A cardiologist shares the 5 foods she eats every day to lower cholesterol—and keep a ‘healthy heart’

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As a cardiologist who has treated thousands of patients, one of the most common health concerns I come across is high cholesterol. But the solution doesn’t always have to come from a pill, which can have side effects.

The foods we eat play a major role in keeping those cholesterol numbers low. The best part is that you don’t have to put tons of restrictions around your diet in order to see positive changes.

Although there is great individual variation to dietary cholesterol, just making a few tiny improvements in your eating habits can yield significant reductions in LDL cholesterol — or the “bad” cholesterol that contributes to fatty buildups in arteries.

Here are five inexpensive foods I eat regularly to help lower cholesterol and keep my heart healthy:

1. Oatmeal and oat bran

2. Almonds

A 2018 study found that almonds can lower LDL cholesterol while maintaining or even increasing HDL cholesterol — or the “good” kind that helps remove other forms of cholesterol from your bloodstream.

If you’re not a fan of almonds, other options that have been shown to improve cholesterol levels include hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts and pistachios.

3. Chia seeds

Chia seeds supply plenty of essential omega-3 fatty acids. Increasing consumption of these healthy fats by even one gram per day has been associated with a 16% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular issues. 

Although omega-3 fatty acids have relatively little effect on LDL, they can help raise HDL cholesterol and help lower triglycerides, a type of fat found in your blood.

4. Broccoli

Studies have demonstrated a connection between consuming vegetables and reducing the risk of heart disease. 

Broccoli in particular is plentiful in soluble fiber, which does wonders for high cholesterol. Other cholesterol-busting vegetables to consider include spinach, Brussels sprouts and collard greens.

In addition to supplying a multitude of vitamins and antioxidants, eating vegetables regularly has been shown to help lower cholesterol, with higher intakes associated with progressively lower LDL levels. 

5. Watermelon

Swap the sugar snacks for some sweet watermelon if you want to lower your cholesterol. Watermelon naturally contains lycopene, which has lipid lowering properties, reducing total and LDL cholesterol.

For those who aren’t big on watermelon, consider adding apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits or even avocados to your diet. All of these are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL cholesterol.

Dr. Elizabeth Klodas is a cardiologist and founder of Step One Foods. Trained at Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins, Dr. Klodas has published dozens of scientific articles throughout her career, authored a book for patients, “Slay the Giant: The Power of Prevention in Defeating Heart Disease” and served as founding editor-in-chief of Cardiosmart.org.

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