You’ll probably already know that if you want to look after your heart and keep your cholesterol low, it's vital to eat a healthy diet packed with fruit and vegetables.

But did you know you could also indulge in some naughtier food and drink and still be kind to your heart? Here are some unlikely treats that could actually be good for you…

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1. Chocolate

Unfortunately, we're not talking about a slab of creamy milk chocolate here, but dark chocolate, which contains more than three times as many flavonoid antioxidants - which help reduce 'bad' LDL cholesterol - as milk chocolate.

Studies suggest that eating dark chocolate is associated with reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and that about an ounce of chocolate a day increases good cholesterol and prevents bad cholesterol from oxidising.

Chocolate

That said, the British Heart Foundation doesn't recommend eating chocolate for health reasons, and points out that all chocolate is high in calories because of its fat and sugar content. If you eat too much of it, says the BHF, you could put on weight, which obviously isn't good for your heart.

2. Tea

Researchers have found that drinking green tea lowers ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol without affecting levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol in your blood.

Earlier this year, another study found that drinking Earl Grey tea could help guard against heart disease because bergamot extract - a key ingredient in the tea – is as effective as statins at controlling cholesterol.

Flavonoids, which are also in black 'everyday' tea, have been shown to prevent the oxidation of bad cholesterol that leads to the narrowing of artery walls.

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3. Garlic

As well as the added bonus of keeping vampires at bay this Halloween, garlic is also thought to lower cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.

Research suggests it helps stop artery-clogging plaque by preventing individual cholesterol particles from sticking to artery walls.

Some scientists recommend a daily dose of garlic – although a garlic supplement might be a wise option to avoid garlic breath.

4. Avocado

Avocados are a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which may help raise levels of 'good' HDL cholesterol and lower 'bad' LDL cholesterol.

Avocado

They also contain plant sterols which reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food. But avocados are high in calories, so, again, eat in moderation.

5. Baked beans

Beans are especially high in cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre - and that goes for any type of bean, including the old store cupboard staple, baked beans.

Eating them four or five times a week may help lower cholesterol, although remember that some brands contain a lot of sugar and salt, so it's wise to opt for reduced sugar and salt varieties if possible.

6. Nuts

Eating nuts including almonds, walnuts, pecans and peanuts, is another good way of helping to lower cholesterol. But don't go for salted varieties, as too much salt can raise blood pressure.

It's thought that nuts' cholesterol-fighting properties may be because they contain plant sterols, which block the absorption of cholesterol. They also contain monounsaturated fats that protect blood vessels from damage.

Studies have suggested that eating a portion of about eight to 10 nuts every day can help reduce overall cholesterol by 5%.