8 heart-healthy foods you need to eat

Keeping your cholesterol numbers in a healthy range just got easier, not to mention more delicious. Turns out, there are plenty of easy-to-find, yummy foods that work to boost heart health by lowering your levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol or keeping your good (HDL) cholesterol intact. Here are eight cholesterol-friendly foods to add to your diet.  

1. Avocados

Creamy, rich avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fat, which may help raise HDL and lower LDL. They’re also high in beta-sitosterol, a plant-based healthy fat.

Try it: Though healthful, avocados have 300 calories each, so your best strategy is to replace other fats with avocado. Use it instead of mayo in a sandwich, for example. [1]

2. Beans

These unassuming wonders are especially high in fiber.

Try it: Add a cup a day of any kind of bean (kidney, navy, pinto, black) to your diet -- plain, in salads or soups, or pureed into dips. [2]

3. Garlic

Those tiny cloves have great power, not to mention great flavor! Research has shown that in adequate quantities, garlic consumption may help lower total cholesterol.  [3]

Try it: Challenge yourself to add a couple of cloves a day to your meals, be it in marinades, salad dressings, soups, sauces or more.

4. Nuts

Many nuts, but in particular walnuts, are rich in cholesterol-reducing polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Try it: Eat about a handful a day of most nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio nuts), but avoid salty or sugary coatings and keep the portion small (1.5 ounces at most). Replace other fats with nuts; for example, instead of putting cheese in a salad, toss in a handful of chopped walnuts. [4] 

5. Oats

The high level of viscous soluble fiber in oats can help lower total and LDL cholesterol, although the mechanisms for how it does so are not fully known. [4,5]

Try it: Work in a serving (about 1 1/2 cups) of cooked oatmeal a day -- either regular oats or the steel-cut variety. [4] Also good: Have some cold cereal made with whole-grain oats or oat bran, [4] like Kellogg’s Fiber Plus Cinnamon Oat Crunch [5].  Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 3 grams of soluble fiber per day from whole grain oats may reduce the risk of heart disease [6].

6. Olive Oil

There’s a reason the Mediterranean diet is heart-healthy; olive oil’s mix of antioxidants and healthy fat may help to lower your LDL while leaving HDL untouched.

Try it: Replace other fats with olive oil: Use it to sauté veggies, for salad dressing, or as a dip for bread in place of butter. Extra virgin is the most cholesterol-friendly variety [4].

7. Plant sterols

These substances, found in some plants, help block cholesterol absorption.

Try it: Look for sterol-fortified foods -- typically orange juice and some butter-replacing spreads. [4]

8. Tea

The flavonoids (antioxidants) found in brewed tea have been shown to reduce LDL and total cholesterol when consumed in adequate quantities [7,8].

Try it: Research shows that five cups of black tea per day can produce these benefits, so try making tea a part of your heart-healthy diet [8].

SOURCES:

1. NYU Langone Medical Center: Avocado

http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=42466

Accessed 6/4/2013

2. Mayo Clinic: Dietary Fiber: Essential for a healthy diet

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fiber/NU00033

Accessed 7/29/2013

3. Khalid Rahman and Gordon M. Lowe

Garlic and Cardiovascular Disease: A Critical Review

J. Nutr. March 2006. 136(3) 736S-740S

4. Mayo Clinic Cholesterol Top 5 Foods to Lower Your Numbers

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/CL00002/METHOD=print

Accessed 7/29/2013

5. Kellogg’s Fiber Plus Cinnamon Oat Crunch Cereal

http://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/kelloggs-fiberplus-cinnamon-oat-crunch-cereal.html

Accessed 9/2/2013

6. FDA CFR Code of Federal Regulations Title 21

http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=101.81

Accessed 9/2/2013

7. Zheng XXXu YLLi SHLiu XXHui RHuang XH.

Green tea intake lowers fasting serum total and LDL cholesterol in adults: a meta-analysis of 14 randomized controlled trials.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Aug;94(2):601-10.

8. Michael J. Davies, Joseph T. Judd, David J. Baer, Beverly A. Clevidence,David R. Paul, Alison J. Edwards, Sheila A. Wiseman, Richard A. Muesing,and Shirley C. Chen

Black Tea Consumption Reduces Total and LDL Cholesterol in Mildly Hypercholesterolemic Adults

J. Nutr. 2003 133: 3298S-3302S
by the Publishers of Prevention