Cholesterol is a waxy substance that circulates in your bloodstream. While HDL is considered good cholesterol, too much and LDL (bad) cholesterol can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease in the process. Combined with regular exercise, a heart-healthy diet can reduce LDL cholesterol levels. Here are 10 foods that can help.
High in dietary fiber, oats—like other whole grain foods—can help lower your cholesterol by reducing the amount that is absorbed into your bloodstream. Research shows oats are some of the most effective whole grains in terms of lowering cholesterol. Eating 1 1/2 cups (350 mL) cooked oatmeal daily can work to lower your cholesterol by about 5 to 8 percent. For a fiber-packed lunch, try this Oat Waldorf Salad.
Avocados are a rich source of heart-healthy nutrients and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Specifically, beta-sitosterol and oleic acid contained in avocados have been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol. Studies suggest that eating an avocado each day can work to improve cholesterol levels in those who are overweight or obese. Harness the power of the avocado for your cholesterol with this refreshing Arugula, Peach, and Avocado Salad.
Not only in avocados, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)—a healthy dietary fat—can also be found in olive oil. MUFAs help to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. Consider swapping out other less heart-healthy fats in your cooking, like butter, with extra-virgin olive oil to make MUFAs work for you. However, remember that healthy fats like olive oil still have a high caloric content, so be sure to use in moderation. Get cooking with olive oil for your next dinner with these Roasted Olive Oil Tomatoes.
Green tea contains powerful antioxidants that have been shown to provide your body with a wealth of benefits, including lowering cholesterol. Research shows that drinking green tea can not only help lower levels of LDL cholesterol, but also triglycerides—all while leaving HDL (good) cholesterol unaffected. Matcha is made with ground green tea leaves, so it can provide even more antioxidant power than the steeped version of green tea. Try this Hot Minute Matcha Green Tea Latte.
A diet rich in lentils and other pulses can also help you reduce your cholesterol. Studies show that eating 3/4 cup (180 mL) of lentils—or other pulses—each day can reduce LDL cholesterol by about 5 percent. Plus, pulses like lentils can help you eat a heart-healthy plant-based diet while staying budget-friendly. This Curry Lentil Loaf is an excellent example of a hearty plant-based meal that’s good for your cholesterol, easy on the wallet, and a delight for your taste buds.
Eating an apple (or two) a day can help keep your cholesterol low, due to their dietary fiber content—particularly high in the fruit’s peel—and their bioactive polyphenols. In one study, those who ate apple every day for a year saw their total cholesterol drop by an average of 14 percent, while their LDL cholesterol dropped by an average of 23 percent. Start your day with apple with this Beet Apple Smoothie or Almond Apple Millet Cereal.
A low-calorie vegetable, eggplant is a good source of soluble fiber. This makes it a great option to add to your diet to help lower cholesterol. Eggplant also contains chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant that can help to lower LDL cholesterol. Going meatless is a great way to reduce cholesterol, and eggplant can be a delicious way to make it happen. Try this Indian Eggplant and Tomatoes with Fennel and Cumin or these Kung Pow Eggplant “Meatballs.”
A good source of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids, soy is also naturally cholesterol free and low in saturated fat. Swapping out meat for soy products like tofu, edamame, and tempeh can help lower your cholesterol. In one study, those who ate 25 grams of soy protein each day for a six-week period were able to lower their LDL cholesterol by an average of 3 to 4 percent. You can combine the cholesterol-lowering powers of soy and eggplant with these Tofu Vegetable Stacks.
Nuts like almonds are high in polyunsaturated fats that help reduce LDL cholesterol. Further, studies show that not only can almonds help reduce LDL cholesterol, but they can also help maintain healthy HDL cholesterol levels. Eating just 1/3 cup (80 mL) almonds daily can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease. However, since they are high in calories, be sure to eat almonds and other nuts in moderation and select options that are low in added salt to make the most of their heart-healthy benefits. For an easy breakfast, try these Blueberry Almond Smoothie Cups.
Indulging in a little dark chocolate can help lower your cholesterol. This sweet treat contains flavonoids, which work as antioxidants in the body, lowering LDL levels in the process. Dark chocolate’s flavanols also support the production of nitric oxide (NO), which relaxes the blood vessels and improves blood flow. Try this Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Banana Pudding for a heart-healthy dessert.