People often eat many high-cholesterol foods without knowing it. These foods include saturated fat (found in animal products), trans fats (found in some commercial baked goods) and full-fat dairy products.
If your cholesterol is high, your risk of cardiovascular disease will increase. Changing diet and lifestyle, reducing and controlling weight and exercising regularly can help improve your overall health.
In order to ensure a better quality of life, you should eat more of these top 12 foods to reduce cholesterol and help protect your heart.
1. Olive oil
Olive oil is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat. It’s full of beneficial antioxidants that can lower your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol without affecting your “good” (HDL) cholesterol.
A 2015 study showed that the polyphenols in olive oil can reduce the harmful low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and increase the beneficial high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL).
It is not difficult to understand that the Mediterranean diet is recognized by the medical profession as a heart-protecting diet, and olive oil is one of the main ingredients.
Therefore, you should increase your intake of olive oil and other unsaturated oils with similar antioxidant properties (such as canola oil and linseed oil) in your daily diet, instead of saturated fats or trans fats.
It should be noted that you should always buy extra virgin olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed form of olive oil. Therefore, it retains natural antioxidants and vitamins, which are often lost during processing. This makes it healthier than regular olive oil but it is usually a higher price.
Walnuts are rich in folic acid, vitamin E, many high-quality fats and omega-3 fatty acids.
Eating walnuts regularly can help you lower cholesterol levels and reduce blood vessel inflammation. This vessel inflammation can lead to atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.
In a study, researchers found that the total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels of participants fell significantly when they ate walnuts every day.
Many other studies also confirmed that walnuts have a positive effect on fighting aging and improving brain and heart health.
Almonds have similar benefits to your heart that walnuts do but they have nearly twice the protein.
One ounce of almonds provides 20 grams of fat, of which 85% are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.
Therefore, almonds have the ability to lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease or stroke.
One study found that eating 20-30 almonds every day may help lower total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing good cholesterol.
Some other studies have shown that adding almonds to your diet not only reduces LDL levels but also maintains HDL levels.
Avocados are a great source of many nutrients as well as monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)
Avocado is also rich in polyphenol compounds, which provide anti-oxidation, strengthens blood vessel walls, prevent arteriosclerosis, promote gastrointestinal digestion, diuresis and lowers blood lipids and blood pressure.
Studies have found that eating one avocado a day can significantly reduce your total cholesterol levels, LDL levels and triglyceride levels, thereby effectively preventing arteriosclerosis and reducing the risk of heart disease.
5. Fatty fish
Eating fish like salmon, tuna, herring, trout or sardines may help lower your risk of coronary artery disease.
That is because these fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Many studies have determined that omega-3 fatty acids can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
In addition, compared with people who consumed no fish, people who ate more fatty fish may also have a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease. [*]
Omega-3 is also a very powerful nutrient to help reduce the production of very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) in your liver. [*]
VLDL is a type of cholesterol that carries triglycerides to tissues. High levels of VLDL have been linked to the development of plaque deposits on artery walls, which narrow the passage and restrict blood flow.
Therefore, eating more omega-3 rich foods such as fatty fish can help lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
6. Whole grains (especially oats and barley)
Replacing refined flour with whole grains in your diet can bring multiple health benefits. These benefits include lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of diabetes and better weight control.
Whole grains are rich in soluble fiber that can absorb fats in your bloodstream, thereby reducing high cholesterol levels.
One of the best grains for cholesterol is oats.
Oats are a good source of dietary fiber, minerals, B vitamins and phytochemicals (including phenols, β-glucans, Avenal alkaloids, lignin and plant stanols).
The soluble fiber found in oats is called β-glucan which binds to fat and carries it out of the body in stools.
Other foods such as barley, baker’s yeast and certain mushrooms also contain β-glucan.
Studies have found that eating only two-thirds of a cup of oatmeal a day can reduce cholesterol by 16%.
7. Soybeans and soy products
According to Dr. James Andrew, KFC University School of Medicine, USA: legumes are the cheapest, most common and most effective anti-cholesterol food in nature.
Studies have shown that eating 28 grams of legumes a day can reduce total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides by 10%.
For example, soybeans contain many healthy nutrients, such as isoflavones, lecithin, saponins and fiber, which can improve cardiovascular health.
In particular, isoflavones can help lower blood pressure, while saponins can inhibit the absorption of cholesterol into cells.
Therefore, adding soybeans and soy products such as tofu and soy milk to your daily diet can help lower cholesterol.
8. Other beans
In addition to soybeans, other legumes such as kidney beans, navy beans, black beans and lentils are also rich in soluble fiber, plant protein and phytonutrients.
Part of the reason that eating more beans can help lower cholesterol is that eating beans replaces other types of saturated fat-rich proteins (such as red meat).
In a 2014 study, the participants ate 3/4 cup of cooked beans a day for six weeks, resulting in their blood cholesterol level being reduced by at least 5%.
Many fruits are rich in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol levels.
Apples, grapes, citrus fruits and berries (including strawberries and blueberries) contain a soluble fiber called pectin, which can reduce cholesterol by as much as 10%. [*]
In addition, biologically active compounds found in fruits have the effect of an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, as well as help prevent heart disease and other chronic diseases.
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10. Dark chocolate
Cocoa powder and chocolate with 75% cocoa are rich in flavonoids, which have been proven by many studies to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) levels.
In one study, the participants who drank cocoa beverages twice a day for one month had their LDL cholesterol decreased by 0.17 mmol/l (6.5 mg/dl) while good HDL cholesterol increased. Additionally, their blood pressure also dropped.
Studies have also found that cocoa and dark chocolate seem to protect, LDL cholesterol in the blood, from oxidation, which is the main cause of heart disease.
11. Vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables)
Vegetables are rich in fiber and antioxidants. They also are low in calories, which is necessary to protect heart health and maintain a healthy weight.
Some vegetables such as okra, eggplant, carrots and potatoes are particularly high in pectins. Their pectin content is the same as the cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber content in apples and oranges.
Lutein and other carotenoids found in green leafy vegetables (such as kale, spinach, etc.) can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Carotenoids are an antioxidant that can eliminate harmful free radicals, which is the key cause of arteriosclerosis. [*]
Green leafy vegetables can also help lower cholesterol levels by combining with bile acids to lower cholesterol levels in the body.
Drinking tea regularly can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
This is due to the two main beneficial compounds-catechins and quercetin.
- Catechins can help activate nitric oxide and inhibit the synthesis and absorption of cholesterol. [*]
- Quercetin may improve blood vessel function and reduce inflammation. [*]
However, except for green tea, black tea and oolong tea are all fermented teas.
Research has found that the longer the tea is fermented, the fewer catechins there will be.
So compared to black tea and oolong tea, drinking green tea can provide more catechins and help lower cholesterol.