Best foods to lower cholesterol
There are lots of different ways that foods can lower your cholesterol. Before we get into a list of specific foods, it helps to review some basics. Heart-healthy foods are more likely to contain certain substances that lower cholesterol, such as:
- Soluble fiber: Soluble fiber binds cholesterol in the intestine and prevents it from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
- Unsaturated fat: This helps the liver break down cholesterol more easily.
- Plant sterols: Plant sterols compete with cholesterols for absorption in the gut. So the more sterols, the less cholesterol gets absorbed. These are found in many nuts, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
It’s also important to remember that not all cholesterol is created equal. Most of the time, when people talk about cholesterol, they’re referring to low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is the “bad” cholesterol that raises your risk for heart disease and stroke. A lot of these foods also raise your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — the “good” cholesterol that can actually lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Now, let’s take a look at 5 foods that help lower cholesterol.
1. Fatty fish
Here’s an example of a high-fat food that can actually be good for heart health. Fish contains important nutrients called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are essential fatty acids. This means that your body can’t make them on its own, and they need to come from your diet.
Studies have shown that fatty fish is better than lean fish when it comes to heart health: They can increase your good cholesterol and lower your bad cholesterol. The best dietary sources of EPA and DHA are fatty fish like:
- Albacore tuna
According to an analysis of 25 different studies, nut consumption lowers LDL (and total cholesterol) in a dose-dependent fashion. That means that the more you eat, the bigger impact it has on your cholesterol.
Not all nuts have gotten the official stamp of approval, though. The FDA has allowed for only certain nuts to claim a “heart-healthy” food status based on the evidence. These include:
- Pine nuts
3. Whole grains
If you like to start off your day with some hearty oatmeal, you’re in luck. Whole grain foods like oatmeal have been shown to lower LDL and total cholesterol in healthy adults.
One analysis of 24 studies of whole grains found oats to be the biggest winner when it comes to lowering cholesterol. But you still have plenty of other options to choose from. Some common whole grain foods include:
- Brown rice
- Whole grain bread
4. Fruits (especially berries)
Fruits are a great source of soluble fiber. And moderate fruit intake for children and adolescents can lower the risk of developing cholesterol problems. Berries are especially nutrient-rich and good for your heart. In addition to lowering your LDL, eating berries regularly can also help lower your blood pressure and blood sugar.
According to research, some good choices for fruit include:
Avocados may be one of the best foods to lower cholesterol. One avocado a day can lower LDL cholesterol, according to research. And avocados can even be more effective than other diets that are low in saturated (bad) fats and high in monounsaturated (good) fats. So experts believe there may be extra benefits to avocado in particular. This may be due to the fact that avocados pack a triple-punch: They’re a great source of fiber, unsaturated fat, and plant sterols.