Heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is the leading cause of death in this country. The CDC indicates that more than 26 million Americans have been diagnosed with this condition which equates to more than 11% of the adult population. There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of becoming one of that 11%, some, like genetics, that we can’t change, and others, like cholesterol, which we can. The American Heart Association says that while part of our overall cholesterol picture comes from our genes, we can impact the part that doesn’t by making some lifestyle adjustments and watching the food we eat.
While most experts agree that following a heart-healthy diet focused on fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and “good” fats will help manage your cholesterol levels, there are also some foods that are powerhouses when it comes to lowering the amount of cholesterol in your blood. As part of National Cholesterol month, find ways to get more of these foods into your daily diet to help minimize your risk for high cholesterol and heart disease.
One of the most important dietary changes you can make to impact your cholesterol profile is to cut down on the amount of saturated fat in your diet. Soy products can help accomplish that goal by providing a good source of protein without adding a lot of saturated fat. Grab a serving of edamame as a snack instead of a chocolate bar to get more soy in your day.
In addition to lowering your intake of saturated fat, research has shown that eating “good” fats can actually help lower your cholesterol too. One of these good fats is omega-3 fatty acids most commonly found in cold-water fish like salmon and tuna. Try Sweet and Spicy Salmon with Carrot, Leek, and Turnip Sauté using fresh Arizona vegetables.
Another type of “good” fat is monounsaturated fat which helps boost good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol. Avocados are a great source of this type of fat. Avocados also contain beta-sitosterol, a plant-based fat that helps reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed into the bloodstream from the food we eat. You can mash them up to make guacamole, use slices on sandwiches and salads, or make a bowl of Tomato and Avocado Salad to take for lunch.
Another way to decrease your cholesterol using your diet is to increase the amount of soluble fiber you take in. Foods that are high is soluble fiber, like beans grown by Arizona Farmers, help decrease the amount of cholesterol your body absorbs which can lower your cholesterol. Try getting more beans in your daily diet by making some Corn and Black Bean Salsa with fresh Arizona-grown corn.
This month take action against heart disease by learning more about cholesterol. Check in with your doctor to see if you need to have your cholesterol checked and look for ways to add some of these great cholesterol-fighting foods into your family’s diet.
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