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
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.
Learn about the types of cholesterol and their healthy ranges here.
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
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.
One apple can contain
Avocados are rich in heart-healthy nutrients. A
One cup, or 150 g, of avocado contains
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
The team found that the participants’ LDL cholesterol levels fell by 11.6% in 28 days.
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
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.
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.
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
However, eat dark chocolate products in moderation, as they can be high in saturated fats and sugar.
Lentils are rich in fiber, containing
People can use garlic in a wide range of dishes, and it has many health benefits.
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.
Antioxidants called catechins in certain teas, such as green tea, can be very beneficial to health.
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,
Moreover, extra virgin olive oil has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can be
Kale is an excellent source of fiber and many other nutrients. One cup of boiled kale contains
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
Below are some ideas for meals that may help improve cholesterol levels:
- apple and peanut butter on whole grain toast
- cinnamon oats and low fat plain Greek yogurt
- oatmeal with blueberries and almonds
- vegetables and hummus in whole grain pita
- Mediterranean vegetable stew with barley
- kale salad topped with edamame and avocado
- poached salmon with asparagus and brown rice
- lentil stew with salsa verde
- whole wheat pasta with chicken and brussels sprouts tossed in olive oil
Try the following snacks in moderation as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet:
- fresh or frozen fruits
- raw vegetables dipped in hummus or guacamole
- whole grain pretzels or crackers
- roasted chickpeas or edamame
- rye crisps with tuna
- low fat or fat free yogurt
- a handful of pistachios or another nut
- apple slices with almond butter
- a granola bar made from oats, nuts, and dried fruit
To reduce levels of “bad” 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
Keeping LDL cholesterol levels low is important, as it decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
A person can do this by maintaining 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.