Q. Glen, Are there any new foods I can add to my diet to lower my cholesterol ?
A. If you've been eating with reckless abandon over the holiday season, you may end up with more than just a few extra inches around your waistline. Consuming a steady diet of decadent foods from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve has a way of wreaking havoc on your cholesterol levels.
If you're determined to shape up in the New Year, it's time to make a few changes in your eating habits. Adding a few key foods to your daily diet could help you lower your cholesterol -- and drop a few pounds while you're at it.
Most folks are familiar with the cholesterol-lowering effects of oatmeal. If you're looking for a little variety in your grain foods, you might want to give barley a try. Barley is often added to soups or eaten as a hot breakfast cereal, but it also makes a nutritious addition to casseroles, pilafs and salads. One cup of cooked pearled barley is essentially fat-free, with around 200 calories and 9 grams of fiber.
Like oats, barley is rich in beta-glucan, a soluble fiber with cholesterol-lowering properties. Studies performed by USDA researchers demonstrated that volunteers who ate six grams of barley fiber daily for five weeks experienced reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels of 11 to 23 percent and reduced their total cholesterol levels by 9 to 16 percent.
While you're experimenting with barley, you should sample a variety of cholesterol-lowering dry beans, including chickpeas, pinto and navy beans. The results of a study published in the November 2007 issue of the Journal of Nutrition revealed that consuming a half cup of cooked dry beans daily for 12 weeks helped volunteers drop their total cholesterol levels by 8 percent.
Experts attribute the cholesterol-lowering effects of dry beans to their rich content of soluble fiber, an ingredient also linked to weight loss. Because high-fiber foods are bulky and filling, they produce long-lasting feelings of satiety and reduce the likelihood of overeating.
If you're looking for a snack that's nutritious and convenient, almonds may be your best bet. Almonds are rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat known for its cholesterol-lowering ability.
Researchers at Loma Linda University found that when volunteers ate a handful of almonds daily, their total cholesterol levels fell by an average of 5 percent, while LDL cholesterol fell by 8 percent.
Although almonds are relatively high in fat and calories, the results of a study published in the September 2007 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition suggest that eating up to two ounces of almonds a day doesn't lead to weight gain. In fact, because almonds promote satiety, eating them on a regular basis may actually contribute to weight loss.
Findings from a 24-week-long study published in the International Journal of Obesity led researchers to a similar conclusion. Study volunteers who ate a reduced-calorie diet that included a daily three-ounce serving of raw or roasted almonds lost 62 percent more weight and 56 percent more body fat than volunteers eating a similar reduced-calorie diet that did not include almonds.
Adding psyllium to your daily diet is another easy way to stave off hunger and lower cholesterol levels. Psyllium fiber comes from the husk of a shrub-like herb native to Asia and North Africa. In the United States, it's sold as a nutritional supplement in various forms, including tablets, capsule and water-soluble crystals. It's also an ingredient in several high-fiber breakfast cereals.
In a study conducted at University of Massachusetts, men who ate cereal containing psyllium and whole oats as part of a low-fat diet achieved greater reductions in cholesterol than those following the same diet minus the psyllium. The men eating the psyllium and oat cereal experienced a 16 percent reduction in their total cholesterol levels, compared to a 10 percent drop among those who didn't receive psyllium.
Adding a dash of cinnamon to your favorite foods might also help you bring your cholesterol levels down. Scientists at the Human Nutrition Research Center found that when 60 individuals with type 2 diabetes consumed a half-teaspoon of cinnamon daily for six weeks, their total cholesterol levels fell by 12 to 26 percent.
For some folks with high cholesterol, heredity trumps diet, making cholesterol-lowering drugs an important part of treatment. For those who simply overindulged during the holiday season, regular consumption of a few key foods might be all it takes to bring cholesterol levels back to normal.
Any personal health questions or problems mental or physical or before starting any diet or exercise program. Please consult your physician !
Yours in good health