These nuts provide a rich source of cholesterol-lowering sterols, but Christopher Gardner, Ph.D., a cholesterol researcher at Stanford University, credits monounsaturated fat with most of the benefit. Unlike saturated fat, the mono kind doesn't block the removal of LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream.
Want to do more for your ticker? Try these seven simple heart-saving strategies
Cornell University researchers found that eating one Red Delicious apple a day can block LDL oxidation, resulting in an 8 percent drop in levels. Bonus: Apples (and their skins) contain soluble fiber, the kind that scrubs artery walls clean. Cut one up and mix it into your oatmeal, another top source.
Much has been made of soybeans' ability to overcome everything from cholesterol to cancer. Gardner isn't convinced: "I'm not sure how much of the health benefit is soy versus what soy displaces." When it comes to controlling cholesterol, he says, that means substituting a vegetable patty for a fatty beef burger and topping your salad with edamame or kidney beans instead of chicken tenders a couple of times a week. (Take a head-to-toe approach—40 foods
with body-boosting powers.)
Similar to the resveratrol in grapes, pterostilbene, an antioxidant found in blueberries, can stimulate liver cells to better break down fat and cholesterol, according to USDA scientists.
Two weekly servings of fatty fish, like salmon, can lower LDL by 20 percent. Tufts University scientists found that, in high enough quantities, the omega-3 fatty acids from fish chewed through cholesterol molecules in the bloodstream and shrank the size of remaining LDL particles by 12 percent.