McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

January 8, 2013

Lowering your cholesterol with foods

By LaDell Emmons
Special Correspondent

McALESTER — For those of us who have been to the doctor lately, blood work can be a blessing or a curse. One of the things they are watching with me is my cholesterol. With the Internet at hand, I surfed the Mayo clinic website looking for what foods could help lower your cholesterol. We all have heard about oatmeal. Having a handful of nuts or watching our baked potato toppings are some that come to mind.

Diet can play an important role in lowering your cholesterol and oatmeal and other high-fiber foods are one of them. Any grain bran that contains soluble fiber reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Soluble fiber is also found in food such as kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes. It is recommended that you have 5-10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day to decrease your cholesterol total. If that seems a lot for you, eat cooked oatmeal but also add fruit which will give you 4 more grams of fiber.

Eating fatty fish can be heart healthy because of its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce your blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. In people who have already had heart attacks, fish oil reduces the risk of sudden death. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week. Those highest in omega-3 fatty acids are mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, salmon, halibut. Notice I didn’t mention deep-fried catfish served with hush puppies and French fries.

Walnuts, almonds and other nuts can reduce blood cholesterol. Rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, walnuts also help keep blood vessels healthy. Eating about a handful a day of most nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachio nuts and walnuts, may reduce your risk of heart disease. Make sure the nuts you eat aren’t salted or coated with sugar.

Olive oil contains a potent mix of antioxidants that can lower your LDL cholesterol but leave your “good” (HDL) cholesterol untouched. Try using about 2 tablespoons of olive oil a day in place of other fats in your diet to get its heart-healthy benefits.

You should also consider foods with added plant sterols or stanols. These foods are available and have substances found in plants that help block the absorption of cholesterol. Margarines, orange juice and yogurt drinks with added plant sterols can help reduce LDL cholesterol by more than 10 percent.

But the bottom line for all of us is that while any of these foods provide benefits, we need to make other changes in our diet and lifestyle as well. Your doctor will be pleased.

For more information in Pittsburg County, call 918-423-4120 or log onto

LaDell Emmons is the Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Educator for the Pittsburg County Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. Contact her at

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