The solution for high cholesterol does not always have to come from medicines. Natural, lifestyle-based strategies have been helping people lower cholesterol levels for decades without needing medications. Or maybe you are already on cholesterol-lowering medication and want to ensure you eat right to help the medicine work well.
Because dietary cholesterol comes from your diet, choosing the right foods is a tried and tested way to lower your levels. For instance, a study shows that high-complex-carbohydrate, high-fibre, low-fat, and low-cholesterol diets reduce cholesterol levels by 23%, which is a 46% to 69% drop in heart attack risk.
Making a few improvements in your eating habits and being mindful of fat intake can yield significant reductions in LDL or the “bad” cholesterol that contributes to fatty buildups. However, you don’t have to become wholly vegetarian or follow strict diet restrictions to get your cholesterol levels into healthy ranges. The good news is that plenty of healthy yet delicious foods help lower cholesterol levels.
What are the Best Foods to Lower Cholesterol?
You may know that certain foods can raise the cholesterol in your body, but did you know that some foods can also lower it? Eating a balanced diet rich in heart-healthy fats and fibre is the best place to start.
Try to include these foods in your cholesterol-lowering diet whenever you can:
Oats are rich in a soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which shows a cholesterol-lowering effect. A study that substituted standard white bread with bread containing rolled oats was the first to discover the cholesterol-lowering ability of oats.
Nutritionists suggest oats and oat-based products like oat milk reduce LDL and total cholesterol without changing your HDL cholesterol or triglyceride levels. You can also eat barley since it contains nearly twice as much beta-glucan as oats.
Other foods containing cholesterol-lowering beta-glucan (per 100 g) include:
- Sorghum: 6.2 g
- Rye: 2.7 g
- Maise: 1.7 g
- Triticale: 1.2 g
- Wheat: 1.0 g
Legumes and Beans
Eating legumes and beans instead of high-fat animal protein offer heart-healthy soluble fibre and plant-based protein to lower your ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.
Beans like lentils, red beans, pinto beans, and soybeans also help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, which is beneficial for high-cholesterol patients with diabetes.
Colourful, low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fibre. Leaving the skins on vegetables like pumpkin and carrot maximises your fibre intake and helps reduce cholesterol absorption in your blood.
Some options are:
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
1 to 2 cups of fruits like berries per day can help decrease markers of inflammation. As a result, it helps lower cholesterol. The phenolic compounds in apples, grapes, and berries have antioxidant effects to boost good cholesterol and healthy blood flow.
Also, studies show that flavonoids like anthocyanins in raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries improve lipid metabolism disorders, which help regulate abnormal cholesterol levels.
Nuts like peanuts and walnuts contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which block cholesterol absorption in the gut. They are also good snack options when you’re trying to maintain HDL and lower LDL.
Research shows that pistachios help with raising HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL cholesterol. Choose unsalted and non-fried versions of your favourite nuts to snack on.
Eating fatty fish two or three times a week can lower cholesterol by delivering LDL-lowering monounsaturated fats and inflammation-reducing omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, oily or fatty fish like tuna, mackerel, sardines and salmon are healthier than red meats.
Flaxseeds contain a chock full of fibre, omega-3 fatty acids and lignans that can holistically lower your risk of high cholesterol. Further, the phytosterols in flaxseeds can help reduce LDL cholesterol.
Olives and Olive Oil
Due to their rich monounsaturated fatty acids, olives and olive oil are a Mediterranean diet staple. It is the fat you need to eat to improve your total cholesterol level. Plus, the antioxidants in olive and olive oil prevent the inflammatory process, a cholesterol-promoting risk factor.
India is a nation of “white food” eaters, like white rice, white bread, white pasta, and other foods made from white flour. However, this hyper-processed refined white flour is unhealthy. Instead, switch to whole grains like whole-wheat couscous, brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, and kasha.
Unsalted tomato juice is a beverage option for reducing cholesterol. Tomatoes contain a compound called lycopene, which offers LDL-lowering ability. Moreover, lycopene content increases when a tomato gets pressed into juice form.
The HealthifyMe Note
There is no single food that will help to lower cholesterol. Therefore, focus on the nutritional quality of your overall diet. Following a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, lean protein, and soy foods is good for your body in ways beyond lowering cholesterol.
Managing Cholesterol Like a Pro
It would help if you had comprehensive and real-time support when you are on a journey to lower cholesterol. For example, a nutritionist can guide you toward healthy food choices and teach you about healthy dietary habits while helping you enjoy the foods you eat.
At HealthifyMe, you can receive real-time personalised counselling from in-house nutrition experts to keep your cholesterol levels in the healthy range. You will also have access to direct chats with RIA, the interactive AI that constantly monitors, analyses, and shares insights for areas of improvement.
The new, improved HealthifyPRO 2.0 version considers the real-time glucose fluctuations in your body whenever there is an activity or food input. Over a few days, the nutritionist discovers how a particular individual responds to certain foods.
For example, a chicken salad, a seemingly healthy food item, eaten at 2 am may cause a spike in blood glucose levels, whereas a sandwich at noon may keep your blood glucose levels stable. The point is the body responds to food differently during different windows depending on activity levels.
