A person’s diet plays a crucial role in their cholesterol levels — some foods can increase cholesterol, while others lower it. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels can help prevent several health issues.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that travels through the bloodstream as a part of two 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
HDL, or “good,” cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from the body through the liver. High HDL cholesterol levels can reduce the risk of heart problems and strokes.
This article lists foods people can incorporate into their diet to improve their cholesterol levels. It also looks into which foods to avoid.
Below are a range of foods that may help lower cholesterol as part of a varied diet.
Eggplant is high in dietary fiber with 1-cup containing
Okra, or lady’s fingers, is a warm-season vegetable that people cultivate worldwide.
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.
Avocados are rich in heart-healthy nutrients. A
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. This is one of many ways 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.
A person can add oats to their diet by eating porridge or oat-based cereal for breakfast.
A 2020 paper found that a soluble fiber — 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 trapped ones, 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 sugar 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:
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.
However, people should eat dark chocolate products in moderation, as they can be high in saturated fats and sugar.
People can use garlic in many dishes and it has many health benefits.
However, these reviews involved garlic supplements — it would be difficult to include enough garlic in the diet to have a noticeable effect on cholesterol levels.
Antioxidants called catechins in certain teas, such as green tea, can benefit health.
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 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
Learn more about the different types of fats.
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.
To reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, limit the intake of the following foods which contain high levels of saturated and trans fats:
- fatty meat, such as lamb and pork
- lard and shortening
- butter and cream
- palm oil
- cakes and donuts
- potato chips
- fried foods
- full fat dairy products
Below are some common questions relating to cholesterol-lowering foods.
What reduces cholesterol quickly?
According to the
How do you lower cholesterol naturally?
The best way to reduce cholesterol is to eat a diet rich in high fiber, whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Lifestyle and diet changes can reduce cholesterol levels quickly. These include:
- limiting saturated fats from the diet
- increasing physical activity levels
- reducing alcohol intake
- quitting smoking, if necessary
Are bananas good for cholesterol?
Bananas are rich in soluble fiber and potassium. Both of these can have a positive effect on increasing digestive transit time, lowering cholesterol, and reducing blood pressure, when eaten as part of a healthy diet.
Will drinking a lot of water lower cholesterol?
While ensuring adequate hydration is essential to overall health, cholesterol is not a water-soluble fat, and drinking large amounts of water will not lower cholesterol.
Maintaining low LDL cholesterol levels is important, as it decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
A person can do this by following a healthy diet that includes high fiber fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fatty fish, unprocessed soy, and the occasional dark chocolate treat.
It is also important to limit the intake of foods high in saturated fat, as these can increase LDL cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease, stroke, and obesity.