Nearly 2 in 5 adults in the United States have high cholesterol. People with high cholesterol may be at risk for heart disease and stroke — two leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Simple dietary changes can lower cholesterol and improve heart health.
Incorporating foods that promote “good” cholesterol and reduce “bad” cholesterol, such as oats and legumes, is a simple way to improve health and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. cerebrovascular.
It’s important to note that dietary changes can help lower cholesterol levels, but talking to a healthcare professional is the best option for improving cholesterol health.
Let’s take a look at six foods that are proven to help lower cholesterol.
What is “bad” cholesterol?
Cholesterol is carried in the blood by proteins called lipoproteins. There are two types of these lipoproteins – one considered “bad” and the other “good,” according to the CDC. There are two lipoproteins:
- LDL (low-density protein): It is considered the “bad” cholesterol, although it makes up the majority of cholesterol in the body. High levels of LDL in the blood can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
- HDL (high density protein): It is considered the “good” cholesterol. It helps remove other forms of cholesterol from the blood. High levels of HDL in the blood are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
What foods help lower cholesterol?
The soluble fiber in oats reduces LDL cholesterol and may also help improve cardiovascular health, research shows.
“Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which lowers your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the ‘bad’ cholesterol,” reports the Mayo Clinic. “Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your blood.”
In a 2017 study, researchers had a group of participants consume a serving of oats twice a day for a month. Researchers found that people who ate oats (compared to the control group) saw an 11.6% reduction in their LDL cholesterol levels in just 28 days.
Oats can easily be incorporated into a healthy diet through oat-based cereals, oat-based granolas, or traditional oatmeal.
2. Nuts – especially almonds and walnuts
According to Harvard Health, just a handful of nuts a day can lower LDL cholesterol and improve heart health.
“Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fat, which may help lower LDL cholesterol levels, especially when they replace saturated fat in the diet,” reports Medical News Today. “Nuts are also high in fiber, which prevents the body from absorbing cholesterol and promotes its excretion.”
In a large 2018 review, authors found that incorporating almonds into a diet could reduce LDL cholesterol levels while maintaining HDL cholesterol levels.
A recent study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation reports that eating about half a cup of nuts every day for two years reduced “bad” cholesterol levels.
Legumes include beans, lentils and peas. These foods are high in protein and fiber, and replacing red meat with legumes can help lower bad cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Research shows that eating just half a cup of legumes per day can significantly lower LDL cholesterol compared to a no-legume diet.
“Legumes are rich in fiber, especially soluble viscous fiber, which not only slows its absorption in the small intestine, but also binds certain cholesterol-related molecules,” reports Harvard Health. “This makes legumes very low in glycemic index and load, meaning they lead to lower blood sugar and less insulin released after eating them. This fiber also lowers cholesterol levels.
In a clinical study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, more than 100 participants with type 2 diabetes consumed 1 cup of legumes daily for three months – this was linked to a significant decrease in cholesterol, blood pressure , blood sugar, waist and body measurements. weight.
Avocados are a nutrient-dense, heart-healthy fruit with healthy fats and no cholesterol. Eating just one avocado per day can significantly lower LDL cholesterol while maintaining HDL cholesterol, according to the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“Research suggests that fiber in avocados may improve HDL cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol quality,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Adding two servings of avocado per week to a heart-healthy diet may reduce your risk of heart disease.”
5. Oily fish
Eating fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and trout regularly can help reduce triglycerides – a fat found in the blood – and increase good cholesterol due to high levels of omega fatty acids. -3, reports the Mayo Clinic.
“Eating fish two or three times a week can lower LDL in two ways: by replacing meat, which contains saturated fats that boost LDL, and by providing omega-3 fats that lower LDL, reports Harvard Health. “Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the blood and also protect the heart by helping to prevent the occurrence of abnormal heart rhythms.”
A 25-year study of more than 4,300 American adults found that those who consumed the most non-fried fish had the lowest risk of developing metabolic syndrome and the healthiest HDL cholesterol levels.
The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week – especially oily fish – and replacing meat or poultry with fish.
6. Dark chocolate
The high levels of cocoa in dark chocolate may lower LDL cholesterol levels, research shows.
Daily consumption of dark chocolate can reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the short term, reports a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It can also increase HDL cholesterol. A study published in the Journal of Diabetic Medicine found that people who incorporated dark chocolate into their diet for two months had a significant increase in their HDL cholesterol levels.
It’s important to note that dark chocolate is healthier in moderation, as some dark chocolates contain high amounts of sugar and/or saturated fat. It is also a high-calorie food.
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