HDL does its best to remove the bad LDL from the blood vessels and arteries. If the HDL gets too low, this will cause a dangerous, life threatening buildup of LDL. Luckily, there is a great variety of foods that can help bring up the good HDL.
Listed below are some of the top LDL fighting foods that you should keep stocked in your kitchen.
Some people can’t stand them, others can’t get enough of them, but it’s undeniable- avocados are an exceptionally nutrient-dense fruit that pack a real punch. They’re a rich source of monounsaturated fats and fiber — two nutrients that help reduce the LDL and increase the HDL cholesterol.
Many clinical studies have proven that avocados have an impressive effect on our LDL and nip it in the bud. In one study, overweight and obese adults with high LDL cholesterol who ate one avocado daily lowered their LDL levels more than those who didn’t eat avocados. An analysis of 10 other studies determined that substituting avocados for other fats was linked to lower LDL and triglycerides.
If you find avocados unpalatable, no need to worry. Nuts, especially almonds and walnuts, are an excellent alternative. Nuts are very high in those good monounsaturated fats. Walnuts are also rich in the plant variety of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat associated with heart health.
Almonds and other nuts are also particularly rich in L-arginine, an amino acid that helps your body make nitric oxide. This nitric oxide helps regulate blood pressure. Better yet, nuts provide phytosterols. These plant compounds are structurally similar to cholesterol and help lower LDL cholesterol by blocking its absorption in your intestines.
Calcium, magnesium and potassium, also found in nuts, may reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of heart disease. In an analysis of 25 studies, eating 2–3 servings of nuts per day decreased “bad” LDL cholesterol by an average of 10.2 mg/dl. Eating a daily serving of nuts is linked to a 28% lower risk of both fatal and nonfatal heart disease.
Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, are excellent sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s boost heart health by increasing “good” HDL cholesterol and lowering inflammation and stroke risk.
In one extensive, 25-year study in adults, those who ate the most non-fried fish were the least likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that includes high blood pressure and a deficiency in “good” HDL levels. In another clinical study that involved adults and seniors, those who ate tuna or other baked or broiled fish at least once a week had a 27% lower risk of stroke.
Fish is a major part of the tried and true Mediterranean diet, which has proven to have benefits for heart health. Some of the heart-protective benefits of fish may also come from certain peptides found in fish protein.
While all vegetables are good for your heart and overall health, dark leafy greens are particularly beneficial. Kale and spinach contain lutein and other carotenoids, which are linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Carotenoids act as antioxidants to get rid of harmful free radicals that can lead to hardened arteries.
Dark leafy greens may also help lower LDL cholesterol levels by binding to bile acids and making your body excrete more of that unwanted cholesterol.
One study suggested that lutein lowers levels of oxidized “bad” LDL cholesterol and could help prevent it from binding to artery walls.
Fruit is a great addition to a heart-healthy diet for several reasons. Many types of fruit are rich in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol levels. It encourages your body to get rid of cholesterol and stops your liver from producing this compound.
Pectin lowers LDL by up to 10%. It’s found in many fruits, especially apples, grapes, citrus fruits and strawberries. Fruit also contains bioactive compounds that help prevent heart disease and other chronic diseases, due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Eating berries and grapes, which are particularly rich sources of bioactive compounds, can help increase HDL and lower LDL.
Chocolate lovers, rejoice! – It may seem too good to be true, but research has verified that dark chocolate and cocoa can in fact lower LDL cholesterol. In one study, healthy adults drank a cocoa beverage twice a day for a month. They experienced a reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol of 0.17 mmol/l (6.5 mg/dl). Their blood pressure also decreased and their “good” HDL cholesterol increased.<p. So go ahead, enjoy that crunchy dark chocolate bar or that nice cup of hot cocoa. However, chocolate is often high in added sugar — which negatively affects heart health. Therefore, use pure cocoa alone or choose dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 75–85% or higher.
If you’re taking certain medications for other health conditions, let your doctor know before you make any changes to your diet. Some foods may mitigate their effectiveness or cause you harm.