Elevated cholesterol may be a result of genetics (familial hyperlipidemia) and/or nutrition. Wouldn’t it be great if eating specific foods each week and adding in a little exercise could improve a person’s high cholesterol level? Well certain foods as well as exercise have been shown to help. According to David Katz, MD, author of Cut Your Cholesterol (Reader’s Digest, 2003), if you’re eating a diet that is high in saturated fats and trans fatty acids you’re more likely to have high cholesterol. By simply cutting your consumption of saturated fat to <7% of your total calories and increasing your fiber intake by 5 to 10 grams/day, you could lower your LDL level by 17 to 30%. If on top of that you start adding more bran, apples, oats, nuts to your diet Dr. Katz says your LDL will drop a few percentage points more or possibly increase your HDL.
This is where exercise can help as well especially with improving your HDL and overall ratio. In one study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, strength training lowered cholesterol level by 10% and LDL by 14% after training 14 weeks (3x/wk).
In a 2007 study published in the journal Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental, 24 weeks of regular aerobic exercise training lowered total cholesterol levels and lowered “bad” cholesterol, or LDL. This group of researcher’s also found that HDL, or “good” cholesterol, was increased after a period of aerobic exercise training.
Here is my list of specific foods that research has shown to have a positive association with lowering cholesterol.
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts and cashews)
- Edamame (soy)
- Salmon (all fatty-fish)
- Oranges (one Canadian study saw a 21% HDL increase in subjects while also lowering their LDL/HDL ratio by 16% after just 4 weeks).
- Prunes (“dried plums” contain a soluble fiber called pectin that helps to “soak up” cholesterol).
- Beans (when a group of men ate 1.5 cups of pinto beans/day their total cholesterol dropped 56 points).
- Oatmeal (add nuts or slices apple and/or pear for extra fiber).
Wash it down with some Green Tea (have a piece of dark chocolate on the side:>)
(I helped develop the exercise program for the book, Cut Your Cholesterol by David Katz, MD and Debra Gordon).