Oats And Barley
When it comes to heart health, we can't stop singing the praises of oatmeal. But other grains, like barley, are also healthy picks. Both are packed with fiber -- which helps keep you full for longer so you reach for the chips less.
But fiber does more than just keep you slim. Soluble fiber, the kind that the body can digest, seems to reduce the amount of cholesterol the body absorbs from the intestines, lowering total cholesterol and LDL or "bad" cholesterol in the process.
You might think that fatty fish could be detrimental to your ticker, but the right seafood can lower cholesterol for a couple of reasons. First, eating more fish might mean that you're replacing meat in your diet, and meat contains more LDL-boosting saturated fats.
Second, fish like salmon, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to lower triglycerides.
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Toss them in salads, sprinkle them on oatmeal or snack on them by the perfectly-portioned handful. Just about any variety of nut can lower total cholesterol, LDL and triglyceride levels, according to a 2010 analysis of data from 25 studies on nut consumption.
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Swapping the saturated fats found in butter for the unsaturated ones in oils is a good idea for both your waistline and your heart. Doing so can help reduce total cholesterol, but using olive oil in particular may also increase HDL, or "good" cholesterol.
A medium-sized apple contains about 4 grams of LDL-lowering soluble fiber, or about 17 percent of your recommended daily intake. An apple a day can keep the heart doctor away!
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Strawberries are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that can lower LDL. One study found that supplementing a heart-healthy diet with strawberries had similar results to adding oats to a heart-healthy diet -- and tasted better, too!
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You'll also find pectin in oranges, grapefruits and other citrus fruits. And adding more fiber to your diet can lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation, both of which help your heart.
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Beans And Lentils
Kidney, navy, garbanzos -- your favorite beans and lentils are all great sources of soluble fiber, which helps keep you full and can reduce cholesterol.
A 2008 study from Arizona State University found that people who ate a half-cup of beans a day (at the time, the recommended amount according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans) over a 24-week period lowered their cholesterol by 8 percent.
If you eat around 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day, aim for a cup and a half to two cups of beans a week.
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Like with fish, if you're eating soy, chances are you're eating less meat, which is higher in saturated fat and cholesterol. Soy is unique in the fact that it's a great source of protein, and yet it's free of any animal products, so it's also cholesterol free. However, it's not the cholesterol-busting superpower it was once touted to be. A 2010 study found that eating soy can result in a moderate 8 to 10 percent decrease in total cholesterol.
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You probably already know that a little alcohol -- in moderation of course -- is good for you. Part of the reason why? A 2000 study established that occasion clinking of glasses can raise HDL, or "good" cholesterol.
Red wine may be particularly beneficial, since it's rich in antioxidants, which may lower LDL levels.
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Like olive oil, avocados are rich in cholesterol-lowering unsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats, the ones found in the creamy green fruit, may lower LDL and raise HDL -- but probably only if you are replacing unhealthier dietary fats with these heart-healthy ones.
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The miracle drink has been linked to everything from fighting cancer to keeping the mind sharp, but few studies have truly explained why green tea is such a powerful health elixir and just how much of it you'd need to drink to see results.
While it does appear to lower "bad" cholesterol, it's only a slight reduction -- and you'd probably have to drink quite a few mugs full to see a difference. Chugging green tea isn't a good idea for everyone; it can interfere with some medications.
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