Health - Cholesterol

Are Magic Beans the Real Deal
by Marin Gazzaniga for MSN Health & Fitness

You need to lower your cholesterol—can you do it with diet? “On average, dietary changes lower cholesterol by 10 to 20 percent. A lot depends on how bad the diet was to start off with,” says Dr. Roger Blumenthal, a cardiologist and spokesman for the American Heart Association’s “Cholesterol Low Down” campaign. So what’s a high-LDL person who gags at the sight of tofu to do?

We don’t need to tell you again to eat more fruits and vegetables. Everyone should be eating more of these—period. Eat a salad a day, and go easy on the cheese, bacon bits and heavy dressings. Ideal salad ingredients include greens, beans, sunflower seeds and dressings made with olive or canola oil. Add a veggie to your lunch and dinner. Eat fruits at snack time, and put some on your cereal in the morning. It’s that simple.

Even if you’re eating your greens, though, you could be doing more. Here are some of the five best cholesterol-lowering foods around.

  1. Soy far soy good. Studies have shown that three to six servings of soy protein (about 25 grams) a day can lower cholesterol. If you don’t like tempeh or tofu, what are your options? “There are lots of soy-fortified products on the market now,” says Jeannie Moloo, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for American Dietetic Association. Check your supermarket for edamame (soybeans), soy milk (a one-cup serving is 7 grams), soy nuts (15 grams per serving), soy ice cream and cereals, crackers and chips made with soy protein.
  2. I could really go for a legume. Chances are you don’t even know what a legume (pronounced lay-goom) is. “A lot of people think legumes are vegetables,” says Moloo. (Well, in our defense, they are … in France.) Here in the U.S., however, legumes are beans (any kind) and lentils. Eating three half-cup servings a week is recommended. And you don’t have to cook them from scratch—use canned beans. Piece of cake. To spice up your bean eating, try ethnic recipes—Indian dal, for example, is a delicious lentil dish. Replace one meat serving a week with rice and beans or a bean burrito. Sprinkle some garbanzo, cannellini or kidney beans on your salad or have a hummus sandwich. Magical beans, indeed.
  3. Oats, nature’s sponge. What’s all the hype about oatmeal? “Oats are very high in soluble fiber,” explains Moloo. So? “Think of soluble fiber as a sponge actually absorbing cholesterol and carrying it out of your system.” Three grams of oat fiber a day has been shown to decrease total cholesterol and LDL. That translates to one and a half cups of cooked oatmeal. Does it have to be steel cut and slow cooked? “Even quick-cook or instant oatmeal can provide a good amount of soluble fiber.” So, what if we sprinkle some oat bran on a doughnut? “Let’s just say if you want a snack, a packet of instant oatmeal trumps a candy bar.” Flax is