High cholesterol is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. When it comes to lowering your cholesterol, it is important to avoid foods high in saturated fat and eat foods high in fiber and unsaturated fat.
Here are 17 foods that can help lower your cholesterol levels.
17 foods that lower cholesterol
Oats are high in beta-glucans, a soluble fiber that helps lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that eating 2 servings of oats per day can reduce LDL levels by 5.3% in just 6 weeks.
Like oats, barley is rich in beta-glucans and can help lower bad cholesterol levels.
Nuts are high in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for lowering cholesterol. Nuts are also rich in other nutrients such as fiber, protein, minerals, and antioxidants that are beneficial for your heart.
4. Chia seeds
5. Fatty fish
According to a study, substituting saturated fats with omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fatty fish, can increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol by up to 4% as well as reduce bad cholesterol levels.
Beans are rich in fiber, protein, and minerals, which have a protective effect on the heart. Studies have shown that eating ½ cup of beans a day can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.
7. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains antioxidants such as flavonoids that help increase good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol. Dark chocolate may also help lower the risk of atherosclerosis, which is a condition in which the walls of the arteries harden.
Avocados are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which increase HDL cholesterol and decrease LDL cholesterol in the body. Avocados contain the beta-sitosterol, which decreases the amount of cholesterol absorbed from foods.
Spinach contains lutein, a chemical that protects against age-related macular degeneration. Studies have found that eating ½ cup of lutein-rich food a day lowers the risk of heart attack by preventing arterial walls from clogging and inhibiting cholesterol deposition.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels due to their lutein and antioxidant content
Carrots are high in carotenoids, especially beta-carotene, which are potent antioxidants. Carrots are also rich in fiber and other nutrients that are good for reducing bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
13. Fruits and berries
Most fruits, including apples, grapes, and citrus fruits, are high in pectin, which is a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL cholesterol. Berries are also high in antioxidants such as polyphenols, which help protect the heart against free radicals and oxidative stress.
14. Extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent source of heart-healthy MUFAs, which help reduce LDL levels and have protective effects on the heart.
Garlic has been shown to help prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure, and defend against infection. Garlic appears to help prevent artery-clogging plaque in its early stages by preventing cholesterol particles from adhering to arterial walls.
Turmeric has been shown to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels in the blood due to the presence of curcumin.
Green or black tea is high in antioxidants and beneficial compounds such as catechins and quercetin, which are important for maintaining healthy blood pressure, improving blood vessel function, and boosting overall heart health.
What foods to avoid on a low-cholesterol diet
In addition to adding cholesterol-lowering foods to your diet, it is important to avoid foods that can raise cholesterol levels, such as:
- Red meat: Red meat such as beef, pork, and lamb, are high in saturated fats that can promote cholesterol accumulation in your arteries.
- Processed foods: Processed foods tend to be high in salt, trans fats, and saturated fats, which can raise your LDL cholesterol levels.
- Sugar: Sugar has a negative effect on heart health and can also impact your cholesterol levels.
What are examples of a low-cholesterol diet?
DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
The DASH diet emphasizes heart-healthy foods, such as:
- Whole grains
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy
- Lean protein, such as chicken and fish
The Mediterranean diet
General guidelines for the Mediterranean diet are as follows:
- Foods to eat regularly:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Seeds and nuts
- Whole grains
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Foods to eat in moderation:
- Foods to limit:
- Red meat
- Processed meat
- Added sugars
- Highly processed foods
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Harvard Health Publishing. 11 foods that lower cholesterol. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/11-foods-that-lower-cholesterol
WebMD. Foods to Help Lower LDL (‘Bad’) Cholesterol. https://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/ss/slideshow-cholesterol-lowering-foods
Piedmont Healthcare. 5 foods that can lower your cholesterol naturally. https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/5-foods-that-can-lower-your-cholesterol-naturally
American Heart Association. Cooking to Lower Cholesterol. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/prevention-and-treatment-of-high-cholesterol-hyperlipidemia/cooking-to-lower-cholesterol
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Bile Acid SequestrantsBile acid sequestrants are medications prescribed for lowering LDL cholesterol in conjunction with diet modifications. Bile acid sequestrants are not absorbed into the body, and therefore they do not have systemic side effects (affecting other organs). Their most common side effects are gastrointestinal and these include constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, excessive passage of gas (flatulence), heartburn, and gallstones.
