Do you “know your numbers?” High cholesterol has no symptoms, and the only way to know if your levels are healthy, or not, is to get checked.  The recommendation for those over age 20 is to be checked at least once every five years (1).

The good news: elevated cholesterol responds well to lifestyle modifications, and often individuals can improve cholesterol levels within six weeks. If you know your cholesterol needs to be improved, or you are working to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, read more to learn about foods good for high cholesterol.

Fill up with fiber. Foods good for high cholesterol

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Soluble Fiber from food can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. 5 – 10 grams or more of soluble fiber per day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol (the harmful type of cholesterol).

Soluble fiber is found in: oatmeal, flax seed, pears, apples, oranges, berries, beans, lentils, barley, carrots, peas, cucumbers, celery (and more fruits/veg).

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Enjoy fish

The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week. The highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are in: Mackerel, Lake trout, Herring, Sardines, Albacore tuna, Salmon, and Halibut.

Nutty for nuts

Walnuts, almonds and other nuts help to reduce cholesterol. Rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, walnuts also help keep your blood vessels healthy. Eating about a handful (1.5 ounces) a day of most nuts – in place of another snack that is high in fat or carbohydrate may reduce your risk of heart disease.

Enjoy nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts as part of foods good for high cholesterol. Make sure the nuts are raw or lightly salted and not coated with flavors or added sugars. Replace foods high in saturated fat with nuts; instead of using cheese, meat or croutons in your salad, add a handful of nuts.

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Healthy oil

Olive oil contains a mix of antioxidants that can lower your LDL cholesterol but leave your HDL (the good type of cholesterol) cholesterol untouched. Try using about 2 tablespoons of olive oil a day in place of other fats (butter, margarine, or lard) in your diet.

The cholesterol-lowering effects of olive oil are even greater if you choose extra-virgin olive oil, because the oil is less processed and contains more heart-healthy antioxidants.

Plant power

Foods with added plant sterols or stanols can help reduce LDL cholesterol by more than 10% (2). The amount of daily plant sterols needed for results is at least 2 grams. Products that provide sterols/stanols are: Smart Balance, Vitalicious, Benecol, Cardio Juice, Corazonas, Heart Goodness, Heartwise, and more.

Other changes to your lifestyle and diet

For any of these foods listed above to provide benefit, you will need to make other changes to your diet and lifestyle as well.

Limit harmful fat

Reduce cholesterol and total fat; specifically saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats, like those in meat, full-fat dairy products and some oils, raise your total cholesterol.

Trans fats, which are sometimes found in margarines and store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes (look for the ingredient “partially hydrogenated oil” to know if the product contains trans fats), are particularly bad for your cholesterol levels. Trans fats raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

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Help your heart

Additional heart-healthy lifestyle changes are key to lowering your cholesterol. Include frequent exercise, not smoking – smoking lowers levels of HDL cholesterol and is a major risk factor for heart disease and maintaining a healthy weight.

Exercise

Exercise lowers LDL cholesterol, and regular physical activity can raise HDL cholesterol by up to 20% (3). The benefits come even with moderate exercise, such as brisk walking.  Aim for 10,000 steps a day. If you work at a desk, get up and walk around for five minutes every hour.

Green Tea

Green Tea as a healthier beverage alternative. Research in both animals and humans has shown that green tea contains compounds that can help lower LDL cholesterol (4).

Reduce added sugars

Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. Recent evidence indicates that added sugar – in the form of table sugar (sucrose) or high-fructose corn syrup is probably a greater contributor to heart disease than is consumption of saturated fat (5).

Avoid consuming foods with added sugars, particularly soft drinks and highly processed snack foods, which can cause rapid spikes and dips in blood sugar levels.  Look for the ingredients ending in “-ose”, syrups, and fruit juice concentrates, to know if the product contains added sugars.

Relax

Emotional stress may prompt the body to release fat into the bloodstream, raising cholesterol levels. Counter stress by practicing daily breathing exercises and other stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery or tai chi.

Works Cited:

1)      http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/features/11-tips-to-cut-your-cholesterol-fast

2)     http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/features/low-cholesterol-diet-plant-sterols-stanols

3)     http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/features/exercise-to-lower-cholesterol?page=2

4)     http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03028/High-Cholesterol.html

5)     http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Added-Sugars-Add-to-Your-Risk-of-Dying-from-Heart-Disease_UCM_460319_Article.jsp

6)     http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/11-foods-that-lower-cholesterol

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