Foods that lower cholesterol are usually high in soluble fiber, unsaturated fats, and plant sterols.
Healthy fats can actually lower your cholesterol level. These can be found in avocados, fatty fish, nuts, and olive oil.
The most heart-healthy diets include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins.
Best foods to lower cholesterol
1. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is rich in flavanols, which can improve both blood sugar and cholesterol levels in people with diabetes. Best of all, in addition to improving heart health, dark chocolate may even give you a boost in mood. And most experts agree it’s healthier than milk chocolate because it has less added sugars.
2. Soy products
Soy has been a controversial ingredient for decades. But the most current research supports it as a heart-healthy food. A diet rich in soy has been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect in people with high cholesterol. Overall the decrease in LDL cholesterol is thought to be modest (about 3% to 4%), but eating soy can still be a great addition to a heart-healthy diet. The healthiest types of soy foods are those that are unprocessed. Common soy foods include:
- Soybeans (edamame)
3. Olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is especially good at increasing good HDL cholesterol. This helps your body get rid of bad cholesterol. If olive oil is used as part of the Mediterranean diet, it can help further decrease LDL as well. And EVOO can be a good ingredient to use for small swaps in your diet. For example, next time you need some salad dressing, try reaching for some EVOO and salt (maybe mixed with a squeeze of lemon) to give an extra nutritious kick to your meal.
4. Vegetables (and not just green ones)
This one probably comes as no surprise. Just like fruit, vegetables are a nutrient-rich food that can help lower cholesterol. Not only are they filled with fiber and nutrients, but vegetables can increase the amount of “good” bacteria in your gut. These good bacteria can break down cholesterol, adding one more way that vegetables can lower cholesterol.
Any vegetable you choose to eat will likely have a healthy effect on your cholesterol levels. But some of the most nutrient-packed veggies include:
- Bell peppers
5. Legume seeds
If you’ve never heard of the term “pulse,” you’re not alone. Pulses are a part of the legume family, but refers to the dry edible seed within a legume pod. Turns out that these seeds are excellent at lowering LDL cholesterol. Pulses that are especially helpful for lowering cholesterol include:
One final tip for choosing foods to lower cholesterol
One thing that the above foods have in common is that they’re all unprocessed foods. When you swap processed foods for more fresh options, you’ll naturally find yourself incorporating more cholesterol-lowering foods.
If you do better with a more scripted diet plan, the Mediterranean diet is typically a popular choice.
According to research, the Mediterranean diet not only decreases cholesterol, but also significantly reduces the risk of heart disease, strokes, and cancer. But it’s important to note that it’s often recommended by experts because it’s also been the most studied. The Mediterranean diet is all about eating a lot of plant-based, unprocessed foods. And so it can be adapted to any diet or food preference.
You don’t have to follow a specific diet plan when eating for your heart health. There are many foods and eating strategies that can be good for your cholesterol — and enjoyable to you.