The old adage “you are what you eat” dates back to the 1930s (and another version even earlier), but its essence still holds true today. Simply stated, food directly impacts health. 

Cholesterol is one of the ways your doctor can measure your heart health. High cholesterol levels mean you are at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Certain foods are linked to high cholesterol. Those include processed foods like chips and cookies, fast food, processed meats like bacon and sausage, and fried foods. On the other hand, the right foods can lower your cholesterol, especially when combined with a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and managing your stress. 

Here are 10 foods to add to your diet for a healthier you

1.    Oats and whole grains. Oats and other whole grains such as barley and brown rice contain fiber that can help reduce your “bad” cholesterol known as LDL. Consider a hearty and delicious bowl of oatmeal to start your day and be sure to opt for whole grain breads and pasta too. 

2.    Omega-3 fatty acids. Certain fish including salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout are important to include in your diet because they contain what is known as Omega-3 fatty acids. This type of fat can help lower triglycerides in the blood and can also reduce inflammation. Two servings each week is ideal.

3.    Nuts. Go nuts for these little nutrient-rich powerhouses! Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and other nuts are a great snack or a delicious and healthy addition to a salad or even yogurt. Not only are they loaded with flavor, but you’ll feel full thanks to fiber and protein, and they help reduce LDL cholesterol with their healthy fats. Just be sure to limit your portions to a handful because they are high in calories. 

4.    Avocados. These delicious and versatile fruits pack a punch when it comes to nutrition. They’re a great source for monounsaturated fats, which can help raise your “good” (HDL) cholesterol while lowering your LDL cholesterol too. They have plenty of other health benefits too, so go ahead and enjoy that avocado toast, or whip up some homemade guacamole!

5.    Beans and legumes. Beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas are plant-based sources of protein that are high in fiber. They can help lower your bad cholesterol and fight heart disease while you enjoy a variety of flavors, whether in a soup, as a side dish, or as an ingredient in a meatless burger.

6.    Leafy green vegetables. Whether it’s broccoli, spinach, kale, or Brussels sprouts, these fiber-rich veggies lower your cholesterol and help keep your heart healthy. They also contain what is known as antioxidants, which can help your body fight against cancer and diabetes. 

7.    Fruits. You can think of fruit as nature’s healthy candy. Whether you opt for apples, berries, oranges, kiwi, or dragon fruit, fruits offer a delicious and sweet treat that’s loaded with fiber and antioxidants that can lower cholesterol and improve heart health. Whether as a snack or in a smoothie, be sure to add fruit to your daily diet. 

8.    Olive oil. Rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, extra virgin olive oil is the only oil that has been shown to help raise HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol. It can be used in place of saturated fats like butter or margarine that have the opposite effect. It’s also a staple in what is known as the Mediterranean Diet, consistently shown to be one of the best eating plans. Choose this healthy fat for cooking or salad dressings.

9.    Soy. Foods like tofu, tempeh, and soy milk contain plant-based proteins called soy proteins, which can help lower LDL cholesterol levels when eaten as part of a balanced diet. 

10.    Dark Chocolate. Who said eating healthy can’t include an indulgence? When you’re craving something sweet, reach for some dark chocolate, with a cocoa content of at least 70%. This delectable treat offers rich chocolate flavor while giving your body a way to lower LDL cholesterol and reduce inflammation. Enjoy! 

If your aim is to improve your overall health, start with your shopping list. Be sure to add these foods to your diet, along with regular exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits, to help lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.

For more information on how food can impact your health, visit the Nourishing section of our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog. 

Lifespan Blog Team

The Lifespan Blog Team is working to provide you with timely and pertinent information that will help keep you and your family happy and healthy.