Everyday Foods Everyone With High Cholesterol Should Be Eating

Unless you want to be choking down Lipitor pills like they’re candy in your older years, reigning in your cholesterol levels needs to be one of your health priorities. It is still a somewhat nebulous health factor for a lot of people, as we spend a good deal of time talking about things like obesity and calories — with cholesterol as an afterthought. But it’s interrelated, and too much of it can cause some serious health concerns. The key is to watch your diet and make sure you’re not ingesting too much bad cholesterol. Bad cholesterol is typically found in animal-based products: meats and dairy.

If you aim to lower your levels, you can adjust your diet accordingly. Here are 15 foods that can help (you’ll love the food on page 8).

1. Oatmeal

oatmeal

Oatmeal should be part of your diet. | iStock.com

Load up on the steel-cut oats if you plan to put your cholesterol levels in the crosshairs. The key ingredient in oatmeal is the soluble fiber, which is known to reduce bad cholesterol levels. Oatmeal is delicious but can require some preparation. Also, if you load it up with too many trimmings — sugars, mostly — you can lose some of the overall nutritional benefit.

Next: This is a great source of omega-3 fat. 

2. Fish

fish

Fish has plenty of omega-3s. | iStock.com

Fish is loaded with all kinds of healthy stuff, and it’s also heavy on fats. So how can that help you? Fish is heavy with the good types of fat — omega-3 — which actually helps your body break down and do away with cholesterol buildup. Your body doesn’t produce omega-3 on its own, and fish is a great source of it. You can even replace other dietary staples like beef with fish as a much healthier alternative.

Next: Enjoy these in moderation. 

3. Nuts

different types of nuts in three bowls

Nuts have good fat in them. | iStock.com

Put down the potato chips or chicken wings and snack on some peanuts or almonds instead. Nuts are high in unsaturated fat, the same types of fats found in fish. Again, these fats help your body break down and lower the levels of unhealthy cholesterol in your cells. Some nuts are better than others, but if you’re craving a salty snack, you’re much better off reaching for some nuts over almost anything else.

Next: This food aids with digestion too. 

4. Beans

Red beans

Beans can really improve your cholesterol levels. | iStock.com

They’re not merely the musical fruit, beans are also cholesterol killers. And it all comes down to what makes beans so “musical” — namely, the amount of soluble fiber. That fiber keeps your digestion moving, and helps move cholesterol out of your system. They’re also pretty cheap. So, if you’re on a diet and on a budget, beans should become your new best friend.

Next: This food is also loaded with calcium too. 

5. Leafy greens

spinach

Spinach should be in your diet if it’s not already. | iStock.com

You should be eating plenty of greens as it is, but if you’re serious about lowering your cholesterol, you need to focus on eating as much as you can — specifically, foods like spinach, kale, and lettuce. Greens deliver big amounts of vitamins and minerals and also hit you with a good dose of fiber, which we know helps take down cholesterol levels.  Vegetables like spinach and kale are packed with calcium too.

Next: This food has more potassium has more than a banana. 

6. Avocados

avocado

Avocados have tons of benefits. | iStock.com

Avocados are an odd food and one that some people simply can’t stand. But they’re quite nutritious and can offer up a good serving of healthy vitamins, minerals, and fats. The main ingredients present in the avocado that help battle cholesterol are the healthy, unsaturated fats — though there are other things at work as well. Believe it or not, you get more potassium from an avocado than you do from a banana, according to Healthline.

Next: Drink this instead of soda. 

7. Tea

tea

Tea can help with those bad cholesterol levels. | iStock.com

You need something to wash all of these foods down with, right? Well, stow the milk and cream-heavy coffees, and stick to tea instead. Teas contain certain phytochemical antioxidants that help your body lower bad cholesterol levels. Tea is also an incredibly versatile beverage. Drink it hot, drink it iced, and add almost anything you want.

Next: Even this food can lower your cholesterol. 

8. Dark chocolate

A bowl with chocolate coated raisins

Dark chocolate | Esdelval/Getty Images

Consuming dark chocolate in small amounts may lower the bad LDL cholesterol. Dark chocolate, which is filled with flavonoids, may raise the good LDL cholesterol too. Plus, this sweet treat is actually good for your heart, according to Everyday Health. Although dark chocolate may play a part in a heart-healthy diet, consume in small amounts. Chocolate is still high in calories that have saturated and unsaturated fats.

Next: Partner these treats with your dark chocolate.

9. Strawberries

strawberry in the bowl

Strawberries | iStock.com/ValentynVolkov

A 2014 study found that consuming about half of a kilo of strawberries per day, lowered participants’ bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels, Science Daily reports. At the same time, good cholesterol levels remained the same. A Harvard study also found that strawberries had heart-healthy benefits. Blueberries do the trick as well.

Next: Cook with this food every day for cholesterol-lowering benefits.

10. Garlic

crushed garlic on wooden background

Garlic | thodonal/iStock/Getty Images

Garlic does more than ward off vampires, it can also naturally lower cholesterol levels. One study found that consuming only one gram of garlic per day lowered overall cholesterol and triglyceride levels by up to 20 mg, Very Well Health reports. Bad cholesterol dropped somewhat and good cholesterol levels were not impacted. Garlic is considered to be a superfood, as it also aids in digestion and may reduce blood clots.

Next: Could that screwdriver cocktail be a little healthy?

11. Orange juice

Orange juice | iStock.com

Your morning glass of orange juice may help lower your cholesterol levels. Research found people who were long-term orange juice drinkers had lower total levels of cholesterol. Plus orange juice drinkers had lower LDL cholesterol and more folate and Vitamin C in their diet. To reap cholesterol-reducing benefits, drink about two cups of orange juice every day for 12 months.

Next: Combine this food with garlic for an added benefit.

12. Eggplant

Eggplant|  iStock.com

Studies suggest consuming eggplant water may lower blood cholesterol and weight, according to Medical News Today. Eggplant has antioxidants like anthocyanins and chlorogenic acid. These compounds have anti-inflammatory properties, which may contribute to heart health and lower cholesterol. Consuming eggplant may also reduce your risk of cancer and help with weight management.

Next: This food is a good source of vegetarian protein.

13. Soy

Tofu |  iStock.com

Eating soy-based products may lower cholesterol because you are substituting animal-based protein with something plant-based, Mayo Clinic reports. Although eating soy protein alone does not have a huge impact on cholesterol levels, it can be helpful, Harvard Health reports. Consuming about 25 grams of soy per day may lower LDL cholesterol by up to 6%. Soy-based products include tofu, soybeans, and soy milk. One-half cup of tofu has about 10.1 grams of protein.

Next: This hearty grain lowers two types of bad cholesterol.

14. Barley

Barley | iStock.com

A study by St. Michael’s Hospital found that barley delivered a one-two punch to bad cholesterol. The grain lowers both LDL and non-LDL cholesterol by about 7% in the study. And while barley is in the grain family with oatmeal, barley has two times the protein and half the calories in oatmeal. Barley is also high in fiber, which makes it ideal for any healthy diet.

Next: Hold off on the butter next time you cook.

15. Vegetable oil

fresh white truffle

Oil | PicturePartners/Getty Images

One way to lower your bad cholesterol is to cook with vegetable oils instead of butter. Opt for oils like avocado, canola, flaxseed, olive, peanut, sunflower and walnut, according to Very Well Health. Cooking with these oils may also reduce inflammation, plus can be heart healthy too. If you have a cholesterol problem you should avoid any hydrogenated oils, which actually raise your bad LDL and lower your good LDL.

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Additional reporting by Gina Ragusa.