The Countdown to Lower Cholesterol

Eat these foods to reduce your cholesterol levels…without medication

High cholesterol isn’t something to mess with. It may be the result of genetics, being inactive, being overweight, or eating the wrong kinds of foods. But no matter the cause of your high cholesterol, a reading over 200 mg/dL is concerning. High levels of cholesterol lead to the hardening and narrowing of your arteries, putting you at an increased risk for heart attack and stroke and restricting blood flow to cells and organs.

Before resorting to medication, many people with high cholesterol find that by following certain dietary restrictions, their low-density lipoprotein (LDL, a.k.a. bad) cholesterol can be lowered, and their high-density lipoprotein (HDL, a.k.a. good) cholesterol levels increase at the same time. Dietary changes that make this possible require you to limit cholesterol and saturated fat, while increasing your daily intake of fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats. Already on cholesterol-lowering medication? Eating right while continuing to take your medication will greatly increase the effectiveness of your medication. It may even reduce your need to take medicine at all.

Reducing cholesterol, however, isn’t just about cutting out harmful foods. It’s about eating the right foods. Include the following foods in your diet and watch your bad numbers go down and your good ones shoot up!

Cholesterol does not exist in vegetables. Vegetables do not clog arteries. – Jane Velez-Mitchell

1: Nuts

In the mood for a quick pick-me-up snack? Reach for a handful of nuts. High in monounsaturated fats, just an ounce or two a day can reduce your overall cholesterol by up to 10 percent. Any kind of nut will do, whether you prefer peanuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, or walnuts. Eat them plain, as a nut spread, or add them to your yogurt, oatmeal, or salad.

2: Oatmeal

Start your day off right with a cholesterol-lowering breakfast. Oats and barley are two of the best sources of soluble fiber, the part of food that actually blocks your body from absorbing bad cholesterol while lowering existing levels. Aim to eat at least 5 or 10 grams of soluble fiber a day.

3: Beans

The saying is true: beans are indeed good for your heart. This is mostly due to their high fiber content and cholesterol-reducing capabilities. Like oats and barley, beans keep your body from absorbing cholesterol from foods. There are countless varieties of beans and legumes. Add them to soups, salads, rice, tacos, dips, or eat them a side dish.

4: Red Wine

The combination of alcohol and red grapes packs a powerful punch. Moderate amounts of alcohol increase good cholesterol, while the polyphenol antioxidants found in the red grapes used to make red wine lower bad cholesterol. If you’re not a fan of red wine, you can still help your heart by snacking on red grapes or drinking 100-percent grape juice on occasion.

5: Green Tea

Numerous health studies show the power of both black and green teas to defend your body from high cholesterol. It’s unknown how much tea you need to drink to reap the benefits, but a cup or two a day of iced or hot tea is sure to help.

6: Salmon

It’s the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon that protect your heart from disease, lowering bad cholesterol and raising the good. Rather than pork or beef for dinner, eat more fatty fish like salmon, herring, or sardines.

7: Tomatoes

The red color of tomatoes comes from lycopene, a powerful antioxidant known to fight cancer and reduce LDL cholesterol. Your body is able to absorb more lycopene from cooked tomatoes, so enjoy a glass of tomato juice, pasta with tomato sauce, or a bowl of tomato soup.

8: Chocolate

Who said cholesterol-lowering foods aren’t delicious? Chocolate makes the list of foods that boost your good cholesterol levels. Choose dark or bittersweet chocolate over milk chocolate, since these two varieties contain three times as many heart-healthy antioxidants.