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Seven Tips for a Heart-Healthy Makeover

Worried about high cholesterol? You’re not alone. It's a major risk factor for heart disease and one of the greatest health concerns in the Western world.

Although cholesterol levels are somewhat fated by your genes, diets high in saturated fats and cholesterol can put a hefty burden on your arteries. So much so that one British researcher recently suggested slapping a tax on foods high in saturated fat to discourage people from buying them over healthier ones.

We’ve got some tips that can help give your diet a heart-healthy makeover.

1. Minimize saturated fats and cholesterol. Animal products are packed with both, so limit beef, butter, and whole milk dairy products. Also watch for processed foods made with coconut, palm, and hydrogenated oils.

2. Eat fish or try fish oil supplements. Dr. Philippe Szapary of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania notes, "Fish oils (loaded with omega-3 fatty acids) have been shown to reduce triglycerides, high levels of which are a risk factor for heart disease. In patients who have already had heart attacks, it seems to improve their overall mortality" (Lancet, 8/99). Another study showed that fish oil supplements increased artery dilation in patients with high cholesterol, allowing blood to flow more easily (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2/00).

3. Cook with monounsaturated oils. Olive, canola, and peanut oils, which have been shown to reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels, are good choices (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 12/99).

4. Eat some garlic. While two major studies questioned whether this popular seasoning has any cholesterol-lowering benefits, it has been shown to lower cholesterol in many earlier trials. A high-quality powder extract or raw garlic seems to be most potent.

5. Consume lots of high fiber foods. Fiber has been shown to lower cholesterol. Experts recommend at least 25 to 30 grams per day. Consider that a cup of kidney beans contains about 13 grams of soluble fiber, an apple contains 4 grams and a cup of All-Bran cereal about 20 grams.

6. Have a drink or two each day (but not more). Moderate consumption of alcohol can help increase HDL or good cholesterol. Red wine is an especially good source of flavonoids, which help keep your arteries clear.

7. Cut out coffee, black tea, and soda. Replace them with Japanese green tea, which has cholesterol-lowering properties.

Date Posted: 05/01/2002

Date Published: 04/30/2002
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