13 foods that lower cholesterol to add to your diet

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world.

Having high cholesterol levels, especially "bad" LDL, is related to an increased risk of heart disease (1).

"Good" HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides are also associated with an increased risk (2).

Your diet has a powerful effect on your cholesterol and other risk factors.

Here are 13 foods that can lower cholesterol and improve other risk factors for heart disease.

1. Legumes

Foods that lower cholesterol

Legumes, also known as legumes, are a group of plant foods that include beans, peas and lentils.

Legumes contain a lot of fiber, minerals and proteins. Replacing some refined grains and processed meats in your diet with legumes can lower your risk of heart disease.

A review of 26 randomized controlled studies showed that eating 1/2 cup (100 grams) of legumes per day is effective in reducing "bad" LDL cholesterol by an average of 6.6 mg / dl, compared to not eating legumes (3) .

Other studies relate pulses to weight loss, even in diets that do not restrict calories (4).

Summary Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils can help reduce "bad" LDL levels and are a good source of plant-based proteins.

2. Avocados

Avocados are an exceptionally nutrient-rich fruit.

They are a rich source of monounsaturated fats and fats, two nutrients that help reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol and raise "good" HDL cholesterol (5).

Clinical studies support the cholesterol-lowering effect of avocados.

In one study, overweight and obese adults with high LDL cholesterol who ate an avocado daily reduced their LDL levels more than those who did not eat avocados (6).

An analysis of 10 studies found that replacing avocados with other fats was associated with lower total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides (7).

Summary Avocados provide monounsaturated fatty acids and fiber, two nutrients that are healthy for the heart and for reducing cholesterol.

3. Walnuts - Especially almonds and walnuts

Walnuts are another exceptionally nutrient-rich food.

They are very high in monounsaturated fats. Walnuts are also rich in the plant variety of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat associated with heart health (8).

Almonds and other nuts are particularly rich in L-arginine, an amino acid that helps the body produce nitric oxide. This, in turn, helps regulate blood pressure (8, 9).

In addition, nuts provide phytosterols. These plant compounds are structurally similar to cholesterol and help reduce cholesterol by blocking their absorption in the intestines.

Calcium, magnesium and potassium, which are also found in nuts, can lower blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease.

In an analysis of 25 studies, eating 2-3 servings of nuts per day decreased "bad" LDL cholesterol by an average of 10.2 mg / dl (10).

Eating a daily serving of nuts is linked to a 28% lower risk of fatal and nonfatal heart disease (8).

Summary Nuts are rich in fat and fiber to lower cholesterol, as well as in minerals related to the improvement of heart health.

4. Fatty fish

Fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, are excellent sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3s reinforce heart health by increasing "good" HDL cholesterol and reducing inflammation and the risk of stroke.

In a large study of 25 years in adults, those who ate most of the non-fried fish were the least likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a set of symptoms that included high blood pressure and low "good" HDL levels (11) .

In another large study in older adults, those who ate tuna or other baked or grilled fish at least once a week had a 27% lower risk of stroke (12).

Keep in mind that the healthiest ways to cook fish are steamed or stewed. In fact, fried fish can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke (13).

Fish is an important part of the Mediterranean diet, which has been widely studied for its benefits for heart health (14, 15).

Some of the benefits for the heart protection of fish can also come from certain peptides found in fish protein (16).

Summary Fatty fish offer high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and are linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

5. Whole grains - Especially oats and barley

Extensive research links whole grains to a lower risk of heart disease.

In fact, a review of 45 studies linked the daily intake of three servings of whole grains with a 20% lower risk of heart disease and stroke. The benefits were even greater when people ate more servings (up to seven) of whole grains per day (17).

Whole grains keep all parts of the grain intact, which gives them more vitamins, minerals, plant compounds and fiber than refined grains.

While all whole grains can promote heart health, two grains are particularly notable:

  • Oats: It contains beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that helps reduce cholesterol. Eating oatmeal can reduce total cholesterol by 5% and "bad" LDL by 7% (18).

  • Barley: It is also rich in beta-glucans and can help reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol (19).

Summary Whole grains are linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Oats and barley provide beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that is very effective in reducing "bad" LDL cholesterol.

6. Fruits and Berries

Fruit is an excellent addition to a heart-healthy diet for several reasons.

Many types of fruit are rich in soluble fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol levels (20).

To do this, it encourages your body to get rid of cholesterol and prevents your liver from producing this compound.

A type of soluble fiber called pectin reduces cholesterol by up to 10%. It is found in fruits such as apples, grapes, citrus fruits and strawberries (21).

The fruit also contains bioactive compounds that help prevent heart disease and other chronic diseases due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Eating berries and grapes, which are particularly rich sources of these plant compounds, can help increase "good" HDL and reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol (22).

