Over 100 million Americans have high cholesterol and many rely on conventional drug therapy to lower their levels. Drugs can cause unwanted side effects, can be toxic to the liver, and are extremely carcinogenic. Although deaths from heart attacks have decreased in people taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, deaths from non-cardiovascular problems have increased.
Some people may require drugs (until they can bring their cholesterol to safe levels) but many can lower their levels by eating the right foods. Below is a list of foods that help to lower cholesterol. Studies have shown that including these foods in the diet can work just as well as drugs.
Oatmeal is high in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber can lower “bad” cholesterol by reducing its absorption from the intestines to the bloodstream.
10-25 grams of soluble fiber should be included in your daily diet. Other foods include oat bran, barley, nuts and seeds, beans, peas, and some fruits and vegetables such as apples and artichokes.
Not only are nuts a good source of fiber, they are high in healthy polyunsaturated fats which help lower cholesterol levels and maintain strong blood vessels. Walnuts, according to studies, can significantly reduce levels. Other nuts (such as almonds, peanuts, and pecans) also appear to have the same effects.
Nuts are high in calories so they should be limited to about a handful a day.
Certain fish (including salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and herring) are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 is a heart-healthy (polyunsaturated) fat that decreases cholesterol levels, reduces high blood pressure, and lowers the risk of blood clots.
It is recommended to eat at least 2 servings of fish a week. Baked fish is best. Do not fry. Flaxseed and canola oil are other good sources of omega 3. Supplements are available but food is preferred because they offer many other valuable nutrients.
Olive oil is high in healthy monounsaturated fats (mainly oleic acid) and antioxidants. It has been shown by studies to lower “bad” cholesterol and raise “good” cholesterol.
For best results, it is suggested to take about 2 tablespoons of olive oil a day (preferably extra-virgin).
Plant Sterols and Stanols
Sterols and stanols are natural substances found in plant foods (in small amounts), including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Their structure is similar to cholesterol which actually helps prevent cholesterol in the digestive tract from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
Because sterols and stanols are so powerful in lowering cholesterol, manufacturers now add it to foods, including orange juice and cereals.
The above list of foods that help to lower cholesterol can be beneficial but it is also important to avoid foods that raise cholesterol and to exercise regularly.
- Michael Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (1998)
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