A wearable CGM device – the BIOS from HealthifyPRO 2.0 is an excellent record keeper of your glucose levels. To simplify, a fluctuation in glucose levels leads to metabolic imbalance and often comes with weight gain. Therefore, if you are not feeling fit lately or have put on a few kgs, consider downloading the HealthifyMe app to assess your metabolic health.
You may need support with weight loss. But, then, the Smart Plan provides easy home-based workouts to lose weight and reverse high cholesterol. But, while the premium plan and its services advise you on the most effective and safest way to achieve your cholesterol goals, you must also work hard and be consistent.
What you eat affects your cholesterol levels, like your lifestyle habits and genetics. Shifting to a cholesterol-lowering diet means including fibre-rich and antioxidant-packed foods in your daily eating plan.
Food with the right dietary components is a natural way to lower cholesterol. However, talk to a doctor or nutritionist before drastically changing your diet.
The nutritionists and fitness coaches of HealthifyMe come up with personalised nutrition with a particular focus on your needs to achieve maximum health benefits. HealthifyMe does all the tracking for you, be it calories or cholesterol in your food.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What foods immediately lower cholesterol?
A. Remember that no food will “immediately” lower your cholesterol. Focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, monounsaturated fats, and beans helps lower cholesterol. Having too many animal sources of protein raises cholesterol. Plant-based foods high in soluble fibre, such as pinto beans, black beans, oatmeal, and berries, are especially beneficial in lowering total and LDL cholesterol levels. However, the effect of a healthy diet is not spontaneous. Instead, it is gradual and shows long-term effects.
Q. What is the best drink to lower cholesterol?
A. Just like foods, some beverages can help to lower your cholesterol. Green tea, oat drinks, tomato juice, berry smoothies, and soy milk offer cholesterol-improving benefits. Drinks containing sterols and stanols also help to block the absorption of cholesterol into the blood. However, pregnant or breastfeeding women or children under five years old should not drink any beverages with added sterols or stanols.
Q. Are bananas good for cholesterol?
A. Bananas offer fibre and potassium, which can reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. In addition, being a good source of soluble fibre, daily consumption of bananas marginally improves lipid profile in hypercholesterolemic and type 2 diabetic patients.
Q. Does drinking water lower cholesterol?
A. Dehydration makes the blood acidic, causing a buildup in LDL cholesterol levels. Water is calorie-free, helps you stay hydrated, and drinking plenty of water ensures accurate cholesterol measurement during a blood draw. While water does not directly lower cholesterol, hydration is still essential because of water’s many vital functions. In addition, staying hydrated is good for your overall health since dehydration is potentially dangerous.
Q. Does lemon water lower cholesterol?
A. The fibre and plant compounds in lemons, such as flavonoids and vitamin C, could help lower some cholesterol risk factors. Eating citrus fibre extract daily can also regulate total blood cholesterol levels. Depending on your preferences, you can drink unsweetened lemon water in the morning or anytime during the day. However, store-bought lemon juice often contains added sugar and artificial flavours. Therefore, prepare fresh lemon water at home without any sugar to fully reap its benefits.
Q. Can lack of sleep affect your cholesterol?
A. Yes, sleep deprivation triggers the risk factors for heart disease, including higher cholesterol levels and higher triglyceride levels. Getting too much and too little sleep negatively impacts lipid levels. For example, sleeping less than five hours causes low HDL cholesterol levels in women.
Q. Is Ginger good for cholesterol?
A. Ginger is a superfood that can help boost good cholesterol and reduce “bad” cholesterol. In addition, ginger may reduce inflammation, which is why some doctors think it’s beneficial for lowering high cholesterol. You can add ginger to many recipes, such as tea, soups, stews, sauces, and marinades. The best time to eat ginger for cholesterol is in the morning. However, speak with your doctor before starting any new ginger-based supplements.
Q. Are eggs good for cholesterol?
A. Eggs are naturally high in cholesterol. However, eating eggs in moderation doesn’t raise cholesterol levels like foods high in saturated fats. Moreover, it also depends on how you prepare your eggs and how many eggs you eat. Eating 1–2 eggs daily can be safe for a healthy adult with normal cholesterol levels. However, if your diet is already high in cholesterol, it is best to limit your egg intake.
Q. Is bread bad for cholesterol?
A. White bread, which contains refined grains and simple carbs, may raise cholesterol levels. Whole wheat or whole grain bread is the healthy choice due to its high amounts of fibre compared with other bread.
Q. Is cheese bad for cholesterol?
A. Cheese is rich in protein and calcium but is also high in saturated fat and sodium. So, overeating cheese could lead to high cholesterol. Cottage cheese and fat-free cheeses are the best options if you have cholesterol. Also, make sure to limit the serving sizes.
Q. Is peanut butter good for cholesterol?
A. As long as peanut butter doesn’t contain hydrogenated fat, it won’t cause problems with your cholesterol levels. Moreover, the high amount of unsaturated fats in peanut butter may help reduce your LDL cholesterol levels. However, peanut butter is healthy only when eaten in the right amounts.