6 CHOLESTEROL More of These It’s not surprising that fruits, vegetables, and grains do not contain any cholesterol.They are also packed with antioxidants that discourage oxidation.This is still another reason why increasing your consumption of these foods is critical to your health.And if you need one more reason to increase your daily intake of fruits and vegetables, do it because they contain valuable B vitamins. To keep homocysteine levels in check, we need to get enough of three key B vitamins via our diet and dietary supplements. Healthy food sources for these key B vitamins include: • Vitamin B6 = seeds, beans, bananas, fortified oatmeal, spinach, and avocado • Vitamin B12 = fish and fortified cereals • Folic Acid = green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, fortified grains, beans, and peas In 2007 the FDA reviewed the scientific literature on five specific foods proven to be beneficial to the heart. As a result of that review, the FDA has decided to give these foods a health claim for managing cholesterol. In addition to vegetables and fruits, individuals wishing to lower their cholesterol should increase their daily intake of the following five cholesterol-lowering foods: • Fatty fish (e.g. salmon, trout, tuna) • Oatmeal • Oat bran • Walnuts • Foods fortified with plant sterols Some studies have shown that a vegetarian diet that includes fish (also known as a pescatarian diet) can help lower cholesterol levels. Several European studies have demonstrated that vegetarians have fewer risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high cholesterol. A study published in The Chinese Journal of Physiology showed that postmenopausal vegetarian women had lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In addition to eliminating animal products, vegetarians typically also have a higher intake of whole grains, oatmeal, oat bran, nuts, beans, fruits, and vegetables, which can also help explain why they have lower cholesterol levels. In addition to fiber and B vitamins, plant foods contain valuable, heart-healthy compounds called sterols. These compounds have been shown to reduce cholesterol. Five Servings: It’s Easier Than You Think! Some of my patients have told me that it seems difficult to consume five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. After you realize that a serving is not really that much, you’ll find that five servings isn’t overwhelming at all. Each of these is one serving: • 1 cup of leafy greens or four leaves of lettuce • 1/2 cup of raw vegetables • 1/2 cup of dried fruit • 1 medium apple (the size of a tennis ball) If you create a salad with the above items, you’ve already eaten four servings, and that’s just one meal! While I’m not an advocate of fast-food restaurants in general, you can get a grilled chicken salad with a side of apple slices and cover two servings while increasing your fiber and healthy food intake. If you snack on carrots or celery, you obtain another quick low calorie serving of vegetables.