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11 foods that lower cholesterol, from the Harvard Heart Letter

It’s easy to eat your way to a high cholesterol level. But the reverse is true, too—changing what you eat can lower your cholesterol and improve the fats floating through your bloodstream, reports the October 2009 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds to cholesterol in the digestive system and drags it out of the body. Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which lower LDL, the "bad" cholesterol. And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block cholesterol absorption. Here are some of the best choices:

Oats, barley, other whole grains, beans, eggplant, and okra. These can lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fiber they deliver.

Nuts. Studies show that daily consumption of 2 ounces of nuts—like almonds, walnuts, and peanuts—lowers LDL around 5%.

Vegetable oils. Using liquid vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, and others in place of butter, lard, or shortening helps lower LDL.

Apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus fruits. These fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber.

Food fortified with sterols and stanols. Sterols and stanols gum up the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol from food. Companies are adding them to foods ranging from margarine to orange juice and chocolate.

Soy. Eating soybeans and foods made from them can lower LDL.

Fatty fish. Eating fish two or three times a week can lower LDL by delivering omega-3 fats.

Fiber supplements. Supplements offer a way to get soluble fiber.
The Harvard Heart Letter notes that adding several foods that fight high cholesterol in different ways should work better than focusing on one or two.

Read the full-length article: "11 foods that lower cholesterol"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Heart Letter

  • CLEVER trial information
  • October 2009 references and further reading
  • 11 foods that lower cholesterol
  • After a heart attack
  • Atrial fibrillation, angioplasty drugs approved
  • Cautious confirmation for easier aneurysm repair
  • Heart Beat: Big chill for cardiac arrest
  • Heart Beat: Trial Watch
  • Ask the doctor: Does heart rate affect blood pressure?
  • Ask the doctor: Should I wait to have my aortic valve replaced?
  • Ask the doctor: Are some blood vessels more prone to blockages than others?
  • Ask the doctor: Is vinegar good for the arteries?

More Harvard Health News »

About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.