Following an overall healthy diet that’s low in saturated fat and abundant in fruits and vegetables is wiser than obsessing over specific “super” foods. Still, some foods have been shown to give cholesterol levels an extra nudge in the right direction.
Oats: When women in a University of Toronto study added oat bran to an already heart-healthy diet, HDL-cholesterol levels—the beneficial kind—climbed more than 11 percent.
Almonds: A 2005 Tufts University study found that substances in almond skins help prevent LDL cholesterol from being oxidized, a process that can otherwise damage the lining of blood vessels and increase cardiovascular risk.
Beans & Lentils: In results reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2005, LDL-cholesterol levels fell almost twice as far in volunteers on a low-fat diet who added beans and lentils (along with more whole grains and vegetables) to the menu.
Blueberries: Blueberries contain a powerful antioxidant called pterostilbene that may help lower LDL cholesterol, scientists at the Agricultural Research Service reported in 2004.
Barley: When volunteers in a 2004 USDA study added barley to the standard American Heart Association diet, LDL-cholesterol levels fell more than twice as far.
Avocados: The monounsaturated fats in avocados have been found to lower bad LDLs and raise good HDLs, especially in people with mildly elevated cholesterol.
Alcohol: Drinking a glass of wine with dinner—any alcoholic beverage, in fact—has been shown to raise good-cholesterol levels and lower the risk of a heart attack. (Excessive drinking, however, raises heart-disease danger.)