Lowering your cholesterol doesn’t have to be a chore. By making small changes to your diet you can make big gains in the “good” HDL cholesterol numbers your doctor likes so much! Here are 5 more foods to incorporate into your diet for optimum heart health.

1. Fruits and Vegetables: Eat a salad every night with dinner, but go easy on the dressing and toppings. Choose a sweet potato over a white potato. Another great vegetable is broccoli which is high in beta-carotene, fiber, and phytochemicals – One cup of broccoli contains more vitamin C than an orange. Eating fruits with the skin on will reap the most rewards; apples with the skin on will provide the most benefit of  soluble fiber. All grapes help to lower cholesterol but the darker the grape, the more of the compound it contains, so eat darker grapes for greater benefits. Blueberries contain fiber as well as vitamins C, K and B6, and minerals like phosphorous and manganese They also contain several phytochemicals or plant compounds that give a handful of blueberries a heap of health benefits. Raspberries are a low calorie and nutrient-dense food. With their combination of vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber make them super heart healthy too.

2. Green tea: A healthier alternative to sodas and sugary beverages. Green tea has important antioxidants and compounds that help in maintaining good health. Because of its minimal processing; its leaves are withered and steamed, not fermented, green tea’s unique catechins, especially epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), are more concentrated. There is still a question of how much green tea you need to drink to reap its health benefits. (photo credit here)

3. Brown Rice : A delicious nutty flavored grain which is an excellent source of manganese and a good sources of selenium & magnesium. Only the outermost layer, the hull, is removed to produce what we call brown rice. This process is the least damaging to the nutritional value of the rice and avoids the unnecessary loss of nutrients that occurs with further processing to get white rice. (photo credit here)

4. Avocados: These are high in beta-sitosterol, a compound that has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. One cup of avocado has 23% of the recommended daily value of folate. The vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, and glutathione in avocado are also great for your heart. (photo credit here)

5. Flaxseed/ Flaxseed Oil: A tiny seed that’s been around for centuries packs a BIG punch. Flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber,  75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods and Omega-3 “good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s. Try adding a spoonful of ground up flaxseed to your favorite morning oatmeal, smoothies or baked goods. You can substitute 3 tbsp. ground flax seeds for 1 tbsp. butter/margarine. (photo credit here)
Regular physical activity can raise your HDL by at least 10%. Talk to your doctor about exercising, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight to help keep your cholesterol level low. Studies show moderate consumption of alcohol can help raise levels of HDL “good” cholesterol by as much as 10%. Doctors say up to one drink a day makes sense for women, up to two a day for men. But given the risks of excessive drinking, the American Heart Association (AHA) cautions against increasing your alcohol intake or starting to drink if you don’t already do so.