High cholesterol runs in my family, so I really need to watch what I eat in order to keep cholesterol at a healthy level. Your total cholesterol shouldn't exceed 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter). Your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels should be 100 mg/dL or less, and your HDL (good) cholesterol levels should be 60 mg/dL or above. If you have high cholesterol, it puts you at risk for heart disease, so here are five foods to include in your diet to help lower your levels.
- Nonfat dairy products: Since foods high in saturated fat raise cholesterol levels, cut back on whole milk, full-fat yogurt, ice cream, and cheese. Look for versions that are lower in fat or contain no fat.
- Oatmeal and oat bran: Oats contain soluble fiber which is proven to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Not a fan of oats? Eat apples, pears, quinoa, beans, berries, or carrots. Aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day.
- Foods rich in omega-3s: Research proves that omega-3s have cholesterol-lowering properties, so load up on fatty fish such as salmon, swordfish, or halibut. Omega-3s are also found in flaxseeds, walnuts, and edamame.
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- Walnuts and other nuts that are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids: Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios, and sunflower seeds are also on this list. Eat just a handful a day since nuts are also high in calories.
- Olive oil: The FDA recommends two tablespoons a day to reap the heart-healthy benefits. Olive oil contains antioxidants that can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels but don't affect your HDL (good) cholesterol.
Diet alone isn't the only thing that can help lower cholesterol. Be sure to exercise daily, quit cigarettes if you're a smoker, and lower your sodium intake to 2,300 mg or less a day. Also cut back on other foods besides dairy products that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol such as meat and eggs, and avoid foods made with hydrogenated oil.