Have High Cholesterol Levels? Reduce Them With These Foods
What you can eat to help lower your cholesterol
Adopting my Pan-Asian Mediterranean (PAM) diet can help you achieve healthy cholesterol levels and improve both your general cardiovascular health and overall health. But adding the following foods to your diet on a regular basis will help you reap even more cholesterol-lowering benefits:
Soy isoflavones are potent cholesterol killers. Isoflavones (including genistein and daidzein) are phytoestrogens that prevent oxidized LDL cholesterol from building up and forming artery-clogging plaque. In fact, a summary of 38 studies reported in The New England Journal of Medicine indicated soy’s impressive ability to lower LDL cholesterol while simultaneously increasing healthy HDL cholesterol. But because allergies to soy are common, and the over-consumption of soy can raise the potential for adverse reactions in people who are sensitive to it, I don’t recommend eating soy on a daily basis, but rather two or three times per week. Keep in mind that there are fermented and unfermented soy foods, with fermented soy foods, such as tempeh, miso, fermented tofu, and natto, tending to be healthier options.
Flaxseeds are perfect for lowering cholesterol. They contain essential fatty acids, high quality protein, vitamins, precious phytonutrients, and lignans, as well as soluble and insoluble fiber—all of which help to lower cholesterol. In fact, research on adding soluble fiber to the diet shows that it can reduce total cholesterol by 11 percent and LDL cholesterol by 18 percent over a two- to three-week period.
Many of my patients have lowered their cholesterol and lost weight by drinking what I call a “Joe’s Flax Shake” daily. Just add two tablespoons of ground organic flaxseed to 8–10 ounces of soy milk. This shake makes a great (and delicious) meal replacement and, when followed with 1–2 glasses of water, will diminish your appetite for the next meal.
Research shows that beta glucan, a water-soluble fiber in oatmeal, oat bran, and oats, helps to lower cholesterol by forming a gel-like material that inhibits the absorption of cholesterol. It’s an established fact that heart patients who eat two ounces of oat bran daily for six weeks can expect up to a 10 percent reduction in their cholesterol.
One of the best ways to incorporate oats into your daily meal planning is to eat oatmeal for breakfast. Punch up the flavor by adding some fresh organic berries.
These plant-based foods are not only are rich in fiber, but they also contain high amounts of vital plant nutrients called phytosterols, which have tremendous effects on the circulatory system. Specifically, phytosterols have the ability to lower LDL cholesterol levels because they interfere with cholesterol absorption. Find out more about the cholesterol-lowering effects of phytosterols and see a list of good food sources of phytosterols.
In a population study of the Polynesian islands of Tokelau and Pukapuka, investigators tracked folks who consumed a high-fat diet derived primarily from coconuts—every one of their meals contained coconut in one form or another. The researchers reported that their overall health was much more favorable than that of Westerners and that despite a diet high in saturated fat, the participants did not seem to have high cholesterol (saturated fat is usually broken down into cholesterol).
The truth is, even though coconut oil is a highly saturated fat, it’s the oil least vulnerable to oxidative stress and free-radical formation. And because coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids—not the long-chain fatty acids in most fats/oils—it doesn’t raise cholesterol levels and even has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. A good way to get coconut oil into your diet is to use it for cooking. And of course, you can also eat coconut and drink coconut milk.
Apples are a cholesterol-lowering superfood because they are loaded with phytonutrients and fiber, which have been shown in studies to help lower cholesterol. There is no question that apples should be a staple in any cholesterol-lowering diet. Add chopped apples to salads and cereal, bake them into bran muffins, or just munch on one as a daily snack.
Dark chocolate is rich in oleic acid, a fatty acid that helps lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. Furthermore, chocolate’s flavonoids have been shown to be instrumental in preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and inhibiting blood platelet clumping. My favorite brand is Chocolove, a premium Belgian chocolate sold online (www.chocolove.com) and in select natural foods stores, including Whole Foods Markets. Chocolove products have a high cocoa content, but their “strong dark” bar with 70 percent cocoa provides the best balance between taste and health benefits. I eat dark chocolate at least once a week, but no more than one ounce at a time, savored slowly.
More Dr. Sinatra Advice on Lowering Cholesterol Through Diet
Want an easy way to get more cholesterol-lowering fiber into your diet? Discover how juicing can help lower your cholesterol levels.
What three simple dietary changes can you make to lower your cholesterol levels? Learn three ways to change your daily eating that will lower your cholesterol in just four weeks.
What type of dietary fat wreaks the most havoc on your cholesterol levels? Find out how trans fats both lower your “good” HDL cholesterol and raise your “bad” LDL cholesterol.
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Meet Dr. Sinatra
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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