Interested in learning about the foods that lower cholesterol? Studies show that you can lower your cholesterol numbers by 20-30% just by making some small changes to how you eat and getting an anti inflammatory diet to work for you! 1 Keep reading to learn the foods that lower cholesterol and the ones that raise it, and get six easy actions you can take to enjoy eating more foods that lower cholesterol and help you feel great!
There are two cholesterol numbers that you want to manage, your HDL (good cholesterol, think “H” for healthy) and LDL (bad cholesterol). Lowering cholesterol with diet is about eating foods that will raise your HDL and lower your LDL. Not all food is the same and you want to eat more of some foods and less of others. Put these actions into place and you’ll take control of your cholesterol numbers and live a heart healthy life!
They used to think that the only way to manage cholesterol was to avoid cholesterol containing foods. They now know that high cholesterol is connected to inflammation and eating to reduce inflammation helps reduce cholesterol. So instead of focusing on what you CAN’T eat – you’ll have more success improving your cholesterol numbers by activating a healthy eating lifestyle – crowding in nutrient-rich foods and reducing the amount of sugar and saturated fats in your day.
Follow These Two Principles:
1. Eat MORE Foods That Lower Cholesterol
- Vegetables (dark green and leafy)
- Fruits (berries and apples)
- 100% whole grains (oats and barley)
- Monounsaturated fats (avocados, olive oil)
- Omega-3 rich fish and nuts
2. Eat LESS Foods That Raise Cholesterol
- Sugar (added to packaged foods and found in grains)
- Saturated fats (animal meats, full-fat dairy)
- Avoid Trans fats (found in baked goods and fried foods)
Ok – so now you know what to eat more of and less of, but how do you turn it into action and get it to happen in your busy modern life?
Take Action – Follow These Six Actions
1. Make Veggies And Fruits Half Of What You Eat A Day
Plant foods lower cholesterol in two ways: they are packed with cholesterol-absorbing sterols and stanols and they are rich in soluble fiber. Plant sterols and stanols are naturally found in plant foods including vegetables and vegetable oils, fruits, and nuts and seeds 2. Research has found that getting 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols per day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10%.
Plant foods are also great sources of fiber. Vegetables like dark, leafy greens are known for being rich in fiber and help your body excrete cholesterol 3 and fruits are loaded with pectin, a soluble fiber that has been proven to lower total cholesterol by 3-7%. According to Harvard Health and Mayo Clinic, great cholesterol-lowering vegetables include: eggplant, okra, carrots, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, and darky leafy greans. Pectin-rich fruits include: apples, grapes, citrus fruits, pears, and berries.
Tips to make it happen:
- Ask yourself “how can I get a vegetable or fruit into this dish or meal?”
- Order “double veggies” at a restaurant
- Eat the rainbow – choose a variety of colors and include lots of different kinds
- Research has found a connection between eating raw vegetables and lowering cholesterol. Eat half of your vegetables raw and half cooked.
- Toss cut up strawberries on your bowl of morning oatmeal
- Freeze grapes and enjoy them as a cool and refreshing snack
- Enjoy an apple a day (be sure to eat the skin)
- Make your salad count – replace the iceberg lettuce with a dark leafy green (baby spinach, baby kale, arugula, or mixed greens)
- Pair raw carrots, celery, and cucumbers with hummus or bean dips for a snack
2. Crowd In Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are terrific sources of soluble fiber, which has been proven to lower cholesterol by reducing the LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream.
Tips to make it happen:
- Surround the beans with flavors you like. Every global cuisine uses beans. Italian uses a white cannelini bean flavored with garlic, olive oil, and a splash of lemon. Mexican uses a black bean flavored with garlic, canola oil, and a splash of lime. Indian dishes use chickpeas and lentils.
- Avoid baked beans – they are loaded with sugar. Go for bean salads or warm bean dishes instead.
- Look for dishes that use beans as a main ingredient (like soups, chili, and stews).
- Save time and buy them already cooked. Choose low salt versions. Rinse to remove extra salt, strain, and toss them into your salads, soups, stews, and tacos.
- Snack on roasted and flavored ones that you can find in the snack section of your supermarket.
- Try a bean dip – they make some killer already made ones that taste Italian, Middle Eastern, and Thai. There’s even a chocolate flavored hummus.
3. Figure Out The Right Type and Amount of Grains
Whole grains are rich in fiber, a key nutrient that helps lower cholesterol. According to Mayo Clinic, fiber slows the absorption of “bad” cholesterol into the bloodstream. Research found that a few servings of whole grains a day decreases the risk of heart disease by approximately 10%-20%. Go for oats and barley – these are two grains that are rich in fiber.
Refined grains, however, have had most of their cholesterol-combating nutrients removed, leaving just empty carbohydrates. Research has found evidence linking refined carbohydrates to increased risk of heart disease and inflammation. Eat fewer white grains and when possible replace them with whole grain versions.
Enjoy whole grains, but in moderation. High cholesterol is connected to inflammation. Grains have a higher glycemic load and can contribute to inflammation. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends that you have between 1-3 servings a day. One serving is a slice of bread, one piece of pizza, or half a cup of pasta, cereal, or grain. Participants in our program have been able to lower their cholesterol levels (and reduce other signs of inflammation) when they figure out the amount and type of grains they do better (and less well) with.
Tips to make it happen:
- Choose whole grain versions of your favorite grain products (bread, waffle, cereal, rice, pasta). Read the food labels. Ignore what’s on the front of the package. Turn it over and read the ingredients. Look for “100% whole” in front of grain. And look for “whole” before the type of flour listed. Choose products that list whole-grain ingredients first.
- Enjoy that bowl of oatmeal in the morning then toss barley into your salads and soups for lunch
- Play with the amount of grains you eat a day. Usually reducing down to 1-2 can help with your cholesterol numbers.
4. Eat Less Animal Meats and Dairy Products
Animal meats (chicken, beef, pork, lamb, fish) and dairy products (cheese, butter, yogurt, milk) contain saturated fat, which raises LDL cholesterol 4. Eat less meat, choose leaner cuts, and swap in lower in heart-healthier white meats like chicken and fish. Keep your dairy to 1-2 servings a day and choose low fat versions.
5. AVOID Trans Fats
Trans Fats increase LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease 5. Trans fat is found naturally in some foods in small amounts, but it is mostly found in processed foods, fried foods, and baked goods. Look for versions that are made WITHOUT Trans Fats. Avoid misleading marketing claims by reading the ingredient list. “Partially hydrogenated” is actually a Trans Fat, so if you see it, avoid the product.
6. Crowd in Omega-3 Rich Fish And Walnuts
According to Mayo Clinic, fatty fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, has been proven to reduce the total fatty buildup in your artery walls 6. Other great sources of omega-3 rich foods are: fish like herring, tuna, salmon, trout, and nuts like walnuts and flaxseeds.
You got this. You can eat to lower your cholesterol and protect your heart. Pick a few things to try and get started today!
Changing How You Eat Can Be Easy And Fun
Ready to use food as medicine? Your fork and your knife are the most powerful tools you have to reduce inflammation and get your cholesterol numbers in line. And it doesn’t have to be hard. It just takes knowledge, skills, and support. Sign up for a FREE 2 week trial of my online program and learn how to eat right for you. In less than an hour a week you’ll learn how to eat to reduce inflammation, take control of your cholesterol and get the personal coaching to turn healthy eating into a lifestyle that you love!