5 Foods to Fight Inflammation and Lower Cholesterol

Quell inflammation and lower your cholesterol with these foods

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Inflammation can increase the risk for a heart attack, causing existing plaque buildup in your arteries to rupture and lead to total blockage of the artery and damage to the heart muscle. Fortunately, you can combat inflammation with a healthy diet, and help to lower your cholesterol by stocking up on the foods below.

Beans

Beans may not only be anti-inflammatory, but they are also an excellent source of protein, fiber, and B vitamins. Beans are an easy plant-based replacement for meat in tacos, chili, soups and Italian food dishes.

"I encourage clients to include beans and peas in their meals, especially the darker beans, which have many health benefits," says Malinda D. Cecil, MS, RD, LDN, Assistant Professor and Director of Dietetics Programs at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. "Beans are rich in soluble fiber and phytonutrients-they really fill you up, are a source of low-fat protein and are cholesterol free — beans are real superfoods," adds Cecil.

Whole Grains

Whole grains, such as barley, bulgur, brown rice, oats, and quinoa, contain the entire parts and nutrients of their original seed (as opposed to refined grains, which have the bran and germ removed).

"Whole grains will help arm your body with a strong defense system against damaging inflammatory-inducing free radicals," says Jessica Butcher, RD, a dietitian in Grand Rapids, Michigan. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, at least half the grains you consume daily should be whole grains. Butcher suggests, "You can get these nutrient powerhouses by filling half of your plate with produce, one-quarter with whole grains, and the final quarter with lean protein."

Fatty Fish

Many patients with high cholesterol know that fish is "good for you," but wonder why. The omega-3 nutrients eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are to thank for the cardiovascular benefit found in fish. These fatty acids reduce inflammation.

"I recommend preformed EPA and DHA from omega-3 fat sources such as cold water fish, which includes salmon, mackerel or sardines," says Beth Ellen DiLuglio, MS, RD, a Florida-based nutrition educator.

Vegetables

Vegetables contain a range of plant compounds which offer many health benefits, including protection against heart disease. They're also rich in fiber and antioxidants and low in calories, which is necessary for maintaining a healthy weight. Certain vegetables, including okra, eggplants, carrots, and potatoes, are high in pectin, a cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber.

Foods High in Flavonoids (such as anthocyanins and quercetin)

Flavonoids are natural compounds found in apples, citrus fruits, onions, soybeans and soy products (i.e. tofu, soy milk, edamame), coffee and tea. These foods may not only inhibit inflammation but possibly tumor growth. Further, they may aid immunity and boost production of detoxifying enzymes in the body, according to DiLuglio.

Foods High in Polyphenols

Polyphenols are compounds (such as ellagic acid and resveratrol) found in citrus fruits, apples, whole grains, green tea, grapes, red wine, berries, and peanuts. They may not only prevent inflammation but prevent cancer formation and work as antioxidants.

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