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About Cholesterol

First, a quick explainer: Cholesterol is a waxy substance that travels through your bloodstream, but not all of it is bad. HDL cholesterol (a.k.a. “good” cholesterol) actually sweeps away LDL cholesterol, or the “bad” kind. A high LDL level puts you at risk for heart attacks and strokes because it can clog arteries with plaque, a condition called atherosclerosis. A blood test can determine whether you have high cholesterol, and your doctor may recommend exercise or medication in addition to a healthier diet.

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Black Beans

A half cup of black beans contains just 100 calories and packs up to 8 grams fiber and about 8 grams protein. Eating adequate fiber (at least 25 grams per day) can help decrease LDL levels, reducing your risk of heart disease.

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Apples

Science agrees: An apple a day may in fact keep your cardiologist away. Evidence has shown that frequent apple consumption may reduce total cholesterol. That’s thanks to the phenolic compounds found in apple skins — a.k.a. the antioxidant compounds that promote healthy cellular function and proper blood flow.

60+ of the greatest things you can make with apples »

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Pecans

Pecans are chock-full of monounsaturated fatty acids, a type of fat linked with improving total cholesterol levels. Another benefit of these tasty tree nuts: Pecans are filled with plant-based antioxidants— including beta carotene and vitamin E — that protect cells from damage from chronic inflammation.

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Sweet Potatoes and Squash

Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, parsnip, and other good-for-you tubers are lower in calories, filled with fiber, and chock-full of potassium and beta-carotene, both of which protect against heart disease.

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Oats

Oats contain a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which is linked with lowering LDL levels. It does this by absorbing water in your GI tract and removing excess saturated fat before it enters your bloodstream.

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Lentils

Lentils are pulses, a.k.a. the dry edible seeds of certain crops (like beans, chickpeas, and peas). Pulses are just everywhere these days because they’re packed with plant-based protein and fiber, not to mention antioxidants, minerals, and B vitamins. All of those compounds help protect you from plaque buildup while optimizing blood flow and assisting your body in efficiently using the nutrients you consume.

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Walnuts

Eating walnuts regularly was linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, according to data from the Nurses’ Health Study. Eating as little as one serving of these nuts each week can lower your chances of cardiovascular disease by up to 19%! Consider swapping walnuts for croutons in salads and soups; add ‘em to breakfast cereal or yogurt; or nosh on walnuts with fruit to reap the cholesterol-lowering benefits.

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Herbs and Spices

Flavor foods with herbs and spices whenever you can. It’ll help you cut back on condiments high in saturated fat while maximizing flavor. Spices and herbs also pack antioxidants, which can help improve cholesterol levels when combined with veggies. Ones we love: Basil, cilantro, rosemary, sage, ginger, garlic, tarragon, black and red chili pepper, mint, and oregano.

10 herbs you can grow indoors year-round »

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Avocado

Because they’re rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats and fiber, avocados can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Clinical trials have consistently found that eating avocados can lower your LDL cholesterol, with a beneficial effect on lipid and lipoprotein profiles.

20+ amazing avocado recipes »

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Blueberries

Some studies have connected eating blueberries regularly with decreased blood pressure. That’s thanks to their circulation-boosting effect on blood vessels (otherwise known as “vasodilation”), which slows the rate of atherosclerosis.

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Quinoa

Cooking up more quinoa could lower your risk of heart disease by improving total cholesterol, triglycerides, and lowering LDL, according to some research studies. That’s thanks to the wholesome grain’s antioxidant, fiber, and B vitamin content that may improve blood flow.

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Spinach

Adding more leafy greens to your plate can help lower cholesterol by promoting your body production of nitric oxide (NO), which helps dilate blood vessels and reduce atherosclerosis.

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Peanut Butter

Peanuts pack resveratrol and other phytosterols, compounds linked with blocking cholesterol absorption in the gut. The protein powerhouses also work in 8 grams in just 2 tablespoons of peanut butter!

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Almonds

If you’re on the hunt for a snack, consider picking up some almonds: Population studies have shown that consistent intake of almonds reduces risk of heart disease by improving cholesterol levels — maintaining HDL and lowering LDL.

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Olives and Olive Oil

This Mediterranean diet staple is chock-full of monounsaturated fatty acids, the type of fat linked with improving total cholesterol levels. Specific compounds in olives may also limit the initiation of the inflammatory process — another high-cholesterol-promoting risk factor.

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Grapes

Like other produce, grapes contain polyphenolic compounds that may reduce cellular damage. Eating about 1 to 2 cups of grapes per day can also help protect your tissues and decrease markers of inflammation.

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Unsweetened Soy Milk

Filled with plant-based antioxidants and minerals, this protein-packed dairy alternative can help improve your lipid levels. That’s because it’s lower in saturated fat than other vegan swaps (ahem, coconut oil). Unsweetened versions cut back on sneaky sources of added sugar often found in beverages, so use it in your morning latte for a cholesterol-lowering caffeine boost.

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Corn Oil

This overlooked cooking oil belongs in your pantry because it contains plant-sterols, compounds that decrease how much cholesterol-raising saturated fat your body absorbs. Plus, it’s packed with antioxidants like other plant-based oils: canola, olive, grapeseed, peanut, safflower, sunflower, and avocado.

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Pistachios

Research has linked pistachios with raising HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL cholesterol. Since these nuts are fiber-rich and antioxidant-packed, they also protect your body’s cells from oxidative stress, the damage that allows for plaque build-up in your arteries.

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Hummus

Fiber, especially the soluble kind in beans, is linked with improved heart health. And chickpeas give one of the best cholesterol-lowering boosts. Just 1/3 cup of chickpeas contains about 12 grams of fiber — half your daily value. What’s more, these hearty beans are packed with antioxidants and associated with lower LDLs.

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Cherries

A cherry gets its color from anthocyanin, a type of phytonutrient with powerful antioxidant capabilities. Try adding frozen cherries to morning smoothies or tossing dried, unsweetened cherries with salads.

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Edamame

While research has linked soybeans, tofu, and soy milk with lower cholesterol, this healthy snack is another delicious way to help decrease your bad cholesterol by replacing other proteins typically high in saturated fat. Since edamame is also full of fiber, it can help curb cravings too.

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Chia Seeds

Looking for a vegetarian form of omega-3? Chia seeds are full of the fatty acid, as well as fiber, protein, and antioxidants. They can be consumed whole or added to soups, cereal, smoothies, puddings, and even baked goods.

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Bananas

Bananas lower cholesterol by removing it from your digestive system, preventing it from moving into your bloodstream and clogging your arteries. For an extra heart-healthy boost, slice bananas on top of morning oats with a tablespoon of chia seeds.

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Sardines

They may be small, but they’re packed with omega-3s. Plus, sardines have less mercury than other fatty fish and come readily available in canned form. Just be sure to buy them in water, not oil.

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https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/diet-nutrition/g4840/how-to-lower-cholesterol/

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