The best way to improve your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease is to change your diet and lifestyle. Eat a whole foods, plant-based diet and incorporate exercise and stress-relieving activities into your daily routine. I made a list of the best cholesterol lowering foods in 2007. It’s time for an update! Here’s my new 2011 list of the Top 14 Foods that Lower Cholesterol with the latest research and recommendations from nutrition experts:
1. Whole Grains and Oats – a five-year Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study showed that people whose diets contain the most whole grains “had the thinnest carotid artery walls and showed the slowest progression in artery wall thickness.” Try these recipes:
- Baked Apple Crumble
- Better Than Your Average Oatmeal
- Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers
- Pineapple Brown Fried Rice
2. Blueberries – pterostilbene, a compound in blueberries, may help lower cholesterol as effectively as commercial drugs with fewer side effects. Antioxidants in blueberries, such as anthocyanins, have been found to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and improve cholesterol health in several notable studies. Try these recipes:
3. Nuts (all kinds) – eating a small serving of nuts every day can reduce your total cholesterol, reduce your LDL cholesterol, and improve your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol. Try these recipes:
4. Chlorella – chlorella is a potent, eco-friendly source of healthy omega-3 fats, making it cholesterol lowering food. Studies show that it can significantly improve cholesterol levels. An easy way eat chlorella is in a smoothie. Try mixing chlorella granules with coconut water, blueberries, and strawberries for a healthy afternoon snack or dessert.
5. Chocolate – eating dark chocolate has been found to provide dozens of health benefits, including improving cholesterol levels. For the best health benefit, consume raw chocolate without added dairy products or artificial sweeteners. Try these recipes:
6. Avocados, 7. Olives, and 8. Olive Oil – The high level of monounsaturated fats in avocados, olives, and olive oil protect against heart disease and diabetes and can increase your good cholesterol and decrease your bad cholesterol. Check out the Mediterranean Diet for more on these foods and their health benefits. Try these recipes:
- Black Bean Soup w/ Avocado
- Hearty Grilled Veggie Sandwich
- Avocado Pineapple Smoothie
- No Cheese Pesto (lots of olive oil)
9. Goji Berries – goji berries keep your arteries from narrowing and prevent cholesterol from oxidizing and sticking to the inside or causing blood clots. Research from China found that goji berries can increase the production of an antioxidant called superoxide dismutase (SOD) which prevents cholesterol oxidation. Try these recipes:
10. Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil – flaxseed oil is a great vegetarian choice for a healthy fats supplement if you don’t want to take fish oil. Many experts agree that flaxseeds are a good choice to help maintain heart health and avoid heart disease and dangerous cholesterol levels. Try adding a spoonful of ground up flaxseed to your favorite smoothies or baked goods. You can substitute 3 tbsp. ground flax seeds for 1 tbsp. butter/margarine.
11. 100% Cranberry-Grape Juice – antioxidants in red and purple juices slow down LDL cholesterol oxidation and may raise levels of HDL cholesterol. Read my article “Did We Forget About Cranberries?” and try the recipe below with extra grape juice:
- Strawberry Banana Breakfast Smoothie (with grape juice)
12. Soy Foods (such as tempeh, tofu, or edamame) – try eating high-quality soy foods instead of meat. Soy foods may not improve your cholesterol levels on their own, but they will give you a healthy dose of protein and will cut out artery-clogging dietary cholesterol found in meat. Try these recipes:
13. Pomegranate Juice – a National Academy of Sciences study showed that pomegranate juice reduces cholesterol plaque buildup and increases nitric oxide production (nitric oxide helps reduce arterial plaque), making it a perfect cholesterol lowering food. It’s also been shown to improve fertility.
14. Leafy Greens – leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale are loaded with fiber and lutein, a carotenoid which has been found to reduce LDL cholesterol particles and help prevent heart disease with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers. Try these recipes:
- Cholesterol is not the sole reason people have heart disease, but it’s definitely a contributing factor. Experts agree that dietary cholesterol raises blood cholesterol and that high blood cholesterol levels increase your risk for heart disease.
- Everyone should have their cholesterol checked-it doesn’t matter if you are young/old, female/male, or thin/overweight.
- While there are many factors at play (such as family history, stress level, physical activity level, and age), your diet has a tremendous influence on the amount of cholesterol in your blood and more importantly, on your risk for life-threatening diseases.