For the majority of us, the word cholesterol is a very familiar term. A waxy substance that can be found among the fats in the bloodstream. It is necessary for the formation of cell membranes and other tissues, but in high levels, can be a major risk factor for coronary heart disease. Maintaining a healthy diet and getting sufficient exercise can both lower cholesterol levels.

These days, keeping your cholesterol levels in check does not only have to extend to avoiding certain rich foods such as eggs, red meat, cheeses and fried fatty foods. There are actually some foods that can aid in lowering high cholesterol levels.

However this shouldn't be taken as an invitation or an opportunity to chew on junk now because you are making a conscientious effort to consume these foods! It just means that now you can have more range on the foods you are able to eat.

Consuming cholesterol-reducing foods will only be effective if you make them part of a diet that gets no more than 30 percent of it's total calories from fat and less than 7 percent from saturated fatty acids.

The following foods are a good starting point -

OAT BRAN - Rich in soluble fibre, oat bran has been shown to help reduce cholesterol. Oatmeal is a great, easy way to receive the benefits of soluble fibre.

BEANS - Another great source of soluble fibre, cooked beans, such as pinto and kidney beans are not only a healthy alternative but are also very delicious.

CARROTS - Although carrots are not a good source of soluble fibre, a recent study highlighted that one raw carrot a day at breakfast could lower total cholesterol by as much as 11 percent. Carrots contain insoluble fibre, which aids in normal bowel function and may help flush dietary cholesterol more quickly from the body.

CANOLA/OLIVE OIL - These oils are high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to help manage cholesterol but only when part of a low-fat, low cholesterol diet.

SOY - Found in tofu, tempeh, soymilk, roasted soy nuts and more, soy has been known to reduce cholesterol. The higher your cholesterol, the more soy will help bring your levels to where they should be. However, if you already have low cholesterol, soy will have no or little effect.

** Remember that keeping your cholesterol levels in check is very important. **

- Annemarie Failla