11 Foods and Vegetables That Lower Your Cholesterol

Discover 11 powerhouse foods and veggies that naturally lower cholesterol levels, supporting heart health.

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
May 20, 2024
May 14, 2024
— Updated:

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In the quest for better heart health, healthy eating plays a pivotal role, and certain vegetables have emerged as champions in the fight against high cholesterol. As a key component of a heart-healthy diet, these vegetables offer a natural and delicious way to manage cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is closely linked to serious health conditions like heart attack and stroke, which is one of the main causes of death in American society, making the inclusion of these vegetables in your diet a smart choice for overall well-being.

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Optimize Your Diet: 11 Foods That Combat High Cholesterol

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Legumes

Legumes, such as kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils, are good for cholesterol primarily due to their high content of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that binds to cholesterol, preventing it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. This process helps lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (aka bad cholesterol) levels.

Additionally, legumes are a good source of plant-based protein, which can help lower blood cholesterol when replacing animal-based proteins in the diet. They are also low in saturated fat and contain other heart-healthy nutrients like folate, potassium, and magnesium, which support overall heart health.

Avocados

Avocados are good for cholesterol primarily due to their high content of monounsaturated fats. These healthy fats can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels while increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (aka good cholesterol), which is beneficial for heart health.

Additionally, avocados are rich in fiber, which can further help lower cholesterol levels. The combination of healthy fats and fiber in avocados makes them a heart-healthy choice that can support cholesterol management when eaten as part of a balanced diet.

Nuts

Nuts are beneficial for LDL levels due to their nutrient composition. They are rich in healthy fats, particularly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol levels when they replace unhealthy saturated and trans fats in the diet. Additionally, nuts are a good source of fiber, which can aid in lowering cholesterol by reducing the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. 

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are beneficial for cholesterol due to their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. One key benefit is their ability to lower triglyceride levels in the blood, which is important because high triglycerides are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Omega-3s also help increase levels of HDL cholesterol, often referred to as "good" cholesterol. 

Whole Grains

Whole grains are good for cholesterol primarily because of their high fiber content, specifically a type of fiber called soluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material in the digestive system, which binds with bile acids. These bile acids are made from cholesterol in the liver to aid in digestion and are then excreted from the body. 

When soluble fiber binds with bile acids, it prevents them from being reabsorbed into the bloodstream, so the liver needs to produce more bile acids. To do this, the liver uses up more cholesterol, which reduces the level of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. 

Fruits and Berries

Due to their rich nutritional profile, fruits and berries are excellent choices for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. One health benefit is their high content of soluble fiber, such as pectin. As discussed, soluble fiber binds to bile acids in the gut, reducing their reabsorption and prompting the liver to use cholesterol to produce more bile acids. This process helps lower LDL cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.

Dark Chocolate and Cocoa

Dark chocolate is considered good for cholesterol primarily due to its high content of antioxidants called flavonoids. These compounds have been shown to have several beneficial effects on heart health, including improving cholesterol levels. Flavonoids in dark chocolate can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the blood by preventing LDL from oxidizing, which is a key step in the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Some studies suggest that dark chocolate may also increase HDL cholesterol levels, which are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

Additionally, the antioxidants in dark chocolate have anti-inflammatory effects and can improve the function of the endothelium, the lining of the arteries. This can help reduce the risk of plaque buildup and improve blood flow, leading to better overall heart health. Furthermore, flavonoids in dark chocolate may help relax blood vessels, which can lower blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, so this effect is particularly beneficial.

Soy Foods

Soy foods are beneficial for cholesterol primarily due to their high content of soy protein and isoflavones. Soy protein, found in soybeans and soy products, is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids. When included in the diet, soy protein has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels, particularly when it replaces animal-based proteins that are higher in saturated fats. Additionally, soybeans and soy products contain isoflavones, plant compounds with antioxidant properties. Isoflavones can improve blood vessel function and reduce inflammation, which can benefit heart health. Some studies suggest that isoflavones may also help lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale are beneficial for cholesterol due to their rich nutrient profile and unique compounds. High in soluble fiber, these vegetables help lower LDL cholesterol by binding to cholesterol in the digestive tract and facilitating its excretion from the body. Additionally, cruciferous vegetables contain phytochemicals like glucosinolates, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can protect against heart disease and support cholesterol management. Their antioxidant content, including vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, helps reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, further benefiting heart health and cholesterol levels. 

Being low in calories and fat, cruciferous vegetables are also valuable for weight management, a factor that influences cholesterol levels. Versatile and easy to incorporate into meals, these vegetables offer a delicious and convenient way to enhance heart health and promote healthy cholesterol levels as part of a balanced diet.

Green Tea

Green tea is considered beneficial for cholesterol levels due to its rich antioxidant content, particularly catechins. These antioxidants help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, a crucial step in the development of heart disease. Additionally, green tea contains polyphenols, which are known to lower LDL cholesterol levels and improve the function of blood vessel linings, further reducing the risk of heart disease. One specific catechin found in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), has been studied for its cholesterol-lowering effects and is thought to help raise HDL cholesterol levels. 

Moreover, green tea's anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce inflammation in the body, which is associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Some studies also suggest that green tea may improve lipid metabolism, aiding in the processing of fats and cholesterol. While green tea can be a beneficial addition to a heart-healthy diet, it's essential to maintain a balanced diet and active lifestyle for optimal heart health.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are good for cholesterol primarily due to their high content of soluble fiber, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds. Soluble fiber, such as that found in leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens, helps lower LDL cholesterol levels by binding to bile acids in the digestive system. This binding process prevents the bile acids from being reabsorbed into the bloodstream, leading the liver to use up more cholesterol to produce more bile acids. This ultimately helps lower the overall level of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Additionally, leafy greens are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. These antioxidants help protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, which is a process that can lead to the formation of plaque in the arteries. By preventing LDL oxidation, antioxidants in leafy greens help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Read: </strong><a href=anti-inflammatory-vegetables>10 Anti-inflammatory Vegetables for Your Diet</a>.</p>

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<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong><a href=best-vegetarian-protein-options>9 Best Vegetarian Protein Options</a>.</p>

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About the author

Kristen Carli is the owner of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness. She graduated from University of Arizona with a BA in psychology and then received a BS in dietetics from Arizona State University.

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