High cholesterol levels pose a significant risk factor for heart disease. Elevated levels of LDL, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, in your bloodstream can heighten the risk of heart disease by contributing to a condition called atherosclerosis, characterized by the buildup of plaque in your arteries.
To mitigate your risk of heart disease, it is crucial to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Fortunately, dietary modifications, such as increasing your consumption of heart-healthy fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, can assist in achieving and sustaining optimal cholesterol levels.
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Here is a list of 13 top foods that can help lower cholesterol:
Oats and Oat Bran
Regular oat consumption has been shown to significantly reduce risk factors for heart disease, including high total and LDL cholesterol levels. This is attributed to beta-glucan, a soluble fiber found in oats and oat bran, which inhibits cholesterol absorption in the digestive tract and enhances cholesterol elimination through stool.
A 2022 review of 13 studies confirmed the positive impact of dietary oat beta-glucan on reducing cholesterol levels in individuals with high cholesterol.
Nuts and seeds, including almonds, are rich sources of soluble fiber that can help reduce cholesterol levels when incorporated into a balanced diet. Numerous studies have consistently linked almond consumption to heart health benefits, including reduced cholesterol levels.
A 2023 review of 19 studies underlined the effectiveness of nuts, including almonds, in lowering total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, all of which contribute to better heart health.
Additionally, regular nut consumption was associated with lower levels of small dense LDL particles, which are strongly linked to atherosclerosis development.
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Berries like blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries are excellent sources of fiber and heart-protective compounds such as flavonoid antioxidants. Including berries in your diet can positively impact heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol, raising HDL cholesterol, and reducing blood pressure levels.
A 2018 review confirmed that berry intake was associated with reductions in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure, while also improving HDL cholesterol levels.
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Like almonds, walnuts are rich in soluble fiber and have been linked to reduced cholesterol levels. A 2022 review of 13 studies from different regions found that walnut consumption was associated with significant reductions in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, particularly in individuals considered overweight and obese.
Apart from fiber, walnuts contain polyunsaturated fatty acids, including α-linoleic acids, which help remove excess LDL from the blood.
Beans are among the best choices for lowering cholesterol levels due to their high fiber content, which binds to cholesterol and prevents its absorption into the bloodstream.
Research has shown that consuming approximately ¾ cup of beans daily can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 19% and lower heart disease rates by 11%.
A 2021 study involving 73 adults with high LDL cholesterol found that daily consumption of one cup of mixed canned beans for four weeks significantly decreased total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, leading to a 7% reduction in heart disease risk.
Avocado consumption has been associated with various benefits, including the improvement of heart disease risk factors such as high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol.
Studies indicate that regular avocado consumption can raise heart-protective HDL cholesterol and decrease levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol, which is closely linked to atherosclerosis.
A 2020 study demonstrated that a diet incorporating one fresh Hass avocado per day for five weeks resulted in significantly reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels compared to moderate-fat and low-fat diets. Additionally, the avocado diet decreased blood levels of oxidized LDL.
Flaxseeds are a rich source of heart-healthy nutrients, including soluble fiber and magnesium. Incorporating flaxseeds into your diet can help lower both total and LDL cholesterol levels, supporting heart health.
A 2020 review of 62 studies found that flaxseed supplementation led to significant reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, potentially delaying the progression of heart disease.
While excessive sweets like chocolate candies can harm heart health, including specific cocoa products like unsweetened cocoa and cacao nibs in your diet can promote heart health by improving blood lipid levels, reducing inflammation, and supporting healthy blood pressure.
Studies show that cocoa and dark chocolate consumption can raise HDL cholesterol levels and significantly decrease LDL cholesterol. Unsweetened cocoa products have also been demonstrated to improve blood vessel function and blood flow, guarding against heart disease risk.
Chia seeds are small but nutrient-packed, offering fiber and healthy fats like PUFAs. Due to their high fiber content and lipid-lowering nutrients, chia seeds are an excellent choice for those with high cholesterol.
Studies have shown that chia seed consumption reduces total and LDL cholesterol levels in individuals with elevated blood lipid levels while also increasing HDL cholesterol.
Okra, a highly nutritious vegetable, contains polysaccharides known for their cholesterol-lowering properties. Okra is also rich in fiber, an effective means of lowering cholesterol levels.
A 2020 study revealed that eight weeks of okra powder consumption resulted in significant decreases in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, as well as fasting blood sugar, especially in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
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