Cholesterol is an essential fat-like substance in the body. Total cholesterol is required to make cell membranes, hormones, and for proper gallbladder function. But, when levels get too high, it puts those at risk for health issues. Low levels of total cholesterol can also do damage to the body. Typically, unhealthy total cholesterol is when levels reach above 260 mg/dl.
There are several contributors to total high cholesterol levels, including chronic stress, hypothyroidism, excess sugar intake, or a diet high in refined carbohydrates. There are two forms of cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein), and LDL (low-density lipoprotein). HDL is often called the “good cholesterol,” and LDL is the “bad cholesterol.” The foods listed below help to lower the LDL cholesterol in the body or the bad cholesterol.
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Foods that lower cholesterol
Many factors contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels, such as lifestyle, exercise, and diet. Find out what foods you can start adding to your diet today to lower your cholesterol levels.
Many types of fish can help lower cholesterol including salmon (1), tuna, mackerel (2), and sardines (3). Fatty fish like these are extremely high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, both EPA and DHA, which are important for optimal functioning in the body.
Fish is one of the best foods to consume to protect your heart. Many studies prove that they reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, making it a powerful nutritional food to help lower cholesterol. Fish is a great and easy protein to add to your diet. You can buy all these fish canned, fresh, frozen for convenience. It makes a quick meal with your favorite vegetable or pasta, too.
Avocado is another great food to include in most daily diets. Avocado is full of healthy fats and adding them to your diet helps to lower cholesterol. It can even promote weight loss and speed up metabolism. Avocado contains monounsaturated fats, which are remarkably healthy for the heart, decreasing cholesterol in the body.
In one study, healthy adults and those with Hypercholesterolemia (another name for those with high cholesterol) who ate avocado had lower levels of total serum cholesterol in the body than those who did not (4). Be sure avocado is right for you with your doctor. Avocado can interact with some prescription medications.
Lentils are a great food to help lower cholesterol. Some studies show mounting evidence about the heart-healthy properties of lentils and other legumes (5). Any type of lentil can help to lower cholesterol, whether they are green, red, brown, black, or yellow.
Each type of lentil goes well in different dishes, and each one cooks differently as well. You can incorporate more lentils into your diet by swapping out meat protein on occasion a few times a week. Lentils are an excellent source of protein, and many vitamins and minerals such as essential B vitamins like thiamine, folate, and niacin, as well as iron, potassium. They are also a great source of fiber.
4. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are tiny black seeds that are full of nutrition. Chia seeds are mostly soluble fiber, which is important for healthy digestion. They are also notably powerful at lowering cholesterol for that reason (6). Chia seeds are a potent grain full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein, too.
These seeds have been in the food supply for over 5,500 years, originating in Mexico and Guatemala. If you have low blood pressure, chia seeds may not be a good option. They not only lower cholesterol, but they can also lower blood pressure, too.
Okra can also help lower total cholesterol in the body. Okra is a highly nutritious food that contains vitamin K, protein, healthy fats, potassium, fiber, and more. Okra is rich in antioxidants, so it is also a powerful anti-cancer and heart-healthy food. Okra goes well with many protein choices like lentils, lean meat, or even plain.
6. Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices have been a potent nutritional contributor for overall human health. They can help to lower total cholesterol levels, especially Indian spices like ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, and coriander (7). These spices are staples in many Indian dishes, and they can have a positive effect on lowering cholesterol levels, improving heart health, and lowering inflammation in the body. Herbs and spices are a great addition to many meals, and they can help to flavor meals even more, especially to cut back on the sodium from excess salt.
Berries like blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries are nutrition powerhouses with fiber, vitamin C, K, antioxidants, and much more. This makes them an excellent food to lower cholesterol in the body. Berries are also an easy food to add to many easy recipes. Toss some berries into your next breakfast to get the many benefits.
Quinoa is a healthy grain crop, although it is technically a seed. This staple food is an excellent choice for most people to consume, especially to lower cholesterol levels. It is very rare for anyone to have an allergy or reaction to quinoa. This food goes well as a base for any dish that rice would go in. It’s an easy swap for many people, and it can be flavored well with herbs, seasonings, and olive oil.
This leafy green vegetable is full of potent nutritional properties. Spinach is capable of lowering cholesterol levels in the body. Spinach is ok for most in moderation. However, those with kidney issues, stones, or disease should limit or avoid their consumption of spinach. The high oxalates in spinach can cause kidney stones over time.
10. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter can also lower cholesterol levels. Peanut butter is full of unsaturated fats, which help reduce LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Although, peanuts and peanut butter are high in calories and fat, so it is important to always keep this food in moderation as best as possible. Do not be afraid to use peanut butter on occasion as a part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Almonds contain many beneficial nutrients and an adequate amount of healthy fats. Almonds help to improve total blood cholesterol in the body, lowering LDL cholesterol in the blood. Almonds also have high amounts of magnesium, vitamin E, potassium, fiber, and protein. This makes them an excellent snack and substitution for those who have an allergy to only peanuts.
Almond butter is another healthy option to include in a healthy diet. Add some almond butter to your next piece of toast or smoothie for a flavorful, nutritious boost.
12. Olive Oil
Olive oil has tons of beneficial nutritional power. Filled with healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, it lowers total cholesterol, and it can prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Drizzle some olive oil on your fish, salad, or even eggs and tomato for your next meal, and reap the many health benefits.
Olives are also high in powerful antioxidants, vitamin E, and help promote a healthy heart by lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels and even preventing osteoporosis and cancer. Olives are an easy, healthy snack to keep around the house and enjoy when you get a craving for something salty.
Chickpeas are high in essential nutrients and minerals, making them an excellent snack and meal to lower total cholesterol in the blood. Chickpeas are high in protein, making them a great substitution for meat in many meals, too. You can eat chickpeas as a crunchy, baked snack, or enjoy them soft in salads and hot dishes. You can also buy or make your hummus to get some more nutritional power from chickpeas into your diet.
Grapes are full of antioxidants like vitamin C, quercetin, lutein, and lycopene. They help to promote a healthy heart and eating grapes can help lower cholesterol levels. Grapes are also high in the antioxidant called resveratrol, which lowers the risk of heart disease, cancer, and it can even lower blood sugar levels. These tiny fruits are an easy way to get in healthy nutrition as a delicious snack the whole family can enjoy.
Eggplants contain an extensive list of nutrients necessary for optimal health and functioning in the body. For that reason, they are a powerful food to fight high cholesterol levels. Eggplant is also full of heart-healthy antioxidants, vitamin C, K, potassium, folate, protein, and more. It is an easy food to add to a healthy diet, too. Try some new ways to cook eggplant by grilling it, baking it, or mixing it in with other vegetables.
Cherries are full of nutrients and anti-inflammatory compounds making it an excellent food to help lower cholesterol levels. Cherries have many other potential health benefits too. They can help to aid in muscle recovery, improve sleep quality, and even help with symptoms of arthritis and gout.
There are two types of cholesterol, HDL and LDL. It is important to have healthy cholesterol levels to promote overall health including heart health, hormone health, and much more. Make sure to always maintain a healthy weight, a lifestyle full of exercise and movement, and keep a healthy diet.
These are just some foods that can lower cholesterol in the body. If you think you have high LDL cholesterol, be sure to talk to your doctor about what you can do to resolve it. Food and lifestyle can significantly help reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels and raise the good type of cholesterol, known as HDL.
Take a moment to think about what foods you eat daily. Do they include a bunch from this list of cholesterol-lowering, heart-healthy foods? See how you can add more healthy cholesterol-lowering foods to your diet today to help prevent many common chronic diseases.