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High levels of bad, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol are a health concern for many. Left untreated, high LDL cholesterol can lead to hardening of the arteries and coronary heart disease. It’s important to note that LDL cholesterol is the bad guy; high levels of high-density lipoproteins will actually reduce risks for heart disease. Drugs, called statins, are commonly used to reduce and control cholesterol, but diet can also play an important role in maintaining healthy levels. Specifically, studies have suggested that adding certain fruits and vegetables to your diet may improve cholesterol profiles. Always consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.

Apples

The old saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” just may have renewed credence, according to a study out of Ohio State University. Study participants were middle-aged adults who consumed one apple a day for four weeks. At the end of the study, the bad, LDL cholesterol levels of participants were reduced by an average of 40 percent. Researchers concluded that polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in apples, may lower levels of bad cholesterol by interacting with free radicals in the body, which can combine with LDL levels and lead to hardening of the arteries.

Eggplant and Okra

Vegetables high in soluble fiber, such as eggplant and okra, can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. Scientists haven’t quite discovered how soluble fiber reduces cholesterol levels, but they suspect the fiber works as a sponge to sop up bad cholesterol, allowing the body to then eliminate it as waste. Cyril Kendall, a researcher at the University of Toronto, created a cholesterol-lowering diet called the “Portfolio Diet” which is largely based on foods high in soluble fiber, including eggplant and okra. Preliminary study results on Kendall’s diet suggest that it may be as effective at reducing cholesterol levels as statins.

Avocado

Avocados may have gotten a bad rap because of their high fat content, but a study published in the January 2013 issue of “Nutrition Journal” indicated that avocado eaters are slimmer and have better cholesterol levels than non-avocado eaters. The research, which was part of a large national health and diet survey, indicated that those who ate avocado daily had significantly higher levels of good, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and had a 50 percent reduced risk for metabolic syndrome. The average reported consumption in the survey was approximately half an avocado each day.

Strawberries

Strawberries may provide a sweet treat for those seeking a reduction in cholesterol levels. Not only are the berries an excellent source of fiber, which can improve cholesterol profiles, but they also pack a powerful antioxidant punch which can improve risks for oxidative damage. The December 2008 issue of “Metabolism” featured a research investigation on the effects of strawberries on the participants with elevated cholesterol levels. Researchers concluded that strawberry supplementation was effective at reducing cholesterol and helped improve the palatability of cholesterol-lowering diets.

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