Soluble fiber, found in foods such as oats, vegetables, and fruits, may help to lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber can help the body to absorb and eliminate “bad” cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that the liver creates. Cholesterol also comes from eating animal products, such as dairy and meat.

The body requires a certain amount of cholesterol to function properly. However, excess cholesterol can cause health problems.

There are two types of cholesterol:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: People refer to LDL cholesterol as “bad” cholesterol, because high levels of LDL cholesterol can collect in the arteries and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: HDL is “good” cholesterol, as it transports LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and returns it to the liver, where the body is able to eliminate it. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol may help protect against cardiovascular disease.

This article looks at the effects of fiber on LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, which type of fiber is best, and which foods may help improve cholesterol levels.

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Certain types of fiber can help to lower cholesterol. There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber includes certain fruits, vegetables, oats, and legumes. Insoluble fibers include whole-grain foods, nuts, and seeds.

According to a 2019 article, soluble fiber helps to lower blood cholesterol. Soluble fiber helps to absorb cholesterol, which reduces the amount of cholesterol the liver absorbs, and increases how much cholesterol the body excretes.

Bacteria in the large intestine ferment soluble fiber into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). The addition of SCFA into the gut also helps to lower cholesterol.

If people are taking statins to lower cholesterol, the addition of soluble fiber into the diet may also make statins twice as effective.

Although insoluble fiber does not have the same effects of soluble fiber in lowering cholesterol, it has many health benefits, including:

  • supporting healthy digestion
  • binding to toxins to eliminate them from the body
  • reducing feelings of hunger after eating
  • may lower the risk of certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and cardiovascular disease

There are a number of high fiber foods a person can try to help them control their cholesterol levels as part of a balanced diet, including:


Oats are high in a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan may have beneficial effects on lowering total and LDL cholesterol and reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.

A 2017 study of 69 Asian Indians found that eating 70 grams (g) of oats each day, which contained 3g of soluble fiber, led to a reduction in total and LDL cholesterol.

Foods high in soluble fiber

Other foods that are high in soluble fiber may help to lower blood cholesterol levels, including:

  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • onion
  • artichoke
  • berries
  • bananas
  • apples
  • pears
  • legumes, such as beans and lentils
  • barley


Whole or milled flaxseed and flaxseed lignans may help to lower total and LDL cholesterol, particularly in people with high cholesterol and women (especially postmenopausal women).

However, flaxseed oil appears to have no effect on lowering cholesterol.


A 2021 review found strong evidence that tomatoes can help to reduce LDL cholesterol.

Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene. Research suggests that 25 milligrams (mg) of lycopene may help reduce total cholesterol by around 8 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

Almonds and other nuts

Evidence has shown that almonds can reduce LDL cholesterol. Walnuts and hazelnuts may also have small to moderate cholesterol-lowering effects.


Avocados may lead to a moderate to large reduction in lowering LDL cholesterol.

Avocados are high in monounsaturated fatty acids that may help to increase HDL cholesterol levels, which can be beneficial for cardiovascular health.

Olive oil

Olive oil is a key component of the Mediterranean diet and may have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels.

According to a study in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation, a traditional Mediterranean diet containing virgin olive oil may have beneficial effects on HDL cholesterol and protection against plaque formation in the arteries.

Foods containing phytosterols

Foods containing plant sterols or stanols, or phytosterols, may cause a moderate reduction in LDL cholesterol.

Phytosterols occur in plant-based foods, including:

  • vegetable oils and margarine
  • seeds
  • nuts
  • grains
  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • legumes

Certain foods enriched with phytosterols may include:

  • fat-based spreads and margarine
  • dairy products, such as yogurt, milk, and yogurt drinks
  • supplements

Consuming a minimum of 2g phytosterols per day in addition to a healthy diet may help people to manage high cholesterol. It is most effective to consume phytosterols twice a day with a main meal.

Soy products

Soy products may have a mild effect on cholesterol levels. Some research suggests that consuming soy protein may help to lower total cholesterol and reduce risk factors from high LDL levels.

According to a 2017 review, fiber supplements are not as beneficial to health as eating a high fiber diet.

Only specific fiber supplements may help to improve cholesterol. Those that contain gel-forming fiber, such as psyllium or beta-glucan, may be effective in lowering high cholesterol. Gel-forming fibers may also help to control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.

Fiber supplements with insoluble fiber or non-gel-forming fiber do not have the same benefits. This includes:

  • inulin
  • wheat dextrin
  • wheat bran

Other steps that may help to lower cholesterol include:

  • limit intake of saturated and trans fats, and replace with unsaturated fats, such as olive oil
  • increase physical activity, particularly aerobic and resistance exercise, which increases HDL cholesterol
  • maintain a healthy weight, to reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol
  • limit alcohol, as this can increase triglyceride levels and the risk of heart disease
  • avoid smoking, as this can reduce HDL levels and increase plaque buildup in the arteries
  • take medications if necessary to lower cholesterol, such as statins
  • unfiltered coffee may increase cholesterol levels, so choose filtered or decaffeinated instead

High levels of LDL cholesterol, and low levels of HDL cholesterol, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Soluble fiber can help the body to absorb and eliminate “bad” cholesterol and may lower LDL and total cholesterol levels.

Foods that are high in soluble fiber include oats, barley, legumes, and many fruits and vegetables. Eating a diet high in fiber may be more beneficial to health than fiber supplements, although supplements containing psyllium or beta-glucan may help.