The Surprising Foods That Can Help Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally

The Surprising Foods That Can Help Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally
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Cholesterol is one of those words that always sound ominous, especially when your doctor mentions it at your annual checkup. First, we need to point out that cholesterol — a waxy, fat-like substance that travels through your bloodstream — is not inherently bad. It’s an important and necessary substance created by your liver to digest fatty foods, create hormones and build cells, among other crucial functions. However, in addition to the cholesterol your liver pumps out, you also get cholesterol from the food you eat (especially animal products such as beef, poultry, dairy and eggs); when you start building up too much of a certain type of cholesterol, it can be a major concern for your health.

Nearly 40% of Americans have high cholesterol, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Increased cholesterol levels, especially the LDL type, can increase your risk for developing heart disease by building up plaque in your arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, can help sweep away the LDL cholesterol. A blood test can determine whether you have high cholesterol, and your doctor may recommend exercise or medication in addition to a healthier diet.

The good news is you can get ahead of the curve by adding more foods that are rich in good sources of cholesterol, increasing fiber, and decreasing the unhealthy fats. Adding more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish and whole grains to your diet can help lower your levels and reduce plaque build-up.

Try these heart-healthy foods that can help lower your cholesterol naturally.


Whether you eat your fruit on top of oatmeal, mixed into a salad or on its own as a satisfying snack, the fiber-filled goodies will help keep your cholesterol in check. Eating adequate fiber (at least 25 grams per day) decreases LDL levels and supports healthy digestion. Raspberries have 8 grams per cup. Strawberries are full of polyphenols, plant-based compounds that naturally help regulate your cardiovascular system. Some studies have connected eating blueberries regularly with decreased blood pressure. That’s thanks to their circulation-boosting effect on blood vessels (otherwise known as “vasodilation”), which slows the rate of atherosclerosis.

Evidence has shown that frequent apple consumption may reduce total cholesterol. That’s thanks to the phenolic compounds found in apple skins — aka the antioxidant compounds that promote healthy cellular function and proper blood flow.

And don’t forget about bananas! They lower cholesterol by removing it from your digestive system, preventing it from moving into your bloodstream and clogging your arteries. Slice bananas on top of morning oats with a tablespoon of chia seeds for an extra healthy boost.

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Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet is one of the best ways to manage cholesterol, so eat your beans! why? Beans contain soluble fiber, which is linked to improved heart health. Chickpeas are a superstar: Just 1/3 cup contains about 12 grams of fiber — half your daily value. What’s more, these hearty beans are packed with antioxidants and associated with lower LDLs.

Black beans are also fiber-dense, with 8 grams in a half-cup, 100-calorie serving. You’ll get plenty of filling plant-based protein too.

Pulses such as lentils are everywhere these days because they’re packed with plant-based protein and fiber, not to mention antioxidants, minerals, and B vitamins. All of those compounds help protect you from plaque buildup while optimizing blood flow and helping your body efficiently use the nutrients you consume.

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Green Leafy Vegetables

Adding more leafy greens to your plate can help lower cholesterol by promoting your body’s production of nitric oxide (NO), which helps dilate blood vessels and reduce atherosclerosis.

Kale hits the heart-healthy jackpot because it’s rich in potassium, magnesium, antioxidants and fiber. Additionally the minerals in cruciferous vegetables (including cabbage and Brussels sprouts) can work to counterbalance the effects of sodium, warding off hypertension.

RELATED: 30+ Quick and Easy Kale Recipes

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Eating walnuts regularly has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, according to data from the Nurses’ Health Study. Eating as little as one serving of these nuts each week can lower your chances of cardiovascular disease by up to 19%!

Peanuts pack antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds linked to blocking cholesterol absorption in the gut.

If you’re on the hunt for a snack, consider picking up some almonds. Studies have shown that consistent intake of almonds reduces risk of heart disease by improving cholesterol levels — maintaining HDL and lowering LDL.

Research has also linked pistachios with raising HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL cholesterol. Since these nuts are fiber-rich and antioxidant-packed, they also protect your body’s cells from oxidative stress, the damage that allows for plaque build-up in your arteries.

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Sweet Potatoes, Squash and Pumpkin

Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, parsnips, and other good-for-you tubers are lower in calories, filled with fiber, and chock-full of potassium and beta-carotene, both of which protect against heart disease.

Low in calories but rich in fiber, pumpkin is an antioxidant-rich, seasonal swap for sweet potatoes.

RELATED: How to Buy and Bake Perfect Sweet Potatoes

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Oats and Quinoa

Oats contain a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which is linked to lowering LDL levels, according to the British Journal of Nutrition. It does this by absorbing water in your GI tract and removing excess saturated fat before it enters your bloodstream.

Cooking up more quinoa could lower your risk of heart disease by improving total cholesterol, triglycerides, and lowering LDL, according to recent research studies. That’s thanks to the wholesome grain’s antioxidants, fiber, and B vitamin content that may improve blood flow.

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Avocado and Avocado Oil

Because they’re rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats and fiber, avocados can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Clinical trials have consistently found that eating avocados can lower your LDL cholesterol, with a beneficial effect on lipid and lipoprotein profiles.

Extracted from the pulp of the avocado fruit, avocado oil carries many of the same benefits; it’s loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats which can help reduce high-blood pressure and cholesterol.

RELATED: 20+ Amazing Avocado Recipes

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Fatty Fish

As one of nature’s best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon has many health benefits, including reducing inflammation and triglycerides.

Whether you go fresh or canned, eating at least two servings of tuna per week can help slow the growth rate of plaque, according to the American Heart Association. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can also decrease triglyceride levels, another risk factor for heart disease.

RELATED: 16 Salmon Dinners That Are Super Healthy

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Olives and Olive Oil

This Mediterranean diet staple is chock-full of monounsaturated fatty acids, the type of fat linked with improving total cholesterol levels. Specific compounds in olives may also limit the initiation of the inflammatory process — another high cholesterol-promoting risk factor.

Plus, olive oil is packed with antioxidants like other plant-based oils: canola, avocado, flaxseed, peanut, sesame, coconut, and walnut.

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Buckwheat, Barley, and Bulgur

These fiber-rich grains provide similar cholesterol-lowering benefits as oats, but our favorite thing about B grains is their versatility. Try buckwheat noodles or buckwheat flour in pancakes, barley in soups, and bulgur in salads and cereals for a healthy dose of soluble fiber.

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Soy Foods

While research has linked soybeans, tofu, and soy milk with lower cholesterol, edamame is another delicious way to help reduce bad cholesterol by replacing other proteins typically high in saturated fat. Since edamame is also full of fiber, it can help curb cravings too.

Filled with plant-based antioxidants and minerals, protein-packed unsweetened soy milk can help improve your lipid levels. That’s because it’s lower in saturated fat than other vegan swaps (ahem, coconut milk). Unsweetened versions cut back on sneaky sources of added sugar, so use it in your morning latte for a cholesterol-lowering caffeine boost.

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