LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is the best gauge of your risk for heart attack and stroke, even more so than total cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association. An optimal LDL cholesterol level is below 100 milligrams per deciliter. Limiting risk factors, such as smoking, and following a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help you achieve healthy LDL levels. In addition, there are a number of specific foods and supplements that can help you quickly reduce your LDL cholesterol.
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Bump Up the Fiber
Soluble fiber may be one of the most-effective tools for reducing LDL cholesterol. That's because it binds with cholesterol and effectively removes it from the digestive system before it can circulate in your body. Beans are particularly rich in soluble fiber. Other foods that contain soluble fiber include oats, barley and other whole grains. Certain fruits contain another type of soluble fiber, pectin, which also lowers LDL. These include apples, citrus fruits, strawberries and grapes.
Nuts and Oils
Nuts and oils contain important fats that can counteract the buildup of LDL cholesterol. A study published in 2005 in "Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases" noted that the cholesterol-lowering effect associated with nuts is primarily due to their fatty-acid profile. Researchers compared the cholesterol-lowering effects of nuts to a cereal that contained canola oil. They concluded that both a 30-gram serving of nuts and the cereal with canola oil were able to reduce total and LDL cholesterol. Foods with fatty-acid profiles similar to nuts, such as oils, will have comparable effects. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, a 1-ounce serving of nuts, at least five times a week, is associated with a significantly lower risk for cardiovascular disease. ChooseMyPlate.org notes that the daily allowance for oils, which are found in nuts, fish, cooking oils and salad dressings, is between 5 and 7 teaspoons for adults.
For an easy way to get a high dose of soluble fiber in a single sitting, consider fiber supplements. In particular, psyllium husk supplements have been shown to be very effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels. A study published in 2008 in "Phytomedicine" found that psyllium husk reduced LDL cholesterol after three weeks of supplementation. Researchers concluded that psyllium husk is a suitable therapeutic option for lowering cholesterol in people with mild to moderately elevated cholesterol levels.
Fatty Fish and Garlic
Fatty fish can lower your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides when consumed two to three times a week in place of meat. Smart choices include salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, sardines and herring. In addition, the omega-3 fats in fish can help protect your heart. Garlic is unique in that it can help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. An article published in "The Journal of Nutrition" in 2001 notes that only oxidized LDL, not native LDL, promotes vascular dysfunction. According to the article, garlic supplementation in humans can help prevent atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries caused by the buildup of plaque, through an increased resistance to LDL oxidation.
- American Heart Association: What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean
- Harvard Heart Letter: 11 Foods that Lower Cholesterol
- Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases: Cholesterol Lowering Effects of Nuts Compared with a Canola Oil Enriched Cereal of Similar Fat Composition
- Phytomedicine: Cholesterol Reduction Using Psyllium Husks - Do Gastrointestinal Adverse Effects Limit Compliance? Results of a Specific Observational Study
- The Journal of Nutrition: Suppression of LDL Oxidation by Garlic
- Linus Pauling Institute: Nuts
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: How Much Is My Allowance for Oils?
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids