What you eat can have a significant impact on your health. Different diets tend to help people lower triglycerides and raise good HDL cholesterol, but they are less likely to have a big impact on bad LDL cholesterol.
We think that the best and the most effective way is not to diet but to eat proper food. So we compiled a list of foods with drastic cholesterol-lowering properties, and gave them the "Strength of evidence".
1Nuts: almonds, walnuts,
Since 2003, the FDA has allowed almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios,
walnuts, and peanuts to make a qualified health claim regarding the relationship
between eating nuts and the reduced risk of heart disease. The FDA cut Brazil
nuts, macadamia nuts, cashew nuts, and some varieties of pine nuts from
the qualified claim.
Scientific research consistently shows that people who eat nuts frequently
have a dramatically reduced risk of heart disease. This beneficial effect
is at least partially explained by cholesterol-lowering properties of nuts.
Rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, nuts also help to keep blood vessels healthy
and elastic. They also contain dietary fibre, phytosterols, and other phytochemicals
that may have cardio-protective effects.
Almonds, walnuts, and pistachios may be most
effective at lowering cholesterol. Hazelnuts have also been reported to
help lower cholesterol.
Almonds are unique in that they have significant amounts of protein and
have the highest concentration of alpha-tocopherol of all nuts.
Several clinical trials involving almonds found that the almond diets significantly
reduced total cholesterol (range 8-12%) and LDL cholesterol (range 9-15%)[35,36].
While most nuts are high in monounsaturated fats, walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated
fats, including the Omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts also contain other beneficial
nutrients, including vitamin E, the B vitamins, fiber, and several minerals.
Walnuts received their own, separate qualified health claim from the FDA
in 2004, stating that they may reduce the risk of heart disease. Many studies
have indicated the usefulness of walnuts in reducing cholesterol levels[37,38].
These tasty nuts contain antioxidants normally found in dark leafy vegetables
like kale and the highest content of cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.
Pistachios also contain more beta carotene (vitamin A) than other nuts.
The latest study evaluated
28 adults who had elevated LDL cholesterol levels when the study began.
The researchers found that LDL cholesterol levels declined by 9 percent
when the participants ate one daily serving of pistachios and by 12 percent
when they had two daily servings. LDL cholesterol levels did not fall when
participants ate the low-fat diet alone.
A recent hazelnut study found
that men with high cholesterol who supplemented a low-fat, low-cholesterol
diet for four weeks with hazelnuts (40 grams daily) experienced a 5.2 percent
drop in total cholesterol, 3.3 percent decline in LDL cholesterol, and 12.6
percent rise in "good" HDL cholesterol.
2Oatmeal and oat bran
There's plenty of evidence that eating oatmeal and oat bran lowers total
cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. It's such a well-accepted belief
that the FDA gave it the status of a "health claim" in 1997. The most of
oats cholesterol-lowering power comes from the soluble fiber beta-glucan.
In fact, oats have a greater proportion of soluble fiber than any other
grain. Recent research suggests that other components of oats - such as
the protein and natural antioxidants - may also contribute to heart health.
Barley isn't widely eaten in the U.S. However, barley deserves a place
on your plate if you're trying to curb your cholesterol. The addition of
barley to a healthy diet may be effective in lowering total and LDL cholesterol
in both men and women.
In December, 2005 FDA
allowed whole grain barley and barley-containing products to claim reduction
in risk of coronary heart disease.
Legumes (such as beans, pinto beans, and navy beans) are among the foods
found to lower cholesterol. All of the legumes are especially high in
soluble fiber. Soluble fiber
has been shown to reduce total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels
as well as insulin resistance. In addition, legumes are generally low in
sodium and rich in minerals such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Also, legumes are inexpensive, nutrient-dense sources of plant
protein that can be substituted for dietary animal protein.
Adding one cup of cooked beans to your diet would add 12 g of total fiber
and 4 g of soluble fiber per day. This increase in fiber intake would be
expected to modestly lower serum cholesterol and risk of heart disease,
especially in those with elevated blood cholesterol.
One of most well-documented benefits of red wine is a heart protective
effect. One to 2 drinks per day of red wine have been shown to increase
HDL cholesterol by about 11-17%[14-15].
This extra HDL cholesterol can then serve to remove some of
LDL cholesterol from the circulation
and lessen the amount of material available for fatty plaque formation.
Plaque formation may be further hindered by the polyphenols in red wine
that possess antioxidant properties.
Some researchers believe that resveratrol might be the key ingredient in
red wine that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces "bad" cholesterol
and prevents blood clots.
The resveratrol in red wine comes from the skin of grapes used to make wine.
Because red wine is fermented with grape skins longer than is white wine,
red wine contains more resveratrol.
Scientists at the University of California, Davis, have identified another
group of chemicals in red wine that is linked to the ability to lower cholesterol.
Called saponins, these glucose-based plant compounds are being found in
an increasing number of foods. Saponins seem to lessen the risk of cardiovascular
disease by preventing the absorption of cholesterol in the body. Interestingly,
some of the same wines that show the lowest levels of flavonoids, like red
zinfandel, contain high levels of saponins. The average red wine contains
three to 10 times as much saponin as white wine and, in general, a higher
alcohol content translates to higher saponin concentrations.
6Purple (or dark red) Grape
If you don't like wine, the latest studies show you can get almost all
the same benefits from grape juice. Why? Purple grape juice contains the
same powerful disease-fighting antioxidants, called flavonoids, that are
believed to give wine many of its heart-friendly benefits. The flavonoids
in grape juice, like those in wine, have been shown to prevent the oxidation
of LDL cholesterol that leads to formation of plaque in
Surprisingly, eating red table grapes won't provide as much benefits.
That's because the juice is made