Lowering Cholesterol With Diet

from Dr. Melina


Would you rather eat a heart-healthy bowl of oatmeal with sliced strawberries and almonds or take medicine to lower your cholesterol? If you chose the more flavorful option, you’d achieve nearly the same benefits, according to research evaluating a cholesterol-lowering diet done by a group of Canadian researchers.

In the past decade, we have come to understand that heart disease is not only associated with elevated cholesterol levels, it also results from inflammation and oxidative (free radical) damage. A more recent study by the same group published looked at the effect of adding strawberries, as a source of antioxidants, to improve the portfolio diet even further. They found that adding strawberries (454 grams a day, 112 calories, or about 2 servings) compared with additional oat bran bread showed an even more significant reduction in oxidative damage to LDL cholesterol, which could reduce heart disease even further.

If oatmeal and almonds do not appeal to you, keep in mind that while these researchers chose very specific foods, many other heart healthy choices abound. A few heart-healthy guidelines include:

  1. Eat from the rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables. The same compounds that give produce their bright colors provide powerful antioxidants.
  2. Experiment with whole grains like barley, think outside the box when it comes to oatmeal (healthy cookies, coating for chicken) and consider adding psyllium to your diet (which can be found in products like Metamucil) on a regular basis.
  3. Replace a portion of the animal protein in your diet with plant based protein (including beans, soy protein, and nuts).
  4. Eat nuts and seeds in moderation, however, since their high calorie count may lead to weight gain, which may offset the benefits of a heart healthy diet.

In addition, limit added sugar and salt, eat omega-3 rich fish (i.e. salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, halibut) at least twice a week (or take an omega 3 fatty acid capsule daily), get rid of excess weight, especially toxic belly fat, consider imbibing in a glass of red wine with dinner (no need to start drinking if you don’t already, but wine contains antioxidants and may help raise the good HDL cholesterol), and strive for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days.