While your total cholesterol may rise with age, it’s the LDL, or harmful cholesterol, you have to keep an eye on, say experts. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) collects along the walls of your arteries and can trigger an inflammatory response that boosts your risk of having a heart attack.
According to Harvard Health, your LDL should be 100 mg/dl or lower. Changing your diet may help keep your numbers in check, said Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“As the American Heart Association has noted, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck by lowering saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fat,” said the dietitian. Cut back on meat, cheese, and high-dairy products like butter and ice cream. Avoid refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta, which are low in fiber and can trigger weight gain.
The following foods are good sources of unsaturated fat or fiber — sometimes both — and can help keep your cholesterol under control.
- Oatmeal. Start your day with a bowl of steel-cut, old fashioned oats, say the experts at Harvard Health, topped with sliced bananas or chopped dried fruit.
- Avocado. The creamy flesh is rich in monounsaturated fat and also contains insoluble fiber. Avocados also have more potassium than bananas. Potassium is a crucial mineral that helps regulate blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart attacks.
- Nuts. According to Healthline, nuts are rich sources of fiber and can lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Almonds and hazelnuts have been shown to raise levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol. Tasty macadamia nuts have been scientifically proven to reduce overall cholesterol levels as much as a low-fat diet.
- Berries. Because these fruits are packed with tiny seeds, their fiber content is higher than most fruit. One study, according to Healthline, showed that participants who drank a beverage made with freeze-fried strawberries lowered their LDL cholesterol by 11 points in 8 weeks.
- White beans. This variety of beans, also called navy beans, ranks the highest in fiber content, according to Harvard Health. Add them to soups or salads.
- Carrots. Not only are they good for your eyes, carrots have insoluble fiber that does your heart good.
- Cauliflower. This hearty, cruciferous vegetable that’s chock-full of fiber makes an excellent substitute for white rice. You can buy the vegetable already riced in the frozen food section of your supermarket or whirl it in a food processor.
- Salmon. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish two times a week, particularly fatty fish like salmon, to lower LDL levels. Fatty fish are higher in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation and remove triglycerides from the blood.
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