Too much cholesterol in the blood can increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a type of heart disease characterized by a build up of cholesterol and other fat substances within the walls of arteries.
Research shows that eating whole foods over processed foods will decrease your risk. Whole grains and oily fish are very heart-healthy.
Whole grains are rich in cholesterol-lowering fiber called beta-glucan. Try cooking hot cereal from steel-cut oats. Steel-cut oats are higher in phytochemicals that rolled oats. Brown rice, quinoa, and barley are also excellent grains to add to your diet. Aim for six daily servings of whole grains.
Canned or fresh, oily fish contain a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Wild caught salmon is rich in omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids improve triglyceride levels, stabilize heartbeat, lower blood pressure, decrease heart-harming inflammation, and reduce stroke risk. Aim for 2-3 servings a week.
For an added boost against heart disease, consume foods that are high sources of dietary fiber. In the intestines, fiber binds to cholesterol-rich bile acids, passing them out of the body as waste rather than reabsorbing them. Fermentation of soluble fiber in the large intestine to short-chain fatty acids also helps inhibit cholesterol synthesis in the liver. Fiber also may help improve the LDL-HDL ratio. Great sources of fiber include oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, beans, and several fruits and vegetables.
Research suggests that a moderate amount of red wine may help lower the risk of heart disease. Possibly a small amount may help increase HDL (“good”) blood cholesterol and may prevent LDL (“bad”) cholesterol from forming. Phytonutrients such as resveratrol and tannins in wine may offer heart-healthy benefits. Resveratrol, a flavonoid in the skins and seeds of grapes has estrogenlike qualities that may help increase HDLs or increase the oxidation, or breakdown of LDLs. Tannins may also help inhibit platelet clotting.