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Food Do’s and Don’ts for Cholesterol Control

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Your genes determine how much cholesterol your body makes naturally for cell and hormone production. Nearly half of American adults struggle with high cholesterol that clogs arteries. Besides following your prescription drug regimen, fuel your body with healthier foods to regulate your cholesterol.

Enjoy Cholesterol-Fighting Beverages and Foods

Consume these health boosters often.
  •  Alcohol. Drink just one alcoholic beverage with dinner to raise good HDL cholesterol.
  • Oats. A study of women who added oat bran to their heart-healthy diets found that good HDL cholesterol rose over 11 percent. Enjoy oatmeal, hot oat bran cereal or one oat bran muffin daily.
  • Barley. When USDA study volunteers added barley to the American Heart Association’s standard diet, bad LDL cholesterol dropped over twice as much. Enjoy barley in salads and soups. Substitute it for rice.
  • Blueberries. Antioxidants help lower bad LDL cholesterol. Sprinkle fresh blueberries on oatmeal or dry cereal. Use these nutritional powerhouses in soy yogurt and homemade popsicles or alone as snacks.
  • Strawberries. After several studies demonstrated strawberries’ antioxidant benefits, new research revealed they also help lower cholesterol. Eating strawberries daily for a month reduced participants’ bad cholesterol and triglycerides significantly.
  • Avocados. This good fat-filled food’s oleic acid, fiber and nutrients improve cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats lower bad LDLs and raise good HDLs, especially if you have mildly elevated cholesterol. Add avocado slices to salads and sandwiches. Sprinkle them with sea salt for snacks. Make guacamole by mashing avocado with garlic, lemon juice and tomatoes.
  • Beans and lentils. Cholesterol- and transfat-free pinto, black, navy, great northern and garbanzo beans along with lentils and chickpeas are rich in fiber. Soluble fiber helps lower total cholesterol, bad LDL and triglycerides (fat). Studies showed eating a half-cup of cooked beans per day for two months lowered cholesterol 20 points. Another study found bad LDL cholesterol dropped almost twice as much when people on low-fat diets added beans and lentils with increased whole grains and vegetables. Enjoy beans alone and in dips, salads, soups, rice, chili, casseroles, tacos burritos and fajitas.
  • Sweet potatoes. These healthy veggies are more like carrots than russets. Beta-carotene promotes cardio health.
  • Garlic. This immune system cleanser is rich in sulfur compounds, so it can help ward off high cholesterol. Add garlic to marinades, sauces, soups and pastas.
  • Almonds. Substances in almond skins help prevent bad LDL cholesterol oxidation, which otherwise can damage your blood vessel lining and increase cardiovascular risk. Sprinkle almonds on cereals, salads and vegetables.
  • Walnuts. Loaded with an Omega-3 fatty acid, walnuts optimize heart function. Add them to cereals, salads and soy yogurt.

Avoid High-Transfat Drinks and Foods

Transfats raise bad LDL cholesterol and lower good HDL. Although some meat and dairy products contain small amounts naturally, seem to be most harmful. Food manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil so resulting transfats will help foods stay fresh longer. But transfats may be difficult to digest, so your body recognizes them as dangerous saturated fats. Nutrition labels round down transfat content so 0 grams transfats actually may mean less than 0.5 grams per serving. Check ingredient lists. Fully and completely hydrogenated oils are fine. But avoid partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated vegetable oil. These are some of the worst high-transfat offenders to avoid.
  • Frozen and creamy drinks. Shakes and beverages made with cream, whole milk and ice cream can be loaded with transfats.chol2
  • Non-dairy creamer. You’re adding more than flavoring to coffee when you use non-dairy creamer. Avoid transfats by switching to fat-free, 1 percent or evaporated skim milk.
  • Pancake and waffle mixes. Skip breakfast mixes with high transfats. Make small portions from scratch instead with unsaturated omega-3-rich oil.
  • Refrigerated dough. Cinnamon roll, biscuit and cookie dough that comes in refrigerated tubes is loaded with transfats. Make your own with wholesome ingredients and unsaturated omega-3-rich oil.
  • Doughnuts. To avoid transfats, skip these high-cholesterol fried treats. Eat a bran or English muffin instead.
  • Fried foods. French fries, fried chicken and other fried dishes are notorious transfat and high-cholesterol foods. Instead of deep frying, sauté or pan fry foods in small amounts of liquid olive or canola oil.
  • Fast food. Skip fried foods, items loaded with cheese sauce and condiments, fried desserts, cookies and pies. Many fast-food chains offer heart-healthy menu options so you can avoid excess transfats. Choose salads, grilled fish or chicken, baked chips or baked potatoes. Ask for condiments on the side and add them sparingly. Order a yogurt treat or fresh fruit for dessert.
  • Cake mixes and canned frostings. Many dessert mixes and toppings have high transfat amounts. If you find a transfat-free mix, check the ingredients. Shortening has trace amounts. Bake from scratch instead. Substitute natural applesauce for oil or use unsaturated omega-3-rich oil. Sprinkle powdered sugar on cakes instead of high-cholesterol butter cream frostings.
  • Stick margarine. For years, cholesterol-conscious people believed stick margarine was better than stick butter. But it’s loaded with transfats. Choose a soft tub margarine or spray with less saturated– transfats and calories.
  • Butter-flavored microwave popcorn. Avoid popcorn loaded with salt, high-cholesterol butter, transfats and other unhealthy ingredients. Air pop kernels and add flavors. For a sweet treat, try honey and cinnamon.

Make Healthy Choices

Combining your cholesterol prescription with increased health-enhancing foods and limited high-transfat fare can help you control your cholesterol and enhance your quality of life.  

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