A nutrient-poor diet filled with added sugars and unhealthy trans fats is known to cause high cholesterol, so it sure makes sense try and fix the problem with healthy food. Although 25 percent of adults over the age of 45 take cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, which can sap your energy and cause problems for your sex life, a new study reveals that changes to your diet might actually do a better job—without the energy-sapping, sex-killing side effects.
A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed 345 people with high cholesterol who were placed on one of two vegetarian low-cholesterol diets for six months. The first was a low-saturated-fat diet and participants were told simply to eat low-fat dairy and get more fruits and vegetables into their meals. The second group had help from nutritionists to incorporate specific cholesterol-lowering foods into their meals, including soy proteins, nuts, oats, peas, and beans. That group saw a drop in cholesterol three times higher than the group on the regular low-saturated-fat diet, and both diets proved to be at least as successful as early trials of statins.
If you've been battling high cholesterol, try some of these swaps for a tasty, low-cholesterol diet:
• Breakfast: The low-fat group ate Raisin Bran cereal for breakfast, but the second group ate oat-bran cereal with strawberries and jam. For a seasonal twist, try this recipe for a Peachy Oat Breakfast and chase it down with a glass of soy milk, as those in the study did.
• Mid-Morning Snack: For a cholesterol-lowering hunger fix, grab another peach (or some cantaloupe, grapes, nectarines, or apricots—also in season now) and a handful of almonds when hunger strikes, and chase them down with another glass of soy milk. Or throw all your fruit, soy milk, and nuts, along with a little ice, into a blender to make something like the Women's Health Immunity Builder smoothie.
• Lunch: For lunch, the low-cholesterol group downed sandwiches made with oat-bran bread, tofu slices, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, accompanied by Spicy Black Bean Soup. The tofu slices provided the soy protein that proved so successful at lowering cholesterol, but if that doesn't tempt your palate, replace tofu with avocado, as in this Roasted Bell Pepper and Avocado Sandwich and have another glass of soy milk instead.
• Mid-Afternoon Snack: The healthy dieters had more almonds and fresh fruit in the afternoon, but with an added dose of psyllium, a form of soluble fiber made from ground up psyllium seeds. Psyllium may not be very appetizing, so to get your fill of fiber, try these Banana, Yogurt, and Walnut Muffins; the bananas and oatmeal both contain high levels of soluble fiber.