Certain foods have been shown to decrease heart disease risk by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and raising HDL (good) cholesterol. And while you probably know about the cholesterol-busting powers of fish, oatmeal, red wine, beans, and olive oil, if you’re looking for something new to keep you ticker healthy, here are six foods that might surprise you.
Indian gooseberry, also known as alma, is a round, green fruit that is sour, bitter, and quite fibrous. A tree that grows in India, the Middle East, and some southeast Asian countries, Indian gooseberry has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.
This fruit seems to work by reducing total cholesterol levels, including the fatty acids called triglycerides, without affecting levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. In addition, in a 12-week study published in the Journal of Medical Food, participants given an extract of Indian Gooseberry significantly reduced their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. The fruit can be eaten fresh, as chutney added to steamed vegetables, or in powdered form added to a smoothie.
Many doctors and commercials have lauded the benefits of oatmeal to help lower blood cholesterol levels, but rarely do we hear about another heart-healthy grain called barley. Like oatmeal, barley is high in soluble fiber, the type of fiber that helps to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood. Barley is also extremely versatile so you’re not just limited to eating it at breakfast time.
Try a cold barley salad tossed with some olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh herbs for a tasty cholesterol-lowering lunch. Barley is also delicious in soups and can be eaten for breakfast with a splash of milk and honey as a nice change to oatmeal.
One high-fat food you might want to include on your cholesterol-lowering menu is avocado. To see if there’s something special about avocados for your heart, researchers at Penn State University put participants on different diets where they controlled their fat intake—and one of those groups was given one avocado a day.
Even among groups that consumed the same amount of fat, the group that ate an avocado a day reduced their blood cholesterol levels more than the group who wasn’t eating avocado. Consider swapping avocado for mayonnaise on your sandwich, topping off your omelet with avocado slices, or making a guacamole to snack on with high-fiber crackers or sliced vegetables.