One way to combat the risks associated with high cholesterol is to make some lifestyle changes, especially to your diet. You might already know that avoiding foods — such as red meat and trans fats— can help lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. But just because you’re trying to lower your cholesterol doesn’t mean all of your favorite foods are off the table.
Here are five surprising foods that you can still eat if you have high cholesterol.
Even with high cholesterol, you’ll need to find sources of Vitamin D, which helps you take in calcium. The vitamin is present in many dairy products, so find low-fat or reduced-fat yogurts, milk, and cheeses.
For those who don’t consume dairy, however, you can still absorb calcium through certain cereals, juices, and green, leafy vegetables.
Remember, not all fat is bad fat. Unsaturated fats (which include polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats) can help lower your cholesterol levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a common type of polyunsaturated fat and can be found in fatty fish. Next time you’re at the supermarket, look for salmon, tuna, trout, catfish, herring, or mackerel. By eating at least two servings of fatty fish a week, you’re more likely to experience heart-health benefits from the omega-3 fatty acids.
Avocados are also a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids, according to the Journal of the American Heart Association and as a result, can help improve your LDL levels. You should find ways to incorporate the fruit into your diet, whether by adding it to sandwiches, salads, or even toast.
For beef and pork, trim off any visible fat you might encounter. You can also indulge in some skinless cuts of chicken or turkey breasts.
Plant stanols and sterols are natural compounds that can help lower LDL cholesterol. You can find them in margarine-like spreads, which work just like butter but without the artery-clogging fats that come with it. Eating nine to 10 grams of stanols per daycan help lower your LDL cholesterol by as much as 22%.
Specific spread brands include Fleischmann’s, Smart Balance, Bluebonnet, and Shedd’s Spread Country Crock. Make sure you don’t use these for baking, however. Because there’s less fat and more water, it tends to cause whatever you’re baking to spread out and become very thin.