Cholesterol — a waxy substance made by the body and found in some foods — is something the body needs, at least in small amounts.
Still, not all cholesterol is created equal. Increased blood levels of cholesterol — particularly the LDL or “bad” cholesterol — have been linked to a greater risk of heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Cutting back on dietary cholesterol is a great place to start in lowering your LDL, but ensuring you eat more of the right foods is also important.
For a low-cholesterol diet, you’ll want to include a variety of foods that are linked with better heart health.
Learn more about these 11 cholesterol-lowering foods below, which also provide a bevy of other pros good for your heart.
Nuts are a great source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats — heart-healthy fats that help improve cholesterol levels — as well vitamins and minerals, fiber, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, according to the Mayo Clinic.
While many nuts are known for their heart-health benefits, eating peanuts, tree nuts and walnuts one or more times per week was associated with a 13 to 19 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 15 to 23 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease, a November 2018 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found.
Sprinkle some nuts on your morning yogurt for a low-cholesterol breakfast.
Whole-grain oats, including oatmeal, oat flour and oat bran, are also well-known for their cholesterol-lowering properties, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Oats are rich in beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that is known for its metabolic health benefits, according to a 2011 article in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism.
Populations with low incidents of coronary heart disease and cholesterol tend to eat diets generally low in total fat (especially saturated fat and cholesterol) and high in fiber-rich foods like fruits, veggies and grain products, like whole oat foods, according to the FDA.
Other grain sources of soluble fiber to add to your breakfast, lunch or dinner include wheat bran, wheat germ, whole-wheat spaghetti and whole-wheat bread.
Whole-grain barley is also rich in beta-glucans and has similar LDL-lowering properties to oats, according to the Whole Grains Council. Of all the common cereals, barley has the largest seed amount of beta-glucans, totaling three to 11 percent, whereas the seed total is only about three to seven percent in oats, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Barley is also known for its ability to reduce blood pressure and may be able to help control blood sugar, according to the Whole Grains Council. Plus, it also has more protein than corn, brown rice or millet.
Get 50 percent more fiber by eating this one thing every day.
There are so many reasons to eat avocado. It’s rich in monounsaturated fats, fiber and phytonutrients like phytosterols and polyphenols — all of which are linked to improved blood cholesterol levels.
In participants following a moderate-fat diet including one avocado daily, a January 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found a reduction in cholesterol — especially for small, dense LDL. These small LDL particles are harmful because they encourage plaque buildup in the arteries.
Whole soy foods, including edamame, tofu or soy milk, are known for their high-quality plant protein, antioxidants, fiber and estrogen-like compounds.
The cholesterol benefits from this legume may seem modest: People saw a 4- to 5-percent reduction in LDL from 25 grams of soy protein, or the amount found in 10 ounces of tofu or 2 and 1/2 cups of soy milk, according to a December 2016 article published in Nutrients.
Soy can be a great option for cholesterol-lowering breakfasts. Add soy milk instead of cow’s milk to your cereal or oatmeal, and consider trying a tofu scramble for breakfast as a cholesterol-lowering alternative to scrambled eggs.
6. Beans, Peas and Lentils
Beans, peas and lentils (also categorized as legumes) have many qualities that make them an asset to a cholesterol-lowering diet. Legumes are naturally low in fat, high in soluble and insoluble fiber and particularly good sources of protein, folate, iron and magnesium, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Legumes are also known for their potential ability to reduce LDL cholesterol levels, according to a May 2014 review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. After analyzing 26 different studies, researchers found that diets rich in legumes (about one serving per day) significantly lowered LDL cholesterol compared to other control diets.
Here’s another reason to toss some berries into your meals: Daily consumption of berries, berry juice or berry extract was associated with a nearly four-point reduction in LDL, according to a March 2016 analysis published in Scientific Reports.