There are some surprising foods that make for a healthy cholesterol diet.

There are some surprising foods that make for a healthy cholesterol diet. Watch: How to Make Cuban Pineapple & Avocado Salad

One third of Americans have unhealthy cholesterol levels, so why did the most recent USDA dietary guidelines ax its advice to limit the cholesterol we eat daily? Well, for most of us, ­dietary cholesterol has almost no effect on the cholesterol that ends up in our arteries, meaning avoiding foods high in cholesterol like eggs or shrimp may not be necessary (except for some people with diabetes, who may be sensitive to dietary cholesterol). But while dietary cholesterol isn't as important as we once thought, keeping your blood cholesterol numbers down is still key to preventing heart disease.

Between the two types of cholesterol found in the blood-LDL and HDL-LDL is traditionally targeted as the bad stuff that you want to lower. But it's now known that not all LDL particles are equally dangerous. Small, dense LDL seems to be able to sneak through artery walls more easily and oxidize more readily into a damaging form, compared to the larger, lighter particles. Cholesterol deposits collect and can restrict blood flow or even block the artery entirely, which can cause a heart attack.

Fortunately, eating the right foods can help keep this cholesterol out of your arteries.

Avocado and Cholesterol

Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, which boost "good" HDL cholesterol while lowering triglycerides and LDL­-and avocado's fiber and phytosterols may give its cholesterol-lowering power a boost. When overweight people ate an avocado daily, LDLs dropped significantly more than for those who didn't eat the avocado.

Try this Pineapple & Avocado Salad for a delicious way to improve your cholesterol.

Fiber and Cholesterol

Oats and barley are grains rich in beta glucan, a soluble fiber and a great way to slash small, dense LDL. Benefits kick in when you get at least 3 grams of beta glucan daily (that's the amount in 1 ½ cups cooked oatmeal or 1 1/4 cups cooked pearl barley).

Nuts and Cholesterol

Getting between 1 and 3 ounces of nuts like walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios daily can help nudge small dense LDLs down. When people with high cholesterol added about 24 walnut halves to their usual diets for six weeks, their small dense LDLs dropped 12.7 points.

Walnuts don't just make a great snack, they're also an awesome ingredient in these healthy walnut recipes.

May/June 2016