Reducing Cholesterol by Eating the Right Foods

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

2758-667986_91469347.jpgThose who are both overweight and a normal healthy weight may suffer from high cholesterol.

Sometimes high cholesterol is purely genetic and is hard to modify by changing diet and exercise. Others may find that a change in diet and an increase in cardiovascular exercise helps to lower their levels.

Most would know what foods are unhealthy, so now I’ll review the foods that may be likely to help lower cholesterol.

Cholesterol Lowering Foods

  • Soy Protein: Foods like edamame, tofu, soymilk, and soy-based meat alternatives have been shown to slightly decrease your LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). Studies have shown this to be more significant when you consume about 25 grams of a soy protein.
  • High Fiber Grains: Barley, bran, and oats are the top grains for reducing cholesterol. An easy way to eat more of these in is to have oatmeal in the morning or cook a side dish of barley for dinner.
  • Flaxseed: This tiny seed is so fibrous, full of soluble fiber and healthy fats that it is a great addition to any diet. All of these soluble fibers in the whole grains and seeds helps to flush out bad cholesterol.
  • Legumes: Beans and lentils are also excellent sources of fiber.
  • Root Vegetables: Some of these slightly starchier vegetables like radishes, carrots, and sweet potatoes contain higher amounts of soluble fiber compared to other vegetables.
  • Plant Sterols and Stanols: Studies have been strong showing that plant sterols and stanols can help to reduce cholesterol. You can find sterols and stanols in some margarine like Smart Balance and some companies are now making fortified granola bars and fortified orange juice.
  • Fruit: Dried fruit like prunes have been shown to help keep the heart healthy.

Foods to Avoid

Don’t forget to limit foods high in saturated fat like red meats, full fat cheese, and creamy condiments. It is important to limit trans fat as well since it can actually increase your cholesterol and LDL. Cutting out added sugars in your diet would also help to keep your triglycerides low, and therefore, help your cholesterol levels.

Finally, don’t forget to have your cholesterol checked yearly and visit with your doctor to see if your diet and exercise routines are enough to keep your cholesterol levels healthy.


  1. Diet Plan Guide

    Great points! It’s really important to choose good sources of fats and oils such as from fish oil, vegetable oils (cold pressed), raw nuts (to preserve the quality of the oil) and seeds.

  2. Health Coaching

    Really good points here. If more people knew this, we’d have a lot less health problems as a society.The people that may read this article will be equipped by the knowledge of different cholesterol lowering foods,atleast now people who have high cholesterol can have a guideline in food to eat!

  3. Bonnie

    Yep, same here: fish oil, nuts, high fiber, and exercise. I used to have really a really unhealthy lifestyle and my cholesterol was over 300. (It doesn’t help that high cholesterol runs in my family, either.) After adding these things and eliminating most of the refined carbs in my diet, my numbers are in the normal range. My doctor didn’t think it was possible to do it through lifestyle change alone. She was ready to prescribe meds for me but I wanted to try it the old fashion way first.

  4. Spectra

    I don’t know about everyone else, but fish oil supplements really helped my cholesterol levels. I also eat fish every day and eat a lot of nuts. I also exercise, which probably helps because it improves insulin sensitivity and lowers the amount of sugar in your blood so that sugar isn’t causing inflammation in your arteries. Eating too much sugar—>inflammation—>LDL plaque “repairs” that clog your arteries.

  5. Nicole German (RD)

    Yes, I was not specific, that is what I meant. The purpose of the post was to highlight foods to help lower cholesterol levels, and not to discuss saturated fat, or trans fat in depth.

  6. Dr. Stacey Bell

    The recommendations of cholesterol-lowering foods are all healthy choices. All are low in fat, so they don’t reaqlly get at the root of the problem. There are several studies showing that saturated fats lower the good cholesterol (HDL), thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. I am not suggesting that you eat a fatty steak, however.
    If your cholesterol is high and you are overweight, try losing just 5-10% of you current weight (usually about 10-20 pounds). That should be enough to trigger a lowering of the bad cholesterol, without affecting the good one. In that way, you don’t have to fret at each meal over what you eat.

  7. Heather

    Exercise should definitely be emphasized. I have very high HDL and low LDL (wonderful ratio) – in contrast to every other member of my family where cholesterol problems are prevalent, even among those who are careful with their diet. The difference? I’m by far the most active. Exercise lowers LDL and raises HDL.

  8. musajen

    More malarkey. In a meta analysis of studies conducted on saturated fat it was found that there is no correlation between it and heart disease (along with a host of other conditions). This was published January 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

    In the same article it says there is a mild impact on LDL particles, it will raise them. But if you dig a little deeper and look at the different kinds of LDL particles, it changes the concentration of LDL particles away from VLDL which is the stuff that ends up clogging arteries. Instead we end up with a higher concentration of a sort of benign LDL.

    Additionally, as most people in the paleo community can attest, switching to a diet higher in saturated fat significantly increases HDL. Mine jumped from 46 mg/dl to 86 mg/dl.

    I’m just getting warmed up now… but I’ll stop. 🙂

  9. Dan

    Did you mean that trans fats raise LDL but also lower HDL? Saturated fat does not lower HDL, but does raise LDL, which makes it less harmful. That is why trans fats should be eliminated, whereas saturated fat just needs to be limited.