Whether or not you’re currently dealing with any health issues, these foods that help lower cholesterol are great to keep in heavy rotation as part of a heart-healthy diet.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that’s found in every single one of your cells. The cholesterol in your body is mostly made by the liver but it’s also found in foods like meat, eggs, and dairy. When your cholesterol levels are high, it can put you at higher risk for diseases like coronary artery disease.
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According to the American Heart Association, a diet high in saturated fat, carbohydrates, and trans fat—as well as physical inactivity, too much stress, and too much alcohol—raises cholesterol levels. At the same time, certain foods can lower your cholesterol levels to promote long-term health.
These are some of the best foods to eat to promote lower cholesterol:
Fish contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, but unlike other types of fats, omega-3s won’t hurt your cholesterol levels. In fact, according to the National Library of Medicine, they may even improve them by raising high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels—which is known as the good kind of cholesterol—and protecting your heart from blood clots and inflammation. They recommend eating fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel at least two times a week.
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According to Harvard Health, “A bushel of studies shows that eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts is good for the heart.” In fact, eating two ounces of nuts a day can lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein), which is known as the “bad” cholesterol. As an added bonus, nuts are also delicious, filling, and can be used in any number of recipes.
Legumes contain a ton of fiber, which is great for supporting healthy cholesterol levels. In fact, a 2014 study that reviewed 26 past randomized controlled trials showed that eating just ½ a cup of legumes each day lowered LDL cholesterol by 6.6mg/dl. When it comes to legumes, lentils are one of your healthiest options. If you’re not sure where to start, try making this Easy Lentil Soup.
Apples are high in pectin, which is a type of fiber that lowers LDL. And apples aren’t the only fruit high in pectin, either. Grapes, strawberries, and citrus fruits also make the list. Try making a fruit salad that incorporates all high-pectin fruits in honor of your cholesterol levels and heart health.
Overnight oats lovers—great news! Oats are high in soluble fiber, which can help reduce your LDL levels by limiting the absorption of cholesterol into your body. Combine your overnight oats with strawberries and a few walnuts and you have the ultimate heart healthy breakfast.
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Eating a Healthy Breakfast Everyday
Like fatty fish, avocados are another example of a technically “fatty” food that can actually lower cholesterol instead of raise it. One study even showed that overweight or obese adults with high cholesterol lowered their LDL levels when they ate one avocado a day. Excuse us while we go whip up some guacamole….
7. (Dark) Chocolate
Unfortunately, we’re not talking Crunch Bars or M&Ms; in fact, only dark chocolate has demonstrated cholesterol-lowering properties. If you want the perfect healthy dessert, try combining dark chocolate and almonds. One study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that eating a combination of raw almonds, dark chocolate, and cacao reduced LDL levels. Always look for a chocolate that’s at least 80 percent cacao with no added sugar.
Hu Dark Chocolate Bars 4-pack, $25 on Amazon
These vegan and paleo-friendly bars contain no dairy, refined sugar, or cane sugar.
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Minding your cholesterol levels is one of the best ways to safeguard your future heart health. Luckily, the foods above are also tasty, quick to whip up, and easy to incorporate into your daily diet.
Header image by Chowhound