What Should I Eat To Lower My Cholesterol? We all know too much cholesterol is bad for our health. We also know too little cholesterol is also bad for our health. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and confused about what you should be eating to ensure your cholesterol is in check, you’re not alone. Let’s iron out what you should and shouldn’t be eating to keep your cholesterol levels balanced.
What is cholesterol?
Your body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But if you have too much in your blood, it can stick to the walls of your arteries and narrow or even block them. This puts you at risk for coronary artery disease and other heart diseases.
Cholesterol travels through the blood on proteins called lipoproteins. One type, LDL, is sometimes called the “bad” cholesterol. A high LDL level leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. Another type, HDL, is sometimes called the “good” cholesterol. It carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Then your liver removes the cholesterol from your body.
What are the treatments for high cholesterol?
The treatments for high cholesterol are heart-healthy lifestyle changes and medicines. The lifestyle changes include healthy eating, weight management, and regular physical activity.
How can I lower cholesterol with diet?
Heart-healthy lifestyle changes include a diet to lower your cholesterol. The DASH eating plan is one example. Another is the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet, which recommends that you
Choose healthier fats. You should limit both total fat and saturated fat. No more than 25 to 35% of your daily calories should come from dietary fats, and less than 7% of your daily calories should come from saturated fat. Depending upon how many calories you eat per day, here are the maximum amounts of fats that you should eat:
|Calories per Day||Total Fat||Saturated Fat|
|1,500||42-58 grams||10 grams|
|2,000||56-78 grams||13 grams|
|2,500||69-97 grams||17 grams|
Saturated fat is a bad fat because it raises your LDL (bad cholesterol) level more than anything else in your diet. It is found in some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods.
Trans fat is another bad fat; it can raise your LDL and lower you HDL (good cholesterol). Trans fat is mostly in foods made with hydrogenated oils and fats, such as stick margarine, crackers, and french fries.
Instead of these bad fats, try healthier fats, such as lean meat, nuts, and unsaturated oils like canola, olive, and safflower oils.
Limit foods with cholesterol. If you are trying to lower your cholesterol, you should have less than 200 mg a day of cholesterol. Cholesterol is in foods of animal origin, such as liver and other organ meats, egg yolks, shrimp, and whole milk dairy products.
Eat plenty of soluble fiber. Foods high in soluble fiber help prevent your digestive tract from absorbing cholesterol. These foods include:
- Whole-grain cereals such as oatmeal and oat bran
- Fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, pears, and prunes
- Legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, chick peas, black-eyed peas, and lima beans
15 foods that lower cholesterol
A person’s diet plays a crucial role in how healthy their cholesterol levels are. Eating foods that keep cholesterol within a healthy range can help prevent health issues, including a heart attack or stroke.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that travels through the bloodstream as a part of two different lipoproteins: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
People sometimes refer to LDL cholesterol as “bad” cholesterol because it causes fatty deposits to build up in the blood vessels. These deposits can block blood flow and cause heart attacks or strokes.
HDL, or “good,” cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from the body through the liver. High levels of HDL cholesterol can reduce the risk of heart problems and strokes.
This article lists foods that a person can incorporate into their diet to improve their cholesterol levels. It also looks into which foods to avoid.
Eggplant is high in dietary fiber: A 100-g portion contains 3 grams (g)Trusted Source of fiber. As the American Heart Association (AHA)Trusted Source point out, fiber helps improve blood cholesterol levels. It also reduces the risk of developing:
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
Okra, or lady’s fingers, is a warm-season vegetable that people cultivate throughout the world.
Researchers have found that a gel in okra called mucilage can help lower cholesterol by binding to it during digestion. This helps cholesterol leave the body through stool.
A small 2019 study found that among 40 participants with mildly high cholesterol, eating two apples a day reduced both total and LDL cholesterol levels. It also lowered levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood.
One apple can contain 3–7 gof dietary fiber, depending on its size. In addition, apples contain compounds called polyphenols, which may also have a positive impacton cholesterol levels.
Avocados are rich in heart-healthy nutrients. A 2015 study concluded that eating one avocado a day as part of a moderate fat, cholesterol-lowering diet can improve cardiovascular disease risk, specifically by lowering LDL cholesterol without lowering HDL cholesterol.
One cup, or 150 g, of avocado contains 14.7 g of monounsaturated fats, which can reduce LDL cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease
Omega-3 fats, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are essential polyunsaturated fats found in fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, with well-documented anti-inflammatory and heart health benefits.
EPA can help protect the blood vessels and heart from disease by lowering levels of triglycerides, a fat that enters the bloodstream after a meal. This is one of many ways that it may prevent atherosclerosis and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Other heart health benefits include preventing cholesterol crystals from forming in the arteries, reducing inflammation, and improving the way that HDL cholesterol works.
Oats significantly improved blood cholesterol levels over a period of 4 weeks in a small 2017 study. Participants with mildly elevated cholesterol levels ate 70 g of oats per day in the form of porridge. This provided them with 3 g of soluble fiber per day, the amount that is needed to lower cholesterol, according to research.
The team found that the participants’ LDL cholesterol levels fell by 11.6% in 28 days.
Other research confirms that the soluble fiber in oats lowers LDL cholesterol levels and can improve cardiovascular risk as part of a heart-healthy diet.
A person can add oats to their diet by eating porridge or oat-based cereal for breakfast.
Barley is a healthy grain that is rich in vitamins and minerals and high in fiber.