chitosanChitosan is a complex carbohydrate (polysaccharide) derived from chitin, a major component of the shells of crabs, shrimps and clams, and also found in insects and cell wall of reishi mushrooms. Chitosan is orally taken as a supplement to aid weight loss and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Common side effects of chitosan include constipation, flatulence (gas), bloating, nausea, and abdominal cramping. Allergic reaction in people with shellfish or mushroom allergy. Avoid if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Chitosan is likely safe for most adults if taken orally in recommended doses for up to three months.
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Cholesterol PictureCholesterol carried in particles of low density (LDL cholesterol) is referred to as the "bad" cholesterol because elevated levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. See a picture of Cholesterol and learn more about the health topic.
garlicGarlic is an edible bulb from the plant Allium sativum. Its medicinal properties may inhibit the synthesis of cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and slow down the blood clotting process. Garlic may be used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension), high blood fat levels (hyperlipidemia), preventing coronary artery disease, enhancing circulation, preventing cancer, menstrual disorders, and other infections. Common side effects of garlic include bad breath, body odor, nausea, vomiting, gas (flatulence), heartburn, diarrhea, gastrointestinal upset, gastrointestinal irritation and burning, bleeding, nasal inflammation (rhinitis), and others.
HDL vs. LDL CholesterolHDL (high-density lipoprotein), or the "good" cholesterol, and LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or the "bad" cholesterol, are lipoproteins that carry cholesterol through the veins and arteries of the body. HDL and LDL combined, is your "total" blood cholesterol. The difference between the two are that high levels of the "good," or HDL cholesterol, may protect against narrowing of the blood vessels in the body, which protects you against heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. But high levels of LDL, or the "bad" cholesterol, may worsen the narrowing of the blood vessels in the body, which puts you at a greater risk of stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular diseases, some of which are life threatening.Triglycerides are found in body fat and from the fats you eat.
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Is Squid Rich in Cholesterol?Squid is part of the same family as oysters, scallops and octopus. Squid is often eaten deep fried. This is known as calamari. Unlike many other animal products, squid is low in saturated fat. Doctors usually do not advise saturated fat to people with high cholesterol. When squid is deep fried, total fat and saturated fat increase.
Lower Cholesterol Levels with Diet and MedicationsHigh-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is considered "good" cholesterol because it actually works to keep the LDL or "bad" cholesterol from building up in your arteries. Foods like extra lean meats, skim milk, and vegetable-based "butter-like" substitutes may help decrease LDL levels in the bloodstream.
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omega 3 fatty acidsOmega 3 fatty acids are used as an adjunct to diet used to lower triglyceride levels in adults with high triglyceride levels in the blood (hypertriglyceridemia). Common side effects of omega 3 fatty acids include belching (eructation), taste perversion, indigestion (dyspepsia), constipation, vomiting, gastrointestinal disorders, the elevation of liver enzymes ALT and AST, increase in LDL cholesterol, rash, hives (urticaria), itching (pruritus), severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), pain, back pain, chest pain (angina pectoris), flu-like syndrome, infection, and bleeding tendency disorder (hemorrhagic diathesis). Consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.
red yeast riceRed yeast rice has been used in China and other Asian countries for centuries as food and red yeast rice extract is used as a medicine to reduce blood cholesterol levels, and improve blood circulation and digestion. Common side effects of red yeast rice include nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, gas (flatulence), heartburn, gastritis, dizziness, muscle pain and weakness, muscle damage (rhabdomyolysis), increased creatine phosphokinase, liver damage, and increase in blood levels of liver enzymes. Do not take red yeast rice if pregnant or breastfeeding.
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Which Nuts Are Best to Lower Cholesterol?Researchers discovered that consuming roughly half a cup of walnuts per day (especially in the morning) can somewhat lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in healthy people.