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En español | Avocados contain significant amounts of oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fat that helps boost good cholesterol and lower bad. Avocados are also rich in fiber and a plant chemical called beta-sitosterol, both of which help keep cholesterol in check.
Tip: Avocados significantly increase absorption of immunity-boosting antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. Add a couple of slices of diced avocado to your next salad.
One reason to love lentils is their cholesterol-busting fiber. The soluble fiber in lentils forms a sticky substance that traps cholesterol and helps move it out of the body. Lentils and their kissing cousins, black-eyed peas and kidney, lima and navy beans, come by their reputation as heart protectors with good reason.
Tip: Lentils sop up flavor like a sponge. Mix cooked lentils with some olive oil, balsamic or red vinegar, crushed garlic and parsley. Let stand for half an hour to meld the flavors, then spread on crackers.
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These young green soybeans with a buttery sweet taste are a protein powerhouse, rich in soluble fiber and high in isoflavones, a plant compound that brings down total blood levels of cholesterol. To cook fresh edamame, boil in lightly salted water for 3 to 5 minutes, cool by plunging into ice water, then drain. Many supermarkets sell them frozen.
About 80 percent of calories in nuts come from fat, but it's healthy unsaturated fat, not the artery-clogging kind. Nuts also are high in plant sterols, substances that block the absorption of cholesterol. Given these advantages, nuts are a natural for a heart-healthy diet. About an ounce and a half to two ounces a day should do it. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and pistachios all confer benefits. So do peanuts, although they're technically a legume and not a nut.
Tip: Put a bag of unsalted nuts in a convenient spot in the kitchen, so it's easy to grab a handful as you head out the door.
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Olive oil doesn't just make food taste better. The unsaturated fats found in olive oil (and canola and walnut oil) have the added benefit of helping to cut LDL cholesterol levels without affecting HDL. Aim for about 2 tablespoons a day in place of other fats.
Tip: To bump up olive oil's bad-cholesterol-lowering power, choose one labeled "extra-virgin." This form is less processed and contains more heart-healthy antioxidants.
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They're crisp, sweet and their hefty cargo of natural fiber, much of it in the form of pectin, helps to knock down LDL levels. Surprisingly, fresh pears contain even more pectin than apples do. Pectin binds with cholesterol and ferries it out of the body before it can be absorbed. A medium-size pear provides 16 percent of the recommended daily value for fiber. Other pectin-rich fruits include apples, bananas, oranges and peaches.
Tip: Don't bother to peel pears. Their edible skin is an additional source of fiber. Simply wash before serving.
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A cup of tea does more than soothe on a stressful day. Both green and black tea can help lower cholesterol levels. Green tea is prepared from unfermented leaves and black tea from fully fermented leaves of the same plant. Researchers believe that catechins, a type of antioxidant found in tea, are responsible for its cholesterol-lowering effect. The more fermented the tea leaves, the lower the catechin content and the higher the caffeine content.
Tip: Black tea has two to three times the caffeine of green tea. If your preferred black tea keeps you awake at night, look for the decaffeinated form.
Ask for tomato sauce with your pasta if you want to keep your cholesterol under control. Tomatoes are a significant source of a plant compound called lycopene, which reduces levels of LDL cholesterol. Research shows that the body absorbs more lycopene if the tomatoes are processed or cooked, so drink tomato juice and add tomatoes to your minestrone soup as well.
Pam Anderson | Food Expert
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