Nearly 2 in 5 adults in the United States suffer from high cholesterol, putting them at risk of heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the country. While speaking to a medical professional is the best option for improving cholesterol health, making simple dietary changes can also have a significant impact. Incorporating certain foods into your diet can help lower cholesterol and improve heart health. Let’s take a look at six proven foods that can help lower cholesterol.
Research shows that the soluble fiber in oats can lower LDL cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health. A study found that participants who consumed a serving of oats twice daily for one month experienced an 11.6% reduction in LDL cholesterol levels. Oats can be easily incorporated into a healthy diet through oat-based cereals, granolas, or traditional oatmeal.
2. Nuts — especially almonds and walnuts
Just a handful of nuts every day can lower LDL cholesterol and improve heart health. Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fats, which can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. They are also rich in fiber, which helps prevent cholesterol absorption. Incorporating almonds into a diet can reduce LDL cholesterol levels while maintaining HDL cholesterol levels. Consuming about a half-cup of walnuts each day for a two-year duration has been found to lower “bad” cholesterol levels.
Legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas are protein and fiber-rich foods that can lower bad cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Eating just a half-cup of legumes daily can significantly reduce LDL cholesterol compared to diets without legumes. The soluble fiber in legumes slows their absorption in the small intestine and binds cholesterol molecules, resulting in lower blood sugar levels and decreased cholesterol levels.
Avocados are a nutrient-dense, heart-healthy fruit that contains healthy fats and no cholesterol. Eating just one avocado every day can significantly lower LDL cholesterol while maintaining HDL cholesterol levels. The fiber in avocados improves cholesterol levels, and adding two servings per week to a heart-healthy diet can lower the risk of heart disease.
5. Fatty fish
Regularly eating fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and trout can help reduce triglycerides and increase good cholesterol due to their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and help prevent abnormal heart rhythms. Consuming non-fried fish is linked to the lowest risk of developing metabolic syndrome and healthy levels of HDL cholesterol.
6. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate with high levels of cocoa can lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. Consuming dark chocolate daily can lower LDL cholesterol levels in the short term. However, it’s important to consume dark chocolate in moderation as some varieties can be high in sugar and saturated fats.
By incorporating these foods into your diet, you can effectively lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health. Remember to always consult with a medical professional for personalized advice and guidance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why is it important to lower cholesterol?
High cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the United States. Lowering cholesterol can help prevent these serious health conditions.
Is medication necessary to lower cholesterol?
In many cases, lifestyle changes, including dietary modifications, can effectively lower cholesterol levels. However, some individuals may require medication to manage their cholesterol levels. Consult with a medical professional to determine the best approach for your specific situation.
Can I still enjoy foods I like while lowering cholesterol?
Yes, it is possible to enjoy a wide variety of foods while lowering cholesterol. By incorporating heart-healthy options like the ones mentioned in this article, you can improve your cholesterol levels without sacrificing taste and variety in your diet.
How long does it take to see results from dietary changes?
The time it takes to see results from dietary changes can vary from person to person. However, research has shown that incorporating cholesterol-lowering foods into your diet can lead to significant improvements in just a few weeks or months.
Are there any risks associated with lowering cholesterol through diet?
In general, adopting a heart-healthy diet is safe and beneficial. However, it’s important to consider individual dietary needs and any underlying health conditions. Consulting with a medical professional can help ensure that dietary changes are appropriate and safe for you.