Approximately 71 million adults suffer from high cholesterol, and only a third of these have it under control. (1) Considering that the condition significantly increases the risk of heart disease, management of high cholesterol is critically important. (2) While many Americans turn to prescription meds to control their cholesterol levels, there is a safer and more permanent approach: changing your diet. Read on to learn our picks for 10 amazing diet secrets to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease.
These vibrantly colored soybeans have a sweet taste and an even sweeter body benefit: They're rich in soluble fiber and isoflavones, both of which reduce cholesterol levels. An added benefit? Edamame is packed with protein -- a delicious and do-gooding snack!
We all know that breakfast is an important way to keep your body fueled throughout the day. Why not multiply the energizing effects of your morning meal by reaching for the oats? Foods like oatmeal and oat-based cereals offer cholesterol-reducing properties thanks to a high soluble fiber content. Just how much can oat consumption reduce your cholesterol levels? Up to 7 percent! (3)
3. Green Tea
While black tea can also lead to decreased cholesterol levels, green tea is particularly effective, because it is prepared from leaves that have not undergone the fermentation process. The result? A higher concentration of cholesterol-lowering antioxidants called catechins.
Yes, this "musical fruit" is good for your heart, but why? Beans are high in soluble fiber, which binds cholesterols during the digestive process and propels them from the body. From kidney beans to black-eyed peas and from lentils to limas, beans are versatile, tasty and an important partner in the fight against high cholesterol.
If you restrict your nut intake because of their high caloric content, reconsider. An abundance of research shows that nuts -- including peanuts, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds and others -- are rich in plant sterols, which prevent the absorption of cholesterol. Just a handful a day -- up to two ounces -- is all you need. (4)
Creamy, flavorful antioxidant avocados contain oleic acid, which not only lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol but also gives good cholesterol a boost. As if that's not enough, avocados are loaded with fiber and beta-sitosterol, a plant chemical which helps moderate cholesterol levels.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but pectin-packed pears aren't too shabby either -- particularly when it comes to lowering cholesterol. In fact, fresh pears surpass apples in pectin content, which ushers cholesterol from the body before it is absorbed. To maximize fiber intake, don't peel the skin: just wash and eat. Peaches, oranges and bananas are also loaded with this beneficial type of fiber.
Don't feel guilty about eating that bowl of whole-wheat pasta; just slather it in tomato sauce to help keep cholesterol in check. Tomatoes are bursting with lycopene, a plant compound which lowers LDL cholesterol levels. Cooked and processed tomatoes enhance lycopene absorption, so stock up on tomato juice, tomato soup and other tomato-based treats.
While eggplant may not immediately come to mind when pondering cholesterol-reducing foods, this purple plant offers a multitude of health benefits, including controlling LDL cholesterol levels. In fact, some research has shown that including eggplant in a meal lowers cholesterol by up to 30 percent thanks to its high soluble fiber content. (5) Okra also falls into the category of little known cholesterol-reducing veggies.
The benefits of a plant-based diet are increasingly evident, but sometimes you need to go fish. Salmon, lake trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and other fatty fish are high in LDL-reducing omega-3 fatty acids. Just how beneficial is eating fish? The American Heart Association's recommends its consumption at least twice weekly. (6)
If you suffer from high cholesterol, don't reach for the pills. Instead, try these 10 foods which offer a simple -- and delicious -- way to reduce your cholesterol and enjoy optimal heart health.