There is good evidence that following a healthy diet can improve your blood cholesterol and heart health.
Find out which foods are best for helping to lower your cholesterol.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat in your blood that is naturally produced by your body. It is also found in other foods such as eggs, which are perishable (such as kidneys and liver) and shellfish. Your body needs cholesterol to function properly.
If you have high levels of cholesterol in the blood (also called hyperlipidemia) it speeds up the process of atherosclerosis. This is where plaque builds up in your artery walls, making them thinner. This makes it harder for blood to flow to them, and over time can cause heart disease or stroke.
Types of cholesterol
High cholesterol does not show any symptoms. You need a blood test to find out if you have it. A blood test will tell you the levels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood.
Cholesterol is transported throughout the body by different ‘carriers’ (also called lipoproteins). The two most common are:
Low lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: ‘bad’ cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is ‘bad’ because when you have too much it sticks to the walls of your arteries.
High lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: ‘good’ cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is ‘good’ because it removes ‘bad’ cholesterol from your blood vessels.
Triglycerides are the most common source of fat in your body and store and transport fat in the blood. Any extra energy from junk food in your body is triggered by triglycerides.
Total blood cholesterol is a measure of all the cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood and is dangerous for developing heart disease.
Can what I eat help my cholesterol?
Eating certain foods can help improve your cholesterol and overall health.
A good place to start eating a variety of plant foods. These include:
- whole grains
Eating plant foods will help you get a range of nutrients, healthy fats, and heart. All of this promotes good heart health.
7 foods that lower your cholesterol
Some foods can help lower your cholesterol and all work in different ways. Try to include these foods in your diet whenever you can:
Oats and barley
Eating whole-grain foods reduces your risk of heart disease. Oats and barley are even more special because they are high in soluble fiber called ‘beta-glucan’. Beta-glucan helps lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in your blood.
Vegetables and fruits
Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits every day can help prevent heart disease, stroke, and other cancers4,5. Many vegetables and fruits have a soluble fiber that helps reduce cholesterol absorption and lowers the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in your blood.
Foods rich in heart-healthy fats
Eating a lot of foods that contain healthy heart mono and low-fat diets increases the levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol in your blood.
These foods contain heart-healthy fats.
- Oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, and salmon
- Nuts and seeds
- Vegetable oils also spread
Eating these foods instead of foods high in fat (butter, cream, meat fat) improve your cholesterol. It will also reduce the risk of heart disease as well.
Legumes and beans
Legumes such as chickpeas and lentils are a good source of soluble fiber and plant-based proteins. Eating legumes and beans instead of meat (animal protein) can help lower your ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.
Peanuts contain fats and healthy fats that can help keep your cholesterol in check. Eating nuts regularly is associated with low levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Soy products include tofu, soy milk, soybeans, and edamame beans. Other evidence suggests that eating soy products regularly can help lower ‘bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
Low levels of plant sterols are found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. However, some foods (such as margarine) have been added to plant sterols. Eating foods that contain plant sterols as part of a healthy diet can lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. This is because they reduce your cholesterol absorption.
Does drinking water reduce cholesterol?
Moreover, plenty of water can improve your metabolic rate, which may help you lose weight. Cholesterol is not water-soluble. But, the more hydrated you are, the better your body functions to bring HDL, the “good” cholesterol, to clear from blood vessels.