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Sep 20, 2011

Foods That Eat Away at LDL Levels

Study shows certain foods lower “bad” cholesterol 4x more than low-fat items.

The importance of maintaining a well-balanced diet has been increasingly stressed over the years, as rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease continue to skyrocket. It is obvious that the typical “American” diet, full of processed foods, sodium and saturated fat, has not helped contribute to good health. But with mixed messages, it can be difficult to figure out which diets actually improve cardiovascular health and work to control various cardiovascular conditions like high cholesterol. Fortunately, a recent study has helped clarify which foods really do work in helping people lower their cholesterol and reduce their cardiovascular risk.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association recently evaluated the use of certain foods as part of a dietary portfolio in lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as “bad” cholesterol. Foods part of the dietary portfolio — including soy protein, plant sterols, sticky fibers and nuts — have been shown to help lower cholesterol in the past, but researchers wanted to find out exactly how much they can reduce LDL levels in comparison with traditional low-fat diets.

After following 351 adults with high cholesterol for 6 months at a time, researchers found that incorporating certain foods into diets helped decrease LDL by more than 4 times in comparison with low-fat diets. And the more counseling patients received regarding this dietary portfolio, the more drastic their reduction in LDL.

Based on these findings, it is clear that certain foods can help significantly lower “bad” cholesterol, especially in comparison with traditional low-fat diets. And most importantly, it only took two short counseling sessions on the dietary portfolio for patients to understand and incorporate this diet into their lives, and to see significant benefits in just six months. Therefore, using the dietary portfolio is an effective way that patients with high cholesterol can help significantly lower their “bad” cholesterol through diet and lifestyle changes.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What does the dietary portfolio consist of?

  • The four categories of the dietary portfolio are soy protein, sticky fibers, plant sterols and nuts. Good sources of soy protein include soy-based meat substitutes, such as soy burgers, soy cold cuts and soy milk. Sticky fibers can be found in products such as Metamucil, or grains such as oats and barley. Plant sterols can be naturally found in some foods, such as avocados, corn oil, and sunflower seeds, and is often added to foods, such as margarine and fruit drinks. Lastly, nuts like almonds and pistachios are part of the dietary portfolio.
  • How can I lower my cholesterol, aside from dietary changes?

  • Aside from changes in diet, adults can help lower their cholesterol by increasing physical activity, quitting smoking (if a smoker) and taking medications, when necessary.

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