Every 36 seconds, someone dies of heart disease in the US, accounting for one in every four deaths of all causes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). That’s why it’s so crucial to take care of your heart health by lowering your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. Making changes to your diet can help you achieve these heart health benchmarks, lowering your risk of heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, and other acute threats. In particular, experts say one popular beverage could slash your cholesterol by up to 15 percent. Read on to learn how drinking it could put you on track for a much healthier heart down the road.
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Cholesterol is a waxy substance formed in the liver, which helps protect nerves and build cell membranes. But too much of the wrong kind of cholesterol—that is, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol—can lead to a buildup of plaque in the arteries, spiking your risk of heart disease and stroke.
However, not all cholesterol is bad for you. A second type of cholesterol—high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol—actually absorbs bad cholesterol and brings it to the liver for processing. The CDC explains that the liver then gets to work flushing the bad cholesterol and plaque buildup from the arteries, a process that helps lower your risk of a heart health episode.
You can optimize this process and work toward better heart health by eating foods that include HDL cholesterol, but lower your LDL cholesterol, they say.
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There are several foods that can help to lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol, including oats, nuts, olive oil, avocados, fatty fish, and more. Additionally, there’s one thing you can drink that’s known to slash your LDL levels by up to 15 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic: orange juice fortified with plant sterols or stanols.
“Plant sterols and stanols are naturally occurring substances that can help to block the absorption of cholesterol,” Elliott TorsneyRDN, a Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, and Certified Diabetes Educator at Den of Fitness tells Best Life, Adding just two grams of sterol to your daily diet can have a positive effect, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Plant sterols and stanols work in tandem to help limit how much “bad” cholesterol your body retains. “These naturally occurring plant compounds are similar in structure to cholesterol. When you eat them, they help limit the amount of cholesterol your body can absorb,” explains the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). “Plant sterols and stanols are found in an increasing number of [fortified] food products such as spreads, juices, and yogurts.”
You can also get plant sterols and stanols from natural food sources. “Good sources include almonds, peanuts, and vegetable oils,” says Torsney. Unprocessed seeds, cereals, fruits, and vegetables are also known to contain sterols and stanols, the DHHS adds.
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The Mayo Clinic notes that more research is needed to determine how consumption of sterols and stanols directly affect heart health, if at all. “It’s not clear whether food with plant sterols or stanols reduces your risk of heart attack or stroke—although experts assume that foods that reduce cholesterol do reduce the risk,” their experts write.
Yet they say there’s little downside to adding sterols and stanols to your diet. “Plant sterols or stanols don’t appear to affect levels of triglycerides or of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol.”
Speak with a doctor or nutritionist to learn more about how a diet rich in plant sterols or stanols could help to lower your cholesterol and put you on track for improved heart health.
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