By carefully monitoring food intake, the amount of cholesterol and other potentially harmful substances in the body can be reduced. Diets high in trans-fatty acids and saturated fats can greatly increase the risk for heart disease and stroke since these foods can leave fatty deposits that clog arteries.

While foods high in trans-fatty acids and saturated fats should be avoided, increasing the intake of heart-healthy foods is just as important. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes are perhaps the best ones to eat. They help lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol). These foods are rich in enzymes and fiber. Fruits such as apples and oranges contain anti-oxidants that help fight the formation of LDL cholesterol. Beans, cabbages are also good high-fiber choices. It was previously believed that soy-based products lowered cholesterol levels, recent studies suggest the effect was only minimal. However, while they may not be optimal for lowering cholesterol, nutritionists say soy products are still healthy because they have less saturated fat than meat and also have vitamins and minerals.

Wheat-based foods, like bran and oatmeal, are also very heart-healthy. They contain soluble fiber that helps absorb bad cholesterol. Another recommended heart-saving food is fish. Fish has a lot of fiber and protein. Tuna fish and sardines are especially good choices. They contain Omega-3 fatty acids which help prevent the buildup of fatty acids. Fish also contain various other minerals and vitamins that are highly beneficial to the body.

There is often the misconception that oils will increase the amount of cholesterol in the body. While there are some types of oils that should be avoided, there actually are healthy oils. Olive oil and palm oil both help lower cholesterol. They can be substituted for less healthy oils, like vegetable oil.

Protein is a very important nutrient, but it must be consumed in moderation. Certain proteins, like meat and dairy products, are very high in fat. Eating too much of them can increase the risk of heart disease and other problems. Balancing animal, fish and vegetable sources of protein in the diet can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Regardless of what healthier options are included in a daily diet, it is extremely important to eat regularly. Do not skip meals, because that could lead to overeating. Experts recommend eating either five or six mini-meals throughout the day or eating three well-balanced meals.

There are also other dietary suggestions that can help lower cholesterol. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Staying hydrated will lead to less eating and higher energy levels. Another healthy strategy is to enjoy meals. Savoring every bite means feeling better and less of an urge to overeat.