Unless you’ve been living under a croissant all these years, you’re well aware that oatmeal is the poster child of cholesterol-lowering foods. Oats and oatmeal are loaded with soluble fiber, which binds with LDL (bad) cholesterol and ushers it out of our bodies. Countless breakfast cereal commercials have declared that the dietary fiber in their products “reduces your risk of heart disease.” They base their claims on many clinical studies, including a landmark Harvard study of more than 40,000 male doctors in the Journal of the American Medical Association which found that a high-fiber diet is linked to a 40% lower risk of coronary heart disease.
The National Lipid Association says eating at least 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day can help you lower your total and LDL cholesterol by 11 points or more. Now, there’s an incentive to eat breakfast! But at just under 3 grams of soluble fiber per serving of oatmeal, you’d better like oatmeal – or find other ways to get your heart-boosting soluble fiber.
How about snacking on some?
We asked dietitians to feed our nibbling habit with some tasty LDL-scouring snacks. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don’t miss Best Supplements for High Cholesterol, According to Nutritionists.
“Edamame is an unprocessed soybean snack that can help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides because it contains soluble fiber and β-Conglycinin,” says cardiology dietitian Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDE, owner of entirelynourished.com. Beta-Conglycinin works to decrease triglyceride levels by increasing your liver’s sensitivity to insulin. Routhenstein likes Seapoint Farms dry roasted edamame.
“If you aren’t a fan of soy, I make a simple roasted chickpea snack that also contains the soluble fiber to lower LDL cholesterol,” Routhenstein says. Combine 2 cups of cooked chickpeas and 2 teaspoons of za’atar seasoning in a medium-sized bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with avocado oil. Then, bake for about 25 to 30 minutes at 350F until crispy.
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Another great snack option is an apple with a handful of pistachios. An apple contains soluble fiber which helps to lower cholesterol levels and the phytosterol content of pistachios has been shown to also increase HDL (good cholesterol) levels, says Routhenstein.
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“Homemade low-sugar oat bars are an excellent source of fiber and make an easier snack than regular oatmeal alone,” says nutritionist Lisa Richards, author of The Candida Diet. One of Richards’ favorite prepackaged snacks is Quest Protein Cookies, which deliver 11 grams of fiber per serving.
Sprouted grain bread is a nutrient-dense bread made from whole grains and often legumes that have started germinating. Ezekiel bread is a popular brand. “Spread a little almond butter on a toasted piece of sprouted grain bread and you have a snack packed full of healthy fats and fiber to help reduce cholesterol,” says Richards.
Popcorn is a whole grain that contains about four grams of cholesterol-lowering dietary fiber per serving. “To make popcorn healthier and very low in calories, I recommend adding a bit of olive oil and parmesan cheese instead of butter,” says Clara Lawson, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist who works with USA Hemp.
Beans and legumes are rich in soluble fiber so they are great as part of lunch and dinner recipes, but you can also snack on them. Try black bean salsa. “One serving along with baked whole grain chips contains just about 80 calories and zero cholesterol,” says Lawson.
Routhenstein admits that sardines are an unconventional snack, but one that makes an excellent heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory mini-meal. “Two ounces of sardines or canned salmon—I like Wild Planet brand—with crudité of your choice is jam-packed with omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to help lower triglyceride levels,” she says.
Potato chips are delicious. But potato chips are among the saltiest, most unhealthy snacks you can eat. Unless you make them yourself. “Potatoes are naturally high in fiber and low in calories and rich in potassium that keeps the blood pressure at controlled levels,” says Lawson. Slice them thin, sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil and bake them in the oven. Lawson also recommends doing the same with okra. Slice them lengthwise before baking.
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