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Eat your way to lower cholesterol

October 21, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Can you really lower your cholesterol just by eating certain foods? Head down most aisles at the market, you will find products that claim to lower cholesterol. But can a bowl of cereal, or a handful of nuts really help?

"You can actually eat your way to lower cholesterol. And although one food might have a three to five percent effect in lowering your bad cholesterol, when you incorporate three to five of these foods into your diet on a regular basis, you can have the same effect as a cholesterol lowering drug like a statin," said dietitian, Patricia Bannan.

Patricia Bannan says eating 10 grams of soluble fiber from food each day will lower cholesterol about 5%; a far cry from the 20 to 30% you'll get from prescription drugs. But the more of these foods you add to your diet, the higher that percentage will rise.

Some good sources of fiber: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, brown rice, oatmeal, beans and soy products. Also try foods rich in omega three fats like tuna, salmon and flax.

"They not only lower your bad cholesterol, they raise your HDL, good cholesterol and they actually lower triglycerides which is hard to find in one food ingredient," said Bannan.

There are also products like Promise One Shot that offers 2 grams of plant sterols in serving -- exactly what is recommended each day.

Maybe you have a handful of nuts or an occasional bowl of oatmeal, but if your main staples in the diet is high fat meats, full fatted dairy, processed fried foods - well its likely you're not going to see much of a change.

"You really don't want to say, 'If I eat this one food I can eat whatever else I want.' It really has to be the overall picture of your diet," said Bannan.

Dr. John de Beixedon would love his patients to eat more plant foods, but many don't follow his advice.

"We have a lot more carbohydrates, we have a lot more fat, we have a lot more salt, and all of these things probably combined with the stressors and just our darn old genes, influence our cholesterol," said Dr. de Beixedon.

"Following a good diet, an appropriate diet, one that's low in fat, low in carbohydrates, low in processed foods, because that's always going to be healthier than just taking medication alone," said Dr. de Beixedon.

Even if you make small changes, it can help. University of Toronto doctors formulated what they call a Portfolio diet.

Just like a financial portfolio, the plan aims to help you to diversify your diet by eating different cholesterol lowering foods throughout the day.

They urge eating foods with "sticky fiber" like oats, eggplant and okra, and having a handful of nuts, like almonds, every day.


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