By Dr. Maoshing Ni – Posted on Fri, Oct 10, 2008, 7:55 am PDT

Have you ever witnessed someone eating one of those fast food meals with a triple-burger sandwich, an extra-large order of French fries, and an even larger serving of soda and reflected – either to yourself or out loud – on how you could “hear their arteries clogging?”

Of course you have. In fact, you might have even heard your own arteries clogging as you consumed a meal filled with animal fat, simple sugars, and processed foods. Both Western and Chinese medicine alike recognize the importance of diet when battling high cholesterol, and eating improper foods such as these can trigger the digestive system to build up the amount of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) – which are also known as bad cholesterol – in the blood. This can then lead to life-threatening illnesses such as heart attacks, strokes, and, of course, clogged and hardened arteries.

Cholesterol, however, is a tricky condition. A person with high amounts of LDL cholesterol in their blood may have inherited the condition from a genetic predisposition, and it may not seem like changing the diet can’t in any way help. Happily for your health, this isn’t true, and I have had tremendous success treating patients with very high cholesterol that simply needed a change to their diet and lifestyle to improve their health. Keep in mind that this change in diet does not have to be an all-or-nothing overhaul of deprivation and starvation. If you have high cholesterol, start simple!

Try incorporating the following five foods into your diet. High in fiber and low in cholesterol, they will not only help to lower your LDL cholesterol levels, but also benefit your body’s health in general.

1. Apples: A study was conducted in Finland to determine whether or not eating apples can lower cholesterol. The results of this study determined that eating three apples a day for three months can help you drop your cholesterol level by twenty points. This is a result of apple’s high amount of pectin, which is a source of dietary fiber that will draw LDL out of your system. Also, quercetin, an antioxidant, helps to inhibit the amount of LDL in the bloodstream. As autumn is a time for apples, be sure to take advantage of all of the tasty varieties that the season offers.

2. Spinach: Spinach, along with other green leafy vegetables, contains a carotenoid known as lutein. Lutein has been associated with the prevented buildup of cholesterol in the blood. With a little help from one or two helpings of fresh spinach, you’ll be on your way to low cholesterol levels in no time!

3. Oats: There are few things as satisfying as a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning. Whole grain oats, like whole wheat, are a high-fiber grain. While whole wheat is helpful in lowering cholesterol, oats contain more soluble fiber and therefore are more likely to reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol in your system. When eating foods containing oats, however, be sure to always eat whole grain oats, because the oats found in processed foods like granola bars often don’t contain soluble fiber.

4. Homemade orange marmalade: Who would guess that this delicious fruity spread would also be good for lowering LDL cholesterol? Orange marmalade includes orange rind – which contains compounds known as polymethoxylated flavones (PMFs). PMFs are found in the pigment of orange peel and are responsible for cholesterol-lowering actions, yet don’t reduce the level of good cholesterol. You can use orange rind in your cooking, as well.

5. Green tea: Green tea is beneficial for many conditions and ailments, and high levels of LDL cholesterol is no exception. Drink one cup of green tea daily and you may find that your high LDL cholesterol levels will say their final farewell.

Lowering your cholesterol starts with the foods you eat – and the foods you choose not to eat. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eating the right foods can help you on the way to a long, healthy life. As always, talk to your physician before beginning a new health regime.

I hope you will take these tips and lower your cholesterol levels. I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me. To learn about more safe and natural ways to lower your cholesterol, look in my book Secrets of Self-Healing. Click here to find more information.

–Dr. Mao