_thumbA field of golden oats

Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthful fats are important parts of a heart-healthy diet, and there are some foods especially good at helping reduce cholesterol levels.

The soluble fiber in some foods, such and oats and barley, binds cholesterol in the digestive system and drags it out of the body before it can circulate in the blood.

Other foods contain polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower “bad” cholesterol, aka LDL.

And some plant sterols and stanols prevent cholesterol absorption.

Here are 5 good choices:

Oats.  A breakfast of oatmeal or a cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios in the morning gets your cholesterol level moving in the right direction.  These grains give you 1-2 grams of soluble fiber; a banana or some strawberries gives another half gram.

(Dried) beans.  These are another food rich in soluble fiber with the added weight-loss attraction of leaving you feeling full for longer after a meal.  There are many types of beans available and a multitude of ways to serve them.

Nuts.  Numerous studies demonstrate the value of eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts and other nuts for a healthy heart.  Just 2 ounces daily can lower LDL about 5%.  Nuts contain other nutrients that benefit the heart in other ways.

Foods fortified with sterols and stanols.  Sterols and stanols, available as supplements, are extracted from plants and help reduce the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol from food.   Companies are adding them to foods from margarine and granola bars to orange juice and chocolate.  Two grams of plant sterols or stanols daily can lower LDL by about 10%.

Fatty fish.  Eating salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring support heart health in two ways:  First, they replace LDL-boosting saturated fats in meat at a meal, and second, they’re high in LDL-lowering omega-3 fats.  Omega-3s offers heart protection by reducing triglycerides in the bloodstream and by protecting the heart from the onset of abnormal rhythms.

Here are 2 unhealthy choices:

Saturated fats.  Saturated fats boost LDL and are found in red meat, milk and other dairy foods, and in coconut and palm oils.  Consider substituting lean cuts of red meat for regular; skim or low-fat dairy for whole, olive oil or a vegetable-oil margarine for butter; baked fish or chicken for fried.

Trans fats.  Trans fats go through the process of hydrogenation that turns a liquid oil into a solid, as found in margarine, and they’re much worse for the heart than are saturated fats.  Both fats increase LDL in the body, but trans fats additionally lower HDL, the “good” cholesterol, spur inflammation, and increase the tendency for blood clots to form inside blood vessels.

Though many companies now use trans-free alternatives, some restaurants and fast-food chains still use trans fats.


Source:  Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, December 22, 2012


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