As a cardiologist who has treated thousands of patients, one of the most common health problems I encounter is high cholesterol. But the solution doesn’t always have to come from a pill, which can have side effects.
The foods we eat play an important role in keeping these cholesterol levels down. The best part is that you don’t have to put tons of restrictions around your diet to see positive changes.
Although there is great individual variation in dietary cholesterol, making just a few small improvements in your eating habits can produce significant reductions in LDL cholesterol—or the “bad” cholesterol that contributes to fatty deposits in the arteries.
Here are five inexpensive foods I eat regularly to help lower cholesterol and keep my heart healthy:
1. Oatmeal and oat bran
A 2018 study found that almonds can lower LDL cholesterol while maintaining or even increasing HDL cholesterol—or the “good” kind that helps remove other forms of cholesterol from your bloodstream.
If you’re not a fan of almonds, other options that have been shown to improve cholesterol levels are hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and pistachios.
3. Chia seeds
Chia seeds provide plenty of essential omega-3 fatty acids. An increase in the consumption of these healthy fats by just one gram per day has been associated with a 16% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Although omega-3 fatty acids have relatively little effect on LDL, they can help raise HDL cholesterol and help lower triglycerides, a type of fat found in your blood.
Studies have shown a link between consuming vegetables and reducing the risk of heart disease.
Broccoli in particular is rich in soluble fiber, which works wonders for high cholesterol levels. Other cholesterol-busting vegetables to consider include spinach, Brussels sprouts and collard greens.
In addition to providing a wealth of vitamins and antioxidants, eating vegetables regularly has been shown to help lower cholesterol, with higher intakes associated with progressively lower LDL levels.
Replace the sugary snacks with a sweet watermelon if you want to lower your cholesterol. Watermelon naturally contains lycopene, which has lipid-lowering properties, reducing total and LDL cholesterol.
For those who aren’t big on watermelon, consider adding apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits, or even avocados to your diet. All of these are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL cholesterol.
Dr. Elizabeth Claude is a cardiologist and founder of Step 1 foods. Trained at the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins, Dr. Klodas has published dozens of scientific articles throughout his career, authored a book for patients, “Slay the Giant: The Power of Prevention in Defeating Heart Disease” and served as founding editor-in-chief of Cardiosmart.org.
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