If you're already eating plenty of the following foods that lower cholesterol naturally, keep up the good work! But if your idea of eating well is to opt for thickened cream on your breakfast cereal instead of double cream, consider adding these healthy choices to your diet.
If you're looking to lower your cholesterol, the key may be simply changing your morning meal. Switching up your breakfast to contain two servings of oats per week can lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol by 5.3 per cent in only six weeks. The key to this cholesterol buster is beta-glucan, a substance in oats that absorbs LDL, which your body then excretes. Banish bland oats by topping with fruit and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.
2. Salmon & fatty fish
Omega-3 fats are one of the natural health wonders of the world and have been shown to ward off heart disease, dementia and many other diseases. Now these fatty acids can add yet another health benefit to their repertoire: lowering cholesterol. According to research from Loma Linda University, replacing saturated fats with omega-3s like those found in salmon, sardines and herring can raise HDL ("good") cholesterol by as much as 4 per cent.
If you're looking for a snack food that lowers cholesterol levels, research shows that you should get cracking. In a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who noshed on a handful of whole walnuts six days a week for one month lowered their total cholesterol by 5.4 per cent and LDL cholesterol by 9.3 per cent. Almonds and cashews are other good options. However, while nuts are heart healthy, they're also high in kilojoules, so practise portion control.
While tea has become well known for its cancer-fighting antioxidants, it is also a great defence against high LDL cholesterol levels. According to research conducted with the USDA, black tea has been shown to reduce blood lipids by up to 10 per cent in only three weeks. These findings emerged from a larger study into how tea may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
Beans, beans – they really are good for your heart. Researchers at Arizona State University Polytechnic found that adding ½ cup of beans to soup lowers total cholesterol by up to 8 per cent. The key to this heart-healthy food is its abundance of fibre, which has been shown to slow the rate and amount of absorption of cholesterol in certain foods. Try black, kidney or pinto beans: each supplies about one-third of your daily fibre needs.
Yes! This powerful antioxidant helps build HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. In a study published in AJCN, participants who were given cocoa powder had a 24 per cent increase in HDL levels over 12 weeks, compared with a 5 per cent increase in the control group. Remember to choose the dark or bittersweet kind. Compared to milk chocolate, it has more than three times as many antioxidants, which prevent blood platelets from sticking together and may even keep arteries unclogged.
Aside from adding zing to almost any dish, garlic makes the list of foods that lower cholesterol; it's also been found to prevent blood clots, reduce blood pressure and protect against infections. Now research finds that it helps stop artery-clogging plaque at its earliest stage by keeping cholesterol particles from sticking to artery walls. Try up to 2-4 fresh cloves a day, while keeping your mouth shut in meetings.
8. Olive oil
Good news: this cooking staple can help you live to 100. Olive oil is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which lower LDL cholesterol – and have the welcome side effect of trimming belly fat. Use it to make your own salad dressings, marinate chicken and fish or roast vegetables.
Popeye's go-to contains lots of lutein, the sunshine-yellow pigment found in dark green leafy vegetables and egg yolks. Lutein already has a reputation for guarding against age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. Now research suggests that just ½ cup of a lutein-rich food daily also guards against heart attacks by helping artery walls "shrug off" cholesterol invaders that cause clogging. Look for bags of baby spinach leaves that you can use for salads or to buff out a pasta dish.
Avocados are a great source of heart-healthy MUFAs, which may help raise HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL. And, more than any other fruit, avos pack cholesterol-smashing beta-sitosterol, a plant-based fat that reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food. Since avocados pack a kilojoule punch, devour in moderation.