7 Low Cholesterol Plant-Based Foods To Keep Your Heart Healthy
Heart disease affects about 25% of the population and is the leading cause of death among Americans, according to Health Finder. Fortunately, heart disease is preventable, mainly through a healthy diet and regular exercise. Rather than focus on what you can’t or shouldn’t eat in order to keep your cholesterol levels healthy, it can help to look into what you can add to your diet to improve your heart health.
In honor of American Heart Month this February, we’ve come up with a list of seven foods that are known for improving cholesterol levels and can help keep your heart healthy for the long haul.
- Strawberries. Just about any fruit will work wonders for your heart health thanks to their naturally high levels of fiber and potassium. Just a half-cup three times a day can make a big impact, so be sure to add grapes, tomatoes, apples, and citrus to your shopping cart the next time you’re at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
- Popcorn. Can’t resist a good snack? You don’t have to, just reach for foods that aren’t loaded with saturated or trans fats. Popcorn, when unsalted and unbuttered, contains zero milligrams of cholesterol, and Intermountain HealthCare offers a heart-healthy hack: when popping your kernels, use olive oil, which also works to lower “bad” cholesterol.
- Avocado. Speaking of good fat, avocado has essentially become the poster child for the phrase and can be enjoyed even if you wish to keep your cholesterol levels low. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat, which increases good HDL cholesterol, along with important vitamins and minerals.
- Dark chocolate. You don’t have to forgo your sweet tooth just to keep your heart health in-check. In fact, some sweets, like dark chocolate, can lower LDL levels in the blood, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. The best way to enjoy it? With almonds, which the American Heart Association lists as one of the top heart-healthy foods you can eat.
- Brown rice. In recent years, carbs have gotten a bad rap, but the truth is, we need them just as much as we need protein and fat. Live Science states that brown rice is not only low in fat and sodium but is also a fantastic gluten-free option.
- Oatmeal. You can start making heart-healthy choices as soon as you wake up if you enjoy oatmeal for breakfast. According to the Cleveland Clinic, one and a half cups of oatmeal a day can lower your cholesterol by 5 to 8%, thanks to its high content of soluble and insoluble fibers.
- Beans. Affordable and packed full of protein, beans are a great option to add to just about any meal, including salads and stews. Not only that, but certain beans have also been known to provide numerous benefits, like reducing blood sugar, adding fiber to the diet, and improving gut health. Chickpeas, pinto beans, navy beans, and peanuts (which are technically a legume,) can lower blood cholesterol, according to Healthline.
Adding any or all of these foods to a healthy diet can help you have a happy American Heart Month, all year long.