By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., Nutrition Editor, EatingWell Magazine
If you have high cholesterol you aren't alone: nearly half of all American adults have high cholesterol. Not all cholesterol is bad, though. Your body makes its own and uses it for important functions, such as producing cells and certain hormones. But too much of this waxy substance in the blood clogs arteries.
Though your genes determine how much cholesterol your body produces naturally, your diet plays a role too. If you're worried about your cholesterol, aim to eat less saturated fat (found in red meats, butter and full-fat milk and other dairy) and more fruits and vegetables. Add these foods to your diet, too, which Peter Jaret wrote about in EatingWell Magazine and research has pinpointed as cholesterol-friendly.
Substances in almond skins help prevent LDL "bad" cholesterol from being oxidized, a process that can otherwise damage the lining of blood vessels and increase cardiovascular risk.
Sprinkle almonds on cereals and salads; nibble on a handful for an afternoon snack.
The monounsaturated fats in avocados have been found to lower "bad" LDLs and raise "good" HDLs, especially in people with mildly elevated cholesterol.
Slice avocados into sandwiches and salads or mash with garlic, lemon juice and salsa for a terrific guacamole.
When volunteers in a USDA study added barley to the standard American Heart Association diet, LDL "bad" cholesterol levels fell more than twice as far.
Barley makes a great substitute for rice, adds depth to soups and is terrific combined with dried fruits, nuts and a little oil and vinegar for a hearty salad.
Recipes to Try: Heart-Healthy Dinner Recipes to Help Lower Cholesterol
4. Beans & Lentils
From a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, LDL "bad" cholesterol levels fell almost twice as far in volunteers on a low-fat diet who added beans and lentils (along with more whole grains and vegetables) to the menu.
Experiment with beans in soups, salads and dips. Tuck them into burritos, lasagna and casseroles.
Blueberries contain a powerful antioxidant called pterostilbene that may help lower LDL cholesterol.
Toss a cup of frozen blueberries together with a half-cup of orange juice and vanilla yogurt into the blender for a healthy breakfast drink. Sprinkle fresh blueberries on cereals and eat them by the handfuls for snacks.
When women in a University of Toronto study added oat bran to an already heart-healthy diet, HDL-cholesterol levels-the beneficial kind-climbed more than 11 percent.
Consider a daily bowl of oat bran hot cereal or old-fashioned oatmeal for breakfast. Oat bran muffins can also pack a tasty dose into your day.
Drinking a glass of wine with dinner-any alcoholic beverage, in fact-has been shown to raise good-cholesterol levels and lower the risk of a heart attack. (Excessive drinking, however, raises heart-disease danger.)
What do you eat to improve your cholesterol?
By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as nutrition editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.
Related Links from EatingWell: