If you need to lower your cholesterol, you probably know which foods to avoid. Favorites like eggs, butter (I disagree with these two and I will explain why at a later time), cheese, ice cream and red meat may be making fewer appearances at your dinner table. But what about foods that actually can lower your cholesterol? Three of the world’s experts in health and nutrition – The Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School and Prevention Magazine — weigh in on what foods are cholesterol friendly. Fatty fish, olive oil, beans and oatmeal are common foods that they all agree on, and you’ve probably heard about their positive effects on cholesterol levels. But there are also some foods on their cholesterol lowering lists that may surprise you.
Avocados – In a recent article in Prevention Magazine, doctors extolled the virtues of avocados as a great source of monounsaturated fat. This is the heart-healthy fat that can help to raise HDL or “good” cholesterol levels while lowering LDL cholesterol. Avocados also contain beta-sitosterol, a plant-based fat that keeps cholesterol from being absorbed. It’s easy to work avocados into your diet. Top sandwiches with fresh slices or mash a little avocado with spices as a dip or spread.
Chocolate – For years, we’ve hoped to find a diet that encouraged us to eat chocolate. While milk chocolate is still not a great choice, dark or bittersweet chocolate contains antioxidants that helps raise HDL cholesterol levels. Antioxidants are important because they prevent cholesterol from oxidizing, which can lead to atherosclerosis.
Sterols and Stanols – These substances are found in plants and block cholesterol absorption. Foods that are fortified with sterols and stanols include granola bars, orange juice and margarine. Although these foods are fortified, they are not a great source because they are highly processed. This results in added sugar, trans fats and chemical additives. Plant sterols and stanols are found in supplement form as well, but he best way to get these substances is through eating whole vegetables and fruits.. Research at Harvard Medical School shows that 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols every day can lower your LDL cholesterol by as much as 10%.
Garlic – This wonder food has been used through the years to fight against infection. It also prevents blood clots, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. Even more important, it also keeps plaque from sticking and clogging arteries. As little as two garlic cloves a day can make a difference.
Spinach – Popeye used it to grow muscles. He probably had a good cholesterol level as well. A bright yellow pigment called lutein is found in spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables as well as egg yolks. Along with protecting against macular degeneration, researchers are finding that lutein can protect your arteries as well.