Join Date: Feb 2007
Another article from the Healthy Living Newsletter today that I thought y'all would like.
8 Foods That Help Lower Cholesterol
By Arthur Agatston, M.D., Special to Everyday Health
From beans and legumes to red wine and chocolate, food and drink can help you get your cholesterol levels down.
My patients often ask me if there are any foods that can help with reducing high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is the so-called "bad" cholesterol that can cause artery-clogging plaque to form in your coronary artery walls, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. My answer is a qualified "Yes," since high LDL can be the result of many factors, including poor genes, obesity, and lack of exercise. For this reason, not everyone will react to dietary changes the same way, and optimal LDL levels are different for every individual.
Frequently, too much LDL is the result of a diet rich in saturated fats (usually from animal foods such as beef, butter, lard, and whole-milk dairy products) and trans fats (found in processed and fast foods). Eliminating these foods from your diet is a good first step in improving your LDL. Then try adding some or all of the following LDL-lowering foods every day. If you're already on a statin, dietary changes may help you reduce your dosage, but never reduce or stop taking a statin drug (or any other heart drug) without first consulting your doctor.
Beans: Pintos and Garbanzos Stand Out
All types of beans and other legumes — pinto, red, white, navy, black, garbanzos, limas, and lentils, for example — are excellent sources of soluble fiber, which binds to cholesterol-laden bile salts in the small intestine and promotes their excretion along with waste. When this happens, the liver must use more cholesterol to produce more bile salts, therefore lowering the amount of cholesterol in the body available to make LDL. Studies indicate that consumption of as little as 1/2 cup of cooked beans per day can lower LDL cholesterol by an average of 8 percent. Pintos and garbanzo beans seem to have the best effect.
Apples: Fiber and Antioxidant Rich
As with beans, apples are an excellent source of LDL-lowering soluble fiber, primarily pectin. Research also shows that eating an apple a day (or better yet, two) can slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol thanks to antioxidant polyphenols found primarily in the skin (so don't peel them). Antioxidants are important because when LDL cholesterol interacts with free radicals to become oxidized, it is more likely to promote inflammation and plaque build-up in the arteries.
Nuts and Seeds: Protein Plus
Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are all excellent sources of protein, heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. When substituted for saturated fat in the diet, nuts and seeds have been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol (and total cholesterol) without affecting levels of good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Since nuts and seeds are calorie-dense, you'll need to limit your daily intake to about 1 ounce (1/4 cup) and also make sure the nuts aren't salted or coated with sugar.
Oats and Oat Bran: Just a Little Every Day
Oats and oat bran contain beta-glucan, a water-soluble fiber that has been found to help reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol circulating in the blood. Studies show that a daily intake of at least 3 grams of oat beta-glucan may reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 7 percent on average. That's the amount in 1/4 cup of uncooked oat bran (enjoy it as a hot cereal or add it to smoothies and baked goods) or 1½ cups of cooked steel-cut oatmeal. It is also believed that polyphenolic antioxidant compounds found in oat bran, called avenanthramides, can help prevent inflammation and plaque build-up by keeping blood cells from sticking to artery walls.
Green Tea: Loose Leaves Work Better
All varieties of antioxidant-rich tea (white, black, green, oolong) can help lower LDL, but green tea, which is particularly rich in the powerful antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has shown the best results in lowering LDL levels — by about 2 percent. Unlike other teas, which are made from fermented leaves, green tea leaves are steamed, which prevents the EGCG from being oxidized. While some studies have been done with an intake of 7 or more cups a day, drinking a few cups of green tea daily should help and will keep you from getting too much caffeine. Preparing your green tea with loose tea, rather than tea bags, provides more EGCG.
Red Grapefruit: A 20 Percent Difference
Eating just one red grapefruit daily for a month can help to lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 20 percent, one study showed, most likely due to the liminoids and lycopene found in the pulp. Grapefruit also contains the soluble fiber pectin, which contributes to LDL lowering. Because grapefruit can enhance the effect of certain heart medications, such as statins and calcium channel blockers, if you're on one of these drugs, check with your doctor before eating grapefruit or drinking the juice.
Red Wine: A Toast to Resveratrol
A plant-based chemical known as resveratrol, found in the red grapes used to make red wine, has been shown to lower blood levels of LDL cholesterol. It also appears to protect against coronary artery disease, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, a glass of red wine with a meal can help prevent the constriction of blood vessels that can follow a fatty meal and lead to atherosclerosis and heart attack. If you don't drink, don't start now: You can get resveratrol from red, black, and purple grapes outright, and from blueberries, cranberries, and even peanut butter. If you do drink, limit your consumption of red wine to one or two 5-ounce glasses a day.
Plant Sterols and Stanols: Watch Your Portions
Plant sterols and stanols, collectively known as "phytosterols," are substances that are naturally present in small quantities in vegetable oil (corn, soybean), nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and even dark chocolate. Studies show that consuming 2 grams of sterols/stanols daily can lower LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 6 percent and perhaps by as much as 14 percent in as little as four weeks. This blocks cholesterol absorption in the small intestine, which in turn helps lower LDL. Because it is difficult to get this amount directly from fresh foods, many products are being fortified with sterols and stanols. These include vegetable oil spreads (choose the light varieties), orange juice, and fat-free milk, among other products. Look at labels carefully, since the calories in many of these products can add up quickly and sidetrack the best of heart-healthy intentions.