With building research, scientists and healthcare practitioners are understanding more clearly the significant role food plays in preventing chronic illness and early death. The “food as medicine” movement helps people take control over their health by making better dietary choices that curb weight gain, control blood sugar, and lower cholesterol to protect the heart.
According to the Mayo Clinic, eating certain foods can help keep cholesterol numbers lower and reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease. Decreasing the consumption of foods that are high in saturated and trans fats can also lower your LDL (“bad” cholesterol) by 8 to 10 percent. Meat, butter, cheese, and other full-fat dairy products, as well as trans fats, are foods that can raise your LDL cholesterol levels.
The top foods to improve cholesterol numbers include oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples, and pears which are all high in soluble fiber. Fatty fish like mackerel, herring, tuna, salmon, and trout contain omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce triglycerides in the blood as well as lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of developing blood clots. Walnuts, flaxseed, and canola oil also contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Avocados are not only a heart-healthy source of fatty acids, but they are also high in fiber. But instead of eating them with high-fat corn chips in guacamole, try them on whole-grain toast or with fresh veggies. Olive oil is another healthy fat that can replace butter and other fats in the kitchen as part of a healthy vinaigrette or marinade.
Some foods are also fortified with plant sterols and stanols that help block the absorption of cholesterol. Whey protein may also help lower LDL and total cholesterol and blood pressure. To help lower your cholesterol levels to either avoid or eventually get off statin drugs, experts recommend eating fresh, unprocessed foods rich in fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and low in saturated fats – think a Mediterranean-style diet.
Always talk with your doctor before starting, or stopping, any prescription medication or supplement.