What does a cholesterol-friendly diet look like? One key to improving your HDL-to-LDL ratio is limiting your intake of unhealthy fats, like saturated and trans fats. But eating the right foods can help too.
Here are 9 foods worth adding to your menu:
Consider using it as your go-to for cooking. Olive oil is packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Research has shown that a Mediterranean-style diet rich in olive oil can boost important HDL cholesterol functions like sweeping excess cholesterol out of the heart’s blood vessels, keeping them open.
Oats are loaded with soluble fiber, which can help keep bad cholesterol from being absorbed into your bloodstream. Even better? Some of that soluble fiber comes in the form of beta glucan, a type of fiber tied to lower LDL cholesterol. Getting 3 grams of beta glucan daily has been shown to improve heart health — and you can get about half that amount from 3/4 cup of dry oats.
An apple a day… you know the rest. But hey, it just might be true! The crunchy fruit is a top source of pectin, which can lower LDL cholesterol to improve your LDL-to-HDL ratio. Apples are also loaded with polyphenols. And according to a 2013 study, those polyphenols could help keep your arteries from becoming clogged or inflamed by stopping LDL cholesterol from oxidizing.
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cranberries are chock-full of antioxidant compounds like anthocyanins, phenolic acids, stilbenes, tannins, and carotenoids, which are linked to lower inflammation and healthier cholesterol levels.
The fruit serves up plenty of monounsaturated fats and fiber, both of which are key for keeping your cholesterol levels healthy. One study found that adults with higher body weights who ate an avocado each day lowered their LDL cholesterol levels more than those who skipped the creamy green fruit. More guac, anyone?
Nuts like walnuts are a good source of polyunsaturated fats — heart-healthy fats that play a key role in improving your total cholesterol ratio. And if you’re not a fan of fish, good news: Walnuts offer omega-3 fatty acids too. Help yourself to two or three handfuls a day — according to a 2010 review of 25 studies, eating that amount could help lower your LDL cholesterol by as much as 10 points.
According to a recent review of 46 studies, eating about 25 grams of soy protein per day can lower LDL cholesterol levels by 3 to 4 percent.
Just remember that not all soy foods are created equal. You’ll do the most good for your heart by choosing minimally processed soy products — choose tofu, tempeh, or miso over packaged soy burgers or deli slices. Love sipping soy milk? Steer clear of added sugar by choosing one that’s unsweetened.
These juicy little fruits pack a one-two punch for heart health. They contain antioxidant compounds and the heart-healthy fiber pectin, which help bring HDL cholesterol up and LDL cholesterol down.
It’s loaded with catechins, a family of antioxidants that have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and overall cholesterol concentration. And the more you drink, the greater the benefits seem to be. A large, long-term study found that adults who sipped five cups of green tea daily were 26 percent less likely than non-tea drinkers to die of a heart attack or stroke.