Health standards are unique for every individual, but magazines and websites love to lump us into groups based on trends. I have to consciously stop myself whenever I feel like I’m letting these trends define what I consider healthy. For example, since heart disease kills more men than women, it’s been branded a “male problem” in a lot of health media. But heart disease, an eventual result of uncontrolled cholesterol levels, is the number one killer of men and women. It should be on everybody’s radar.

Even though there are different kinds of cholesterol and everyone’s risk for developing heart disease is different, we can all benefit from the easiest change we can make – our diets – to lower our cholesterol and prevent it from becoming a problem. Here are 5 healthy foods that can do just that.


1. Oats and Cereal

The harmful, artery-clogging kind of cholesterol is called LDL. LDL responds well to soluble fiber, which is why eating oats or even high-fiber cereals is one of the first recommendations that a heart specialist will make to a worried patient.

We all know about Cheerios’ reputation for being the “heart-healthy breakfast.” Soluble fiber is the reason. A breakfast of freshly cooked oats, a snack of oats and yogurt, or even an oat-based muffin or bread can have a positive effect on bad cholesterol.


2. Nuts

One mistake that people make when they’re new to health-focused eating is to assume that all fats are equal. Actually, healthy fats, like those found in nuts, help us increase the good cholesterol and reduce the bad.

Nuts are high in calories but make a healthy snack in moderation, a good topping for oatmeal, or a great basis for yummy desserts if you’re feeling indulgent. Walnuts and almonds are the stars of the show, but most nuts have similar health benefits.


3. Avocado

Yet another “fatty” food that helps improve bad cholesterol levels; avocados are a great source of healthy fatty acids that help reduce LDL in overweight people. Plus, they taste delicious in a great guacamole.

Here’s the trick to avocados though. They might be a great source of healthy fats, but we’re all tempted to put them on chips loaded with trans fats or in meaty tacos. In order to ensure that eating avocados is a net benefit for you, especially if you’re overweight, consider slicing them onto a salad or sandwich instead.


4. Fish

Fish are commonly known as a heart-healthy alternative to red meat and this is because they contain so much Omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 lowers your blood pressure and reduces the chance of blood clots. This is good news both for people who have already had heart trouble and those that want to make sure to avoid it.

Many people turn to vitamin supplements to get their daily Omega-3, which is fine. The problem though is that our bodies reward us for getting vitamins from food rather than from a lab. Not only are supplements riskier because there’s so many of them out there (of varying effectiveness), but food has other properties too besides just Omega-3.

If you have the time, seek out sources of real tuna, wild salmon, trout, and herring, the best fish to eat for Omega-3, rather than getting it from a bottle.


5. Olive Oil

You may notice that this list is favoring a Mediterranean theme. That’s not an accident: Mediterranean diets are notoriously heart healthy. Olive oil is one of the main reasons for that. It’s a great way to introduce healthy fats into your diet, mixes well with vinegar for sandwiches and salads, and works great as a cooking oil substitute or an alternative to butter.

If you want a delicious snack, try dipping your oat bread in olive oil and spices.


The Takeaway

Everyone’s health has to be managed differently, but with heart disease on the rise, everyone should shop for their family’s heart whenever they can. As you can see from this list, most of the best dietary changes you can make for your heart’s health are cheap and easy. They just require a little knowledge, which you hopefully got from this article.

You don’t have to go overboard with restrictions. Just a few tweaks to the oils you use, the bread you eat, and the snacks you choose can keep your heart healthy and prevent you and the ones you love from becoming another statistic.