Summary The fruit can help reduce cholesterol and improve heart health. This is largely caused by its fiber and antioxidants.

7. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa

Cocoa is the main ingredient of dark chocolate.

It may seem too good to be true, but research verifies claims that dark chocolate and cocoa can reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol (23).

In one study, healthy adults drank a cocoa drink twice a day for a month.

They experienced a reduction in "bad" LDL cholesterol of 0.17 mmol / l (6.5 mg / dl). His blood pressure also decreased and his "good" HDL cholesterol increased (24).

Cocoa and dark chocolate also seem to protect the "bad" LDL cholesterol in the blood from oxidation, which is a key cause of heart disease (25).

However, chocolate is often high in added sugar, which adversely affects the health of the heart.

Therefore, you should use cocoa alone or choose dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 75 to 85% or more.

Summary Flavonoids in dark chocolate and cocoa can help lower blood pressure and "bad" LDL cholesterol while increasing "good" HDL cholesterol.

8. garlic

Garlic has been used for centuries as an ingredient in cooking and as a medicine (26).

It contains several potent plant compounds, including allicin, its main active compound (27).

Studies suggest that garlic lowers blood pressure in people with high levels and may help reduce total and "bad" LDL cholesterol, although the latter effect is less strong (27, 28, 29).

Because relatively large amounts of garlic are needed to achieve this protective effect of the heart, many studies use aged supplements, which are considered more effective than other garlic preparations (30).

Summary Allicin and other plant compounds in garlic can help reduce LDL cholesterol and reduce other risk factors for heart disease.

9. Soy foods

Soy is a type of legume that can be beneficial for heart health.

While the results of the study have been inconsistent, recent research is positive.

An analysis of 35 studies linked soy foods with the reduction of "bad" LDL and total cholesterol, as well as with the increase of "good" HDL cholesterol (31).

The effect seems stronger in people with high cholesterol.

Summary There is some evidence that soy foods can reduce the risk factors for heart disease, especially in people with high cholesterol.

10. Vegetables

Vegetables are a vital part of a heart-healthy diet.

They are rich in fiber and antioxidants and low in calories, which is necessary to maintain a healthy weight.

Some vegetables are particularly high in pectin, the same soluble fiber that reduces the cholesterol that occurs in apples and oranges (21).

Pectin-rich vegetables also include okra, eggplant, carrots and potatoes.

Vegetables also offer a range of plant compounds that offer many health benefits, including protection against heart disease.

Summary Vegetables are rich in fiber and antioxidants and low in calories, which makes them a healthy choice for the heart.

11. you

Tea harbors many plant compounds that improve the health of your heart.

While green tea gets a lot of attention, black tea and white tea have similar properties and health effects.

Two of the main beneficial compounds in tea are:

  • Catechins It helps activate nitric oxide, which is important for healthy blood pressure. They also inhibit the synthesis and absorption of cholesterol and help prevent blood clots (32, 33).

  • Quercetin: It can improve the function of blood vessels and decrease inflammation (34).

Although most studies associate tea with "bad" and lower total LDL cholesterol, research is mixed in its effects on "good" HDL cholesterol and blood pressure (35).

Summary Drinking tea can help reduce cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

12. Dark leaf greens

While all vegetables are good for the heart, dark green leafy vegetables are particularly beneficial.

Dark green leaves, such as kale and spinach, contain lutein and other carotenoids, which are linked to a lower risk of heart disease (36).

Carotenoids act as antioxidants to eliminate damaging free radicals that can lead to hardened arteries (37).

Dark leaf greens can also help lower cholesterol levels by binding to bile acids and causing your body to excrete more cholesterol (38).

One study suggested that lutein reduces levels of oxidized "bad" LDL cholesterol and could help prevent cholesterol from attaching to arterial walls (39).

Summary The dark green leaves are rich in carotenoids, including lutein, which are related to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

13. Extra virgin olive oil

One of the most important foods in the healthy Mediterranean diet for the heart is extra virgin olive oil.

A five-year study gave older adults at risk of heart disease 4 tablespoons (60 ml) a day of extra virgin olive oil along with a Mediterranean diet.

The olive oil group had a 30% lower risk of major cardiac events, such as stroke and heart attack, compared with people on a low-fat diet (40).

Olive oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids, the kind that can help raise "good" HDL and reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol.

It is also a source of polyphenols, some of which reduce inflammation that can lead to heart disease (41).

Summary Olive oil, a major component of the Mediterranean diet, provides monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants that stimulate the heart.

The bottom line

High cholesterol levels are a major risk factor for heart disease.

Fortunately, you can reduce this risk by incorporating certain foods into your diet.

Increasing your intake of these foods will put you on the path to a balanced diet and keep your heart healthy.

Reference: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-foods-that-lower-cholesterol-levels


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