5 Foods to Fight Inflammation and Lower Cholesterol

Quell Inflammation and Lower Your Cholesterol with These Foods

When your heart becomes injured - through smoking, heart disease, high blood pressure - your body might launch an inflammatory response. This in turn can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries, contributing to or worsening heart disease. 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 are also an excellent source of protein, fiber, and B vitamins.

Beans are an easy 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, Instructor and Dietetic Programs Director 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 super foods," adds Cecil.

Whole Grains

Whole grains, such as barley, bulgur, oats, quinoa and rye, 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," according to Jessica Butcher, RD, a dietitian in Grand Haven, Michigan.

"As the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends, 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 majority of fish's cardiovascular benefit. These fatty acids reduce inflammation.

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

Eggs

Eggs may not be the first food you think of for heart health, but in fact there is reason to eat them, especially those that boast omega-3 fats. According to DiLuglio, whole eggs from chickens fed omega-3-enriched feed will deliver omega-3s in the yolk. "The yolk also gives you vitamin D, E, and B12." Still, it's best to limit eggs to one a day, since they also deliver saturated fat, a nutrient that may raise your risk of heart disease.

Spices

Spices are an often-overlooked source of anti-inflammatory nutrients. Adding spices is a quick, no-cook way to improve the nutritional benefit of a meal.

"Turmeric and ginger are two anti-inflammatory spices that can be used in many dishes, salad dressings and sauces," notes DiLuglio.

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. 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, wine, berries, and peanuts. They may not only prevent inflammation, but prevent cancer formation and work as antioxidants.

Sources:

Personal Interview Melinda Cecil 4/30/11

Personal Interview Jessica Butcher 4/30/11

Personal Interview Beth Ellen DiLuglio 4/30/11

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