Foods That Claim to Lower Cholesterol


Flaxseed is the richest plant source of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It also contains heart-healthy soluble fiber. ALA, which is found only in plant foods, is considered an essential fatty acid because the body cannot make it on its own -- it must be supplied by the diet. In addition to flaxseed and flaxseed oil, other good sources of ALA include English walnuts, canola oil, soybean oil, and leafy greens. According to the Institute of Medicine, women should get 1.1 g of ALA a day, and men should get 1.6 g, which is on target with the amount the typical American adult consumes. 

Our bodies can convert some ALA -- about 15 percent -- to DHA and EPA, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, but a diet high in trans fat and polyunsaturated fat may inhibit the conversion. So don't count on ALA as your main source of DHA and EPA.  

Is ALA as good for your heart as DHA and EPA? Some studies have shown that consuming up to 2.8 g of ALA each day reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. The Nurses' Health Study found that those who consumed the most ALA (an average of 1.4 g a day) lowered their risk of dying from a fatal heart attack by 45 percent, as compared with those who consumed the least amount (an average of 0.7 g a day). However, despite this evidence, it's uncertain whether flaxseed or flaxseed oil lowers blood-cholesterol levels.

Guggul, an extract from tree resin, also claims to reduce cholesterol. See the next page to find out if research can confirm these claims.  

To find out more information about reducing cholesterol, see:  

  • How Cholesterol Works: Cholesterol is vital to human life. Learn what cholesterol is, why we need it, and how too much can be deadly.

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