Cholesterol, which is produced in the liver, has many important health functions, such as keeping the walls of your cells flexible and assisting in the manufacture of hormones. But according to Healthline, too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to clogged arteries, strokes, heart attacks and kidney failure.
While statin drugs can lower your cholesterol, they come with potential side effects and experts say you do not always have to rely on these medications to reduce your levels.
“I have often told my patients to consume more garlic, onions, and extra virgin olive oil in their salads to improve cholesterol levels,” Dr. Stephen Sinatra, a leading integrative cardiologist and co-author of The Great Cholesterol Myth, tells Newsmax. “Many were able to achieve a better cholesterol profile by simple dietary changes, including restricting sugar at the same time.”
Experts at Harvard Medical School say that adding foods that help lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, is a key factor in reducing the amount of harmful cholesterol-carrying particles that float through the bloodstream and can lead to clogged arteries.
Try these 8 foods that can help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels:
- Beans. Beans are rich in soluble fiber, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol in the digestive system, removing it from the body before it can do damage. Eating beans can aid in weight loss, which can contribute to reducing cholesterol, because they take longer to digest and leave you feeling fuller, longer.
- Garlic. Garlic supplements, as well as eating the herb as Sinatra recommends, are effective in reducing the LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels in people with elevated cholesterol, says WebMD. If you are taking blood thinning medications, check with your doctor before considering supplements.
- Healthy fats. Fats that are liquid at room temperature, which are found in foods like olive oil, canola oil, and the oils in nuts and seeds are good examples. “You can also benefit from the oil in avocados and fish,” says cardiologist Dr. Elizabeth Klodas. “Plant and fish-based oils are a good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These help lower LDL, raise HDL, and lower triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood.) They are also anti-inflammatory,” Klodas adds.
- Eggplant and okra. Consuming these two low-calorie, fiber-rich vegetables that are rich in soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol levels.
- Oats. This traditional breakfast food is an easy way to help lower your cholesterol. Start your day with a bowl of oat-based cereal, like Cheerios, for breakfast, and later in the day for a snack. Barley and other whole grains work well, too.
- Nuts. Several studies have shown that eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts are effective, says Harvard Health Publishing. Cashews not only lowers the “bad,” LDL cholesterol, but also increases the levels of HDL, called the “good” cholesterol, according to research.
- Fatty fish. Having two to three servings of fatty fish each week can help lower nasty LDL. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish, such as salmon and tuna, not only lower LDL levels, but also reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream.
- Apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus fruit. These foods are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL levels in the blood.