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Cholesterol Lowering Foods
These new products, enhanced with natural ingredients, are being called "functional foods." According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), functional foods may provide specific health benefits beyond basic nutrition when consumed as part of a varied diet. Many of the first functional foods to hit the shelves will tout the ability to lower cholesterol, a major contributing factor in cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States and other industrialized countries.
However, you don't need to wait until functional foods reach supermarket shelves to make your diet more heart-healthy. "The idea of functional foods came, in part, from understanding which components in natural foods help lower cholesterol, such as soluble fiber, soy protein and plant sterols," says Tu T. Nguyen, M.D., an endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
A careful review of what's already in your kitchen may reveal a ready cholesterol-fighting menu.
Natural foods fight cholesterol in a number of ways. Although dietary supplements are available for many of these natural substances, they are generally not as effective as the real thing. Look for organic food when shopping for groceries.
Consider increasing your intake of foods containing the following cholesterol-lowering components:
A minimum of 25 grams of soy protein must be consumed daily in order to reap optimal cholesterol-lowering benefits. Good sources of soy protein include soy milk, tempeh, tofu, and textured soy protein, a main ingredient in many meat substitutes.
A unique study completed in 1997 provided compelling evidence that eating fish can reduce blood cholesterol levels. Researchers studied people in two African villages located 40 miles apart. People from both villages had very similar lifestyles, but their diets were quite different. While one group ate a fish-heavy diet, the other group ate a healthy vegetarian diet consisting largely of rice and maize. Researchers found that the villagers who ate lots of fish had lower cholesterol than the vegetarians. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish two or three times a week.
However, very large portions of plant sterols extracted in powder form must be consumed in order to benefit. Functional foods may soon make heart-healthy consumption of plant sterols more feasible.
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