One of the best ways to reduce or prevent high cholesterol is to cut back on the foods that cause it. Those include trans fats, often listed as “partially hydrogenated oil” on cookie and cracker packages, and saturated fats, found mostly in meat, cheese and butter. To replace those foods, eat more high-fiber plant foods and heart-healthy fats — the foods known to lower cholesterol. We list seven of these superfoods below. If overhauling your entire diet sounds too hard, try making just one change per week to make healthy changes that stick.
Week 1: Opt for oats for breakfast
Oats just might be the perfect way to start your day. They energize you, keep you regular and have more soluble fiber — the kind that kicks out “bad” LDL cholesterol — than any other grain. You don’t even have to cook them — see below for the easiest recipe ever. Other good grain choices are oat bran, barley and whole grains in general.
Week 2: Add an apple a day
Apples are high in pectin, another type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL cholesterol. Strawberries, blueberries, grapes and oranges also pack loads of pectin and other nutrients that give them their vibrant colors, so load up.
Week 3: Bet on beans for lunch
Fiber-rich beans are one of the best bets for lowering cholesterol. Eating them regularly can lower LDL by 8 milligrams per deciliter. Beans are so high in protein, they can be substituted for meat. And they’re so versatile that you can — and should — eat them every day. Try a Tex-Mex salad with pinto beans, tomatoes, avocado, corn, lime and salsa. Make a pot of lentil soup or chili. Roll up a bean burrito. Have some hummus or edamame.
Week 4: Have a handful of nuts
Snacking on a small handful (about one ounce) of walnuts, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts or pistachios every day can lower bad cholesterol by about 5 percent, studies show. The unsaturated fats in nuts are good for your heart too, unlike the saturated or trans fats in salami, cheese and many crackers.
Week 5: Savor salmon for dinner
Choosing salmon or other fatty fish instead of red meat replaces saturated fats with healthy omega-3 fats, with a net effect of lower cholesterol and a happier heart. Eat fish twice a week.
Week 6: Raise the volume on veggies
Starting this week, make a point of eating two cups of vegetables daily. Try half a cup with lunch, half a cup in the afternoon and a cup with dinner every night. Eggplant, broccoli and sweet potatoes are especially high in LDL-lowering fiber.
Week 7: Favor heart-healthy fats
Fat-free is not the goal — you need heart-healthy fats. Swap out butter and shortening for olive oil and canola oil. Your heart will thank you.
Recipe: Breakfast in 2 minutes
If you can pour cereal and milk into a bowl, you can make overnight oats. They’re that easy — even young kids can make their own. Just toss oats, milk and toppings into a jar before bed; the liquid softens the oats overnight, so there’s no cooking. Each jar packs a quick, cool energy boost to start your day, plus soluble fiber to give bad cholesterol the boot. If you thought oats were boring, change them up until you change your mind. Peanut butter-cocoa anyone?
Overnight Oats in a Jar
- Place 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats into a jar
- Add 1 cup low-fat or nondairy milk (or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup unsweetened yogurt)
- Top with your choice of toppings
- Put a lid on it, shake and refrigerate overnight
- By morning, breakfast is ready to roll — just shake, add more milk if you like and enjoy
- Sliced or mashed banana
- Fresh or frozen berries or chopped fruit
- Unsweetened applesauce
- Dash of vanilla extract or cinnamon
- Sprinkle of unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter or other nut butter
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped nuts
- Chia seeds or freshly ground flax seeds