A 2018 study concluded that beta-glucan, a type of soluble dietary fiber found in barley, as well as oats, can help lower LDL cholesterol.
A 2020 study shed more light on how this happens. The team found that beta-glucan reduces LDL cholesterol by trapping bile acids and limiting how much cholesterol the body absorbs during digestion.
The body uses cholesterol to produce bile acids, replacing those that are trapped, which leads to an overall reduction in cholesterol levels.
The beta-glucan in barley also has a positive effect on the gut microbiome and blood glucose control, further benefiting heart health.
Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fats, which can help lower LDL cholesterol levels, especially when they replace saturated fats in the diet.
Nuts are also rich in fiber, which helps keep the body from absorbing cholesterol and promotes its excretion.
All nuts are suitable for a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering diet, including:
- Brazil nuts
Soybeans and soy products, such as tofu, soy milk, and soy yogurt, are suitable for a cholesterol-lowering diet.
A 2019 analysis of 46 investigations into the effects of soy on LDL cholesterol found that a median intake of 25 g of soy protein per day over 6 weeks lowered LDL cholesterol by a clinically significant 4.76 milligrams per deciliter.
Overall, the researchers concluded that soy protein can reduce LDL cholesterol by around 3–4% in adults, cementing its place in a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering diet.
10. Dark chocolate
Cocoa, which can be found in dark chocolate, contains flavonoids, a group of compounds in many fruits and vegetables. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can benefit health in various ways.
In a 2015 study, participants drank a beverage containing cocoa flavanol twice a day for a month. By the end of the trial, their LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure had decreased, and their HDL cholesterol levels had increased.
However, eat dark chocolate products in moderation, as they can be high in saturated fats and sugar.
Lentils are rich in fiber, containing 3.3 g per 100-g portion. Fiber can prevent the body from absorbing cholesterol into the bloodstream.
A small 2015 study that included 39 participants who had type 2 diabetes and were overweight or had obesity demonstrated the positive effects of eating lentils on cholesterol levels. After 8 weeks of eating 60 g of lentil sprouts per day, HDL levels improved, and LDL and triglyceride levels decreased.
People can use garlic in a wide range of dishes, and it has many health benefits.
For example, researchers have found that garlic can help regulate serum cholesterol levels. And another study determined that garlic can also help reduce blood pressure.
However, these studies involved garlic supplements — it would be difficult to include enough garlic in the diet to have a noticeable effect on cholesterol levels.
13. Green tea
Antioxidants called catechins in certain teas, such as green tea, can be very beneficial to health.
A 2020 study found that green tea consumption significantly improved cholesterol levels, reducing both total and LDL cholesterol levels without lowering HDL cholesterol levels. The researchers call for further studies to confirm their findings.
14. Extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil features regularly in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. One of its many uses is as a cooking oil.
Substituting saturated fat, found in butter, with monounsaturated fat, found in extra virgin olive oil, might help reduce LDL levels.
Moreover, extra virgin olive oil has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can be very beneficial to cardiovascular and overall health.
Kale is an excellent source of fiber and many other nutrients. One cup of boiled kale contains 4.7 g of fiber.
A 2016 review demonstrated the link between fiber intake and a reduction in blood fat levels and blood pressure. Including more fiber in the diet can help lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Kale is also very rich in antioxidants, which are good for the heart and help reduce inflammation.
Healthy eating tips to lower cholesterol
As well as sticking to a varied and healthy diet, try these tips to help you manage your cholesterol:
- The Heart Foundation recommends that people follow a heart-healthy eating pattern, which is built on eating mostly plant-based foods. Eating more plant-based foods like vegetables, legumes, fruit, wholegrains, nuts and seeds is good for heart health.
- Include legumes (or pulses such as chickpeas, lentils, split peas), beans (such as haricot beans, kidney beans, baked beans , bean mixes) in at least two meals a week. Check food labels and choose the lowest sodium (salt) products.
- Beans make a great alternative to meat in tacos, or snack on hummus with vegetable sticks. You can also add legumes to soups, pasta sauces, curries and stews.
- Use tofu or lentils instead of meat in stir fries or curries.
- Choose wholegrain breads, cereals, pasta, rice and noodles.
- Snack on plain, unsalted nuts and fresh fruit (ideally two serves of fruit every day).
- Use avocado, nut butters, tahini or spreads made from healthy unsaturated fats (such as canola, sunflower or extra virgin olive oil) instead of those made with saturated fat (such as butter, coconut oil and cream).
- Use healthy oils for cooking – some include canola, sunflower, soybean, olive (extra virgin is a good choice), sesame and peanut oils.
- For people at high risk of heart disease, the Heart Foundation recommends people eat 2-3 grams of plant sterol-enriched foods every day (for example, plant sterol-enriched margarine, yoghurt, milk and cereals).
- Enjoy fish two to three times a week (150 grams fresh or 100g tinned).
- Most people don’t need to limit the number of eggs they eat each week. However, a maximum of seven eggs each week is recommended for people with high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Select lean meat (meat trimmed of fat, and poultry without skin) and limit unprocessed red meat to less than 350g per week.
- Choose unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese. People with high cholesterol or heart disease should opt for reduced fat options. Check the labels to make sure there’s no added sugar. Non-dairy milks and yoghurts are ok too; opt for versions that have no added sugar and have had calcium added.
- Limit or avoid processed meats including sausages and deli meats (such as ham, bacon and salami).