The best meal for anyone worried about their cholesterol is a meal low in saturated fat and abundant in fruits and vegetables. And although there are no magic bullets beyond that healthy prescription, certain foods have been shown to give cholesterol levels an extra nudge in the right direction.
Weave some of these whole foods, all pinpointed by research as cholesterol-friendly, into your daily diet, and be sure to try some of our heart-healthy recipes below.
1. Alcohol: Drinking a glass of wine with dinner – any alcoholic beverage, in fact – has been shown to raise good-cholesterol levels and lower the risk of a heart attack. Excessive drinking, however, raises heart disease risk.
2. Almonds: Substances in almond skins help prevent LDL “bad” cholesterol from being oxidized, a process that can otherwise damage the lining of blood vessels and increase cardiovascular risk.
Tip: Sprinkle almonds on cereals and salads, nibble on a handful for an afternoon snack.
3. Avocados: The monounsaturated fats in avocados have been found to lower “bad” LDLs and raise “good” HDLs, especially in people with mildly elevated cholesterol.
Tip: Slice avocados into sandwiches and salads or mash with garlic, lemon juice and salsa for a terrific guacamole.
4. Barley: When volunteers in a USDA study added barley to the standard American Heart Association diet, LDL “bad” cholesterol levels fell more than twice as far.
Tip: Barley makes a great substitute for rice, adds depth to soups and is terrific combined with dried fruits, nuts and a little oil and vinegar for a hearty salad.
5. Beans and lentils: From a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, LDL “bad” cholesterol levels fell almost twice as far in those volunteers on a low-fat diet who added beans and lentils (along with more whole grains and vegetables) to the menu.
Tip: Experiment with beans in soups, salads, and dips. Tuck them into burritos, lasagna and casseroles.
6. Blueberries: Blueberries contain a powerful antioxidant called pterostilbene that may help lower LDL cholesterol.
Tip: Toss a cup of frozen blueberries together with a half-cup of orange juice and vanilla-flavored yogurt into the blender for a healthy breakfast drink. Sprinkle fresh blueberries on cereals and eat them by the handfuls for snacks.
7. Oats: When women in a University of Toronto study added oat bran to an already heart-healthy diet, HDL-cholesterol levels – the beneficial kind – climbed more than 11 percent.
Tip: Consider a daily bowl of oat bran hot cereal or old-fashioned oatmeal for breakfast. Oat bran muffins can also pack a tasty dose into your day.