Conversation overheard at the gym: “I can’t even lift weights anymore without pain,” complained one overweight man to another. “It’s those statin drugs. They’re supposed to lower my cholesterol but they’re ruining my life.” The other man groaned, “Tell me about it.” And those two wailing workout buddies are not alone. With an estimated one in three North Americans walking around with higher-than-healthy levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol (more than 100 mg/dL or 2.6 mmol/L), Dr. Mehmet Oz is spreading the word about “a great way to tamp down that heart, brain, impotence and memory-killing menace.” His message: Use food as medicine by consuming “foods that change your blood fats and help your arteries repel plaque.”
Even if you number among the one in four individuals taking an LDL cholesterol-lowering statin (which can result in side effects such as nausea, liver problems or muscle pain), using food as medicine can help, says Dr. Oz, author of “YOU: The Owner’s Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider’s Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger” (click to buy now). And although statins play a role when a healthy lifestyle doesn’t help, he urges that you utilize “the power of smart foods to help keep arteries clean as a whistle.” These foods can do more than help you lower that LDL cholesterol: They ease inflammation, providing what Dr. Oz calls “building blocks for good HDLs, the nifty ‘trash trucks’ that collect LDLs for disposal.” As a result, you can better manage your blood pressure and blood sugar. Ready for the list of foods that can achieve these goals? Here they are:
- Oats, beans and pears share a common benefit: They provide your body with soluble fiber which “mops up bad cholesterol, ushering it out of your body.” You can get it by eating fruits and vegetables. How much: Dr. Oz recommends up to 10 grams a day. My tips: Keep canned beans on hand to add to your salads or mix with brown rice for a vegan dinner entree, such as Libby’s Organic Dark Red Kidney Beans (click to order). Enjoy oatmeal for breakfast. On a hot day, mix it with plain Greek yogurt and a spoonful of pure maple syrup for a fabulous flavor. For a flavorful change, try Bob’s Red Mill Organic Scottish Oatmeal (click to buy now).
- Look for bread spreads containing stanols and sterols. How much: Dr. Oz recommends 1.3 grams to 2 grams of these natural plant compounds. My tip: You can also find them in some fortified foods, such as CORAZONAS Oatmeal Squares, which are infused with .8 grams of plant sterols (click for details).
- Walnuts, pecans and sunflower seeds provide your body with LDL-battling phytosterols and heart-healthy fats. Enjoy a small handful daily. Tip: Try topping a fresh fruit salad with a handful of Bergin Nut Company Pecan Halves (click to order) or tuck a small bag of sunflower seeds into your purse or briefcase to enjoy at work or on the go, such as David Seeds Original Sunflower Seeds, 1.75-ounce Bags (click to buy now).
- And we saved the best for last: Enjoy dark chocolate or cocoa to halt inflammation! How much: An ounce of extra-dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa or higher) several times each week. My tip: Go for fair trade, organic, gluten-free Sjaak’s Organic Extra Dark Chocolate Bar 70% Cacao (click to order now).