11 Cholesterol-Lowering Foods: Garlic, Onion, and More

Has your doctor told you to lower your cholesterol? The first place to look is your plate. If you’re used to eating juicy burgers and crispy fried chicken, the thought of healthy eating may not appeal. But it turns out you don’t have to sacrifice taste for better eating habits.

A recent study has shown that a key compound in onion, quercetin, helps lower cholesterol in rodents fed a high-fat diet. Onion may play a role in preventing inflammation and hardening of arteries, which may be beneficial for those with high cholesterol.

Try tossing red onions into a hearty salad, adding white onions to a garden burger, or folding yellow onions into an egg white omelet.

Tip: Pass on the onion rings. They are not a cholesterol-friendly choice.

A 2016 review of garlic studies found that garlic has the potential to lower total cholesterol by up to 30 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

Try simmering whole garlic cloves in olive oil until soft and using them as a spread on foods you find bland. Garlic tastes better than butter, and it’s a lot healthier, especially for lowering cholesterol.

A 2016 study in the Nutrition magazine found that regular intake of shiitake mushrooms in rodents appears to have cholesterol-lowering effects. This confirms previous studies with similar results.

While shiitake mushrooms have been the subject of much of the research, many other varieties available at the grocery store or local farmer’s market are also believed to be helpful for lowering cholesterol.

A 2016 review of 10 avocado studies found that adding avocado to the diet can lower total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (also called bad cholesterol), and triglycerides. The key seems to be in the healthy types of fats found in this fruit.

Avocado is great on its own with a squeeze of lemon. You can also harness the power of the onion with the avocado by making guacamole.

Nothing gets the blood pumping (in a good way) like the heat of bell peppers. In animal studies capsaicin, a compound found in hot peppers, may play a role in reducing hardening of the arteries, obesity, blood pressure and stroke risk.

Whether you’re making a soup, a salad, or something else, bell peppers can spice up meals with a little spice. If you’re shy about spicy food, try paprika for starters. From there you can work your way up the heat scale at will.

Forget mayo or ketchup. Grab your chef’s knife and start chopping. Toss together fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, and other heart-healthy ingredients for fresh dips that make snacking healthier.

Be careful with store-bought salsa, which is often high in sodium. You may need to closely monitor your sodium intake if you have heart disease or high blood pressure.

Vegetables aren’t the only food that’s good for your heart. There is also fruit! Fruit is not only packed with vitamins and flavor, but many fruits are also rich in polyphenols. These are plant compounds believed to play a positive role in heart disease and diabetes. Some of these important fruits are:

  • apples
  • citrus
  • mangoes
  • plums
  • pears
  • grapes
  • berries

Add fruit to your meal or enjoy it as a light snack. Don’t be afraid to be creative. Have you ever tried mango salsa? This easy-to-make salsa works well as a side dish or substitute for mayo on a sandwich.

Time for some crunch! Harvard Medical School says a nut-filled diet can lower your cholesterol and your risk of heart disease. A recent research also indicates that eating nuts regularly lowers the risk of death from diabetes, infections and lung disease.

That’s good, but the taste and texture of nuts are even more appealing. Go for the unsalted variety to avoid excess sodium. Almonds, walnuts and pistachios are great as a snack and easy to add to salads, cereals, yogurt and baked goods.

When trying to follow a heart-healthy diet, the foods you don’t eat can be just as important as the foods you do eat. In addition to adding more of these cholesterol-lowering and heart-healthy ingredients to your diet, you should also cut out foods like red meat. (Sorry, but you can’t slap pico de gallo on a 4-pound burger and call it healthy.) However, you can enjoy leaner meats like turkey, chicken, and fish.

The easiest way to tell if food is good for your heart is to ask yourself if it’s fresh. This means that you prefer fresh produce to food that comes in jars, bags and boxes. You may also need to be wary of salt while watching your cholesterol. Many processed foods marketed as healthy are high in sodium, which can be bad for your heart.

11 Cholesterol-Lowering Foods: Garlic, Onion, and More

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