For many people, developing a healthy diet is a long-term or even lifelong process of learning about your body’s needs and the benefits of specific nutrients within various foods. If you’re making an effort to improve your health via your diet, one way to get measurable results is by honing in on specific goals, such as lowering your cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance within your body that aids in metabolism and other important functions. However, too much of a good thing isn’t good anymore, and high cholesterol can be harmful to your health. It’s a symptomless condition in most cases, but your physician can detect it with a blood test.
Cardiologist Jeffrey H. Graf, MD, encourages his patients on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York, to take inventory of their diets and make an effort to choose healthy foods for meals and snacks. While there are plenty of foods that raise your cholesterol when you eat too much of them, there’s also a surprising number of foods that improve your cholesterol health.
1. Beans and legumes
A staple in many diets around the world, beans are rich in soluble fiber, an indigestible part of many plant-based foods. Soluble fiber plays an important role in lowering cholesterol because it prevents dietary cholesterol from being broken down and digested entirely. Therefore, you get less cholesterol in your blood than you would otherwise.
It’s important to note that high-sodium foods do not work in your favor when it comes to your cholesterol health. Therefore, look for low-sodium options while purchasing canned beans or cook your own dried beans.
Whether or not you’re one to enjoy a bowl of oatmeal in the mornings, you should find a way to incorporate oats in your diet if you want to improve your cholesterol health. Like beans, oats are extremely rich in soluble fiber to help combat high cholesterol.
The average person in the United States only gets about half the amount of soluble fiber they ideally need. Enjoying oatmeal and other foods that contain oats can help you get closer to the recommended amount.
3. Berries and other fruits
Fruit is easy to include in your diet as there are so many different varieties and flavors. Favorites like strawberries, pomegranate, blueberries, and bananas all contain plenty of soluble fibers to help you avoid the buildup of cholesterol in your blood.
Although fruit is a healthy snack as opposed to other options like chips and candy, watch your portion sizes because of the amount of sugar in fruit.
4. Fish and seafood
Salmon, tuna, herring, and other fatty fish are excellent additions to a cholesterol-friendly diet, especially if you use them to replace red meats.
Seek fish that contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help lower low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) carrying cholesterol in the blood — dubbed the “bad” type of cholesterol. “Good” cholesterol, or cholesterol carried by high-density lipoproteins (HDL), goes to your liver, which filters it out of your blood.
5. Plant-based fats
If you’d like to lower your cholesterol, one of the most beneficial dietary adjustments you can make is trading out saturated fats like butter and margarine for plant-based fats like avocados and olive oil. These heart-healthy options not only reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, but they also increase HDL in your blood to help filter out cholesterol.
Familiarizing yourself with cholesterol and its role within your body is a great starting point for improving your cholesterol health through a healthy diet. Find out more about foods that promote lower cholesterol by scheduling a consultation with Jeffrey H. Graf, MD, today.