Curb unhealthy cholesterol levels
LDL, or "bad," cholesterol, accumulates on artery walls, hardening into plaque that can block blood flow. "Without enough blood reaching the heart, you can suffer chest pain or heart damage," says Stein. To keep plaque at bay, you want to lower LDL and raise HDL ("good") cholesterol. These foods will help.
GARLIC This tasty bulb has a mild cholesterol-lowering effect and also keeps LDL from building up in the arteries and contributing to plaque. You need to consume several loves a day to get the protective benefits. To fit it into your meals, use garlic as often as you can in cooking. It pairs well with everything from roast meats and poultry to vegetables, soups, and pasta dishes. An even easier way: Stir a teaspoon of chopped garlic into 2 tablespoons of lowfat mayo and use it as a spread on your sandwich or wrap.
EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL Olive oil is rich in mono- unsaturated fats, which can lower LDL when they replace saturated fat in your diet. "In fact, every 1 percent decrease in your intake of saturated fat— found in cheese, butter, and fatty meats—can reduce your LDL level by 2 percent," says Ohlson. But be careful what you replace it with, she says. Many people substitute carbohydrates like white bread and lowfat cookies for saturated fat. While that strategy may lower your LDL level, it causes your HDL to drop—and that's also not good for your heart. Try replacing saturated fat–rich foods with olive oil, as well as with avocado, nuts, and other sources of monos. Extra- virgin olive oil has an advantage over other types: It packs extra polyphenols, compounds that keep LDL cholesterol from sticking to artery walls. "Since extra- virgin olive oil costs several dollars more than the regular kind, don't use it for cooking," says Moores. "Instead, incorporate it where you can really savor the flavor—in a salad dressing, as a topping for bread, or drizzled over steamed veggies."