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Thread: Cholesterol-Reducing Foods
11-17-2008, 09:05 PM #1
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By Dustin Driver
When you have high cholesterol, everybodyís always telling you what you canít eat. You're told that all the things that really make a meal worthwhile -- such as bacon, butter, red meat, sausage, and puff pastry -- are strictly off-limits. Youíre left with sprouts, spinach and whole-wheat toast. But donít despair: Some tasty and decadent foods can actually lower your cholesterol levels. So go ahead, eat up. It could save your life.
There are two kinds of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is known as ďbadĒ cholesterol because it clumps in the arteries and blocks blood flow. HDL is called ďgoodĒ cholesterol because it tends to scrape the LDL off the artery walls as it passes through your bloodstream. This means that high HDL levels are an asset, while high LDL levels are a problem.
Your body produces all the cholesterol it needs. Anything extra is a result of your diet, lack of exercise, and more likely than not, stress. That means that you can change your cholesterol levels by changing your diet. The following foods have been shown to either lower LDL or raise HDL cholesterol levels.
Walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which keep blood vessels supple and healthy. Almonds harbor the same fatty acids and have a similar effect. But before you go shoveling the mixed nuts into your mouth, take notice: Nuts are very high in calories and you only need a handful of them each day to do the trick. Studies have shown that one-third of a cup of walnuts is enough to make a big difference, lowering LDL cholesterol levels by as much as 12%.
The people at Quaker were right: Oatmeal really is heart-healthy. The grain is high in soluble fiber, which ensnares cholesterol in your intestines before it gets a chance to enter your bloodstream. Eat about a cup and a half of cooked oatmeal a day and watch your cholesterol numbers drop.
If you get sick of oatmeal, there are plenty of other options: Kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples, pears, barley, and prunes contain tons of soluble fiber. Try to get about 10 grams of the stuff a day; itíll decrease your LDL levels by about 5%.
Eskimos have great hearts -- literally. Eskimos in Greenland have a lower rate of heart disease than others on the frozen island. Why? Itís all the fish they eat. Fish contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which lower bad cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure and the risk of getting blood clots. But not all fish is created equal. Mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon have the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Try to get about three servings of fish a week. If you happen to hate fish, try adding some flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil or soybean oil to your diet. All are high in omega-3 fatty acids and can be mixed into dishes without imparting big flavors.
Plant sterols and stanols
They donít sound particularly appetizing, but plant sterols and stanols can significantly lower your cholesterol. Like soluble fiber, sterols and stanols wrap themselves around cholesterol while itís in your intestines. They do a really good job of it, too: Products with sterols in them can reduce your cholesterol level by as much as 10%.
So, where can you find sterols and stanols? Oddly enough, you can find them in fortified orange juice. Several new juices are loaded with sterols. Just look for them on the label. For the best results, try to get about two grams of sterols a day, which turns out to be about one glass of orange juice.
Who needs an excuse to chow down on baked beans? Just as long as you leave the ham hawks out of the mix, beans -- lima, kidney, black, lentils, and other dried beans -- are very high in soluble fiber. And soluble fiber, youíll remember, blocks cholesterol before you can absorb it. Just half a cup of beans a day has been shown to reduce cholesterol.
Fruits and veggies
Itís always a good idea to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. When you have high cholesterol, however, itís doubly important to eat several servings a day. Fruits and veggies have lots of soluble fiber, so eat at least five servings a day for ultimate benefits. But before you throw a fit, remember that a serving is only half a cup. The best fruits and veggies -- the ones that contain the most fiber -- are apples, citrus fruits, berries, carrots, apricots, prunes, cabbage, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts.
eat your heart out:
If youíve led a life of dietary debauchery, donít expect these foods to cure your cholesterol problems overnight. Theyíll help, but youíll need to get more exercise and relaxation, and you'll have to cut back on high-fat foods to really make a difference. If you do all these things, thereís a good chance youíll lower your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.