Cholesterol: Top 5 foods to lower your numbers.  By Mayo Clinic staff

Diet can play an important role in lowering your cholesterol. Here are five foods that can lower your
cholesterol and protect your heart.

1. Oatmeal, oat bran and high-fiber foods

Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad" cholesterol.
Soluble fiber is also found in such foods as kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes.

Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Five to 10 grams or more
of soluble fiber a day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol. Eating 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal
provides 6 grams of fiber. If you add fruit, such as bananas, you'll add about 4 more grams of fiber. To
mix it up a little, try steel-cut oatmeal or cold cereal made with oatmeal or oat bran.

2. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids

Eating fatty fish can be heart-healthy because of its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce
your blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. In people who have already had heart attacks,
fish oil — or omega-3 fatty acids — reduces the risk of sudden death.

Doctors recommend eating at least two servings of fish a week. The highest levels of omega-3 fatty
acids are in:

* Mackerel
* Lake trout
* Herring
* Sardines
* Albacore tuna
* Salmon
* Halibut

You should bake or grill the fish to avoid adding unhealthy fats.

3. Walnuts, almonds and other nuts

Walnuts, almonds and other nuts can reduce blood cholesterol. Rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids,
walnuts also help keep blood vessels healthy.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, eating about a handful (1.5 ounces, or 42.5 grams) a day
of most nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts,
may reduce your risk of heart disease. Just make sure the nuts you eat aren't salted or coated with
sugar.

4. Olive oil

Olive oil contains a potent mix of antioxidants that can lower your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol but leave your
"good" (HDL) cholesterol untouched.

The Food and Drug Administration recommends using about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil a day
in place of other fats in your diet to get its heart-healthy benefits. To add olive oil to your diet, you can
saute vegetables in it, add it to a marinade, or mix it with vinegar as a salad dressing. You can also use
olive oil as a substitute for butter when basting meat or as a dip for bread. Olive oil is high in calories,
so don't eat more than the recommended amount.

The cholesterol-lowering effects of olive oil are even greater if you choose extra-virgin olive oil,
meaning the oil is less processed and contains more heart-healthy antioxidants.

5. Foods with added plant sterols or stanols

Foods are now available that have been fortified with sterols or stanols — substances found in plants
that help block the absorption of cholesterol.

Margarines, orange juice and yogurt drinks with added plant sterols can help reduce LDL cholesterol by
more than 10 percent. The amount of daily plant sterols needed for results is at least 2 grams — which
equals about two 8-ounce (237-milliliter) servings of plant sterol-fortified orange juice a day.

Other changes to your diet

For any of these foods to provide their benefit, you need to make other changes to your diet and
lifestyle.

Cut back on the cholesterol and total fat — especially saturated and trans fats — that you eat. Saturated
fats, like those in meat, full-fat dairy products and some oils, raise your total cholesterol. Trans fats,
which are sometimes found in margarines and store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes, are
particularly bad for your cholesterol levels. Trans fats raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad"
cholesterol, and lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol.

Excerpted from www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/CL00002.