Lower those high cholesterol levels with these five helpful fruits

By Rachael Schultz
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Cholesterol itself isn't bad, but when too much of the bad type (that's LDL, in case you forgot) builds up, it circulates through your blood and builds up on the walls of your heart. And since heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., we love food that'll help counteract the damage. (See: High Cholesterol and Women: What You Haven't Heard Yet.) Incorporate these five fruits into your diet and your heart will thank you.

Avocados

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Eating one avocado a day can help lower bad cholesterol levels, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Overweight or obese participants who ate a moderate-fat, cholesterol-improving diet saw lower total and LDL cholesterol levels when they included the green fruit than when they didn't. (Try one of these 30 Awesome Avocado Toast Recipes.)

Persimmons

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If you've never had the orange fruit, you're in for a heart-healthy surprise: The polyphenols found in this fruit can help decrease levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, research shows. Plus, it has twice as much fiber and more antioxidants than an apple!

Cranberries

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Forget the turkey-eat this holiday favorite year-round! Regular consumption of cranberries may help reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 40 percent. Specifically, the berries help reduce LDL cholesterol levels and help raise the good HDL levels in your body. (Here, more Healthy Side Dishes for the Holidays and Beyond.)

Apples

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An apple a day certainly keeps heart disease away: The fruit works wonders at lowering cholesterol and fighting heart disease, reports research from Florida State University. Women in the study who added dried apples to their diet every day for a year saw their "bad" LDL cholesterol levels improve by 23 percent in just six months (and their good cholesterol rose by 4 percent!). It's all thanks to the antioxidants and pectin (the sticky part of fruit used to make jams and jellies) in apples, which works to fight inflammation. (Check out these 10 New (Delicious!) Ways to Eat Apples.)

Strawberries

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These juicy treats can actually counteract the effects of a bad meal: Men and women who added one serving of strawberries to a heart-harming meal (in one study, a bagel with cream cheese and whole milk) avoided the post-meal rise of bad cholesterol. It also reduced inflammation and lowered insulin levels after eating, as well as relaxed blood vessels to lower blood pressure and reduce stress on the heart.

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