The Best 9 Foods To Lower Your Cholesterol Numbers
Cholesterol can be a tricky subject to understand, as we’ve been frequently told there are both “good” and “bad” kinds. Understanding which is which, and whether your cholesterol numbers are something you need to start paying attention to — even if you haven’t been diagnosed as having high cholesterol — are important matters to consider for overall wellness and longevity. Including incorporating all of the foods to keep your cholesterol numbers low.
“Cholesterol is not all bad,” explains Colette Heimowitz, MS, VP of Nutrition & Education for The Simply Good Foods Company. “Cholesterol is produced in your body by your liver; you need cholesterol to survive. It is essential for normal cellular function, hormone production, and fighting infection. Although cholesterol is also found in animal products, and the amount of cholesterol you consume affects your cholesterol levels to some extent, so do genetics and the type of nutrients you eat.”
Why it’s important to manage your cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy substance made up of lipids that are naturally made by our bodies and that circulate in the bloodstream. Your body contains two kinds of cholesterol; high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or “good” cholesterol, and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) known as the “bad” cholesterol, which come from saturated, or trans-fats.
LDL cholesterol is what can build up in our arteries if left unchecked, potentially leading to heart disease, while HDL cholesterol helps move LDL cholesterol out of our arteries and back to the liver to be broken down. Triglycerides, the most common type of body fat, also play a role in the potential for LDL cholesterol to build up.
“Lowering cholesterol might not be the end-all, be-all solution,” says Heimowitz, “but instead achieving the perfect cholesterol balance of high HDL, low LDL, and low triglyceride levels.”
While genetics are out of our hands, it’s never too soon to start thinking about the foods you consume in terms of how they may increase or decrease your cholesterol levels.
“Prevention is key,” says Heimowitz. “Do not wait until your cholesterol profile is out of balance. You can pay attention by concentrating on a balance of healthy fats, combined with a diet high in soluble fiber, which can help to avoid or can reverse high cholesterol.”
With those pillars of healthy fats and soluble fiber, here are nine foods that can help lower your cholesterol numbers.
Avocado lovers, rejoice! Avocados are considered “heart smart fats” according to Heimowitz, because they contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat similar to that which exists in olive oil. Regular consumption of avocados has even been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease in a study published by the American Heart Association (AHA). Another recent 2022 study from the AHA also found that eating one avocado a day assists with lowering cholesterol levels and overall diet quality.
Nuts are also high in healthy, monounsaturated fats, which contribute to a balanced, high-HDL, or “good” cholesterol profile. Additionally, nuts contain varying amounts of soluble fiber, which also contribute to lower cholesterol numbers.
3. Olive and other vegetable oils
Olive oil has long been known as the heart-healthy choice, as olives are high in the monounsaturated fats that help balance “bad” cholesterol by moving it out of the bloodstream. Other vegetable-based oils that also function in this way include cottonseed, corn, and safflower.
4. Fatty fish
“Try having at least two servings a week of fatty, cold-water fish like salmon, halibut, and tuna, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids,” says Heimowitz, a recommendation also echoed by the AHA. Omega-3 fatty acids are a component of polyunsaturated fats, another type of “good” fat where cholesterol is concerned.
Oats are high in soluble fiber, “which will lower cholesterol and keep it in check,” says Heimowitz. All plant matter contains fiber, which is made up of both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. While all fiber is good for the body in various ways, soluble fiber is that which can be dissolved in water and helps with blood cholesterol. So a popular oat cereal’s claim that it can help lower cholesterol is a valid one!
Beans of all kinds including black beans, chickpeas, and edamame are among the foods with the highest amounts of soluble fiber. Not only do they help with blood cholesterol, but their overall high-fiber profile helps keep you feeling full, and is a key component to balanced, nutritious eating.
An easy way to add a good-cholesterol boost into your everyday eating is through a sprinkling of seeds, such as chia, flax, pumpkin, or sunflower. Seeds do double duty on the cholesterol front, bringing both healthy, polyunsaturated fats, and soluble fiber to the table.
8. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts
Broccoli tends to be the poster child for a healthy lifestyle because of its numerous benefits, and here’s yet another. While veggies are nearly always good on the fiber front, Broccoli and its brassica counterpart Brussels sprouts have about half of their fiber coming from the soluble kind, a boon to a balanced cholesterol profile.
Berries and other fruits such as apples contain pectin, a complex starch, which is a type of soluble fiber that contributes to lowering the LDL levels of your blood cholesterol. In particular, berries contain certain antioxidants that studies show can increase HDL cholesterol and lower total blood cholesterol numbers.
Read next: 9 Foods To Eat Every Day for a Longer Life
Good food brings people together. So do good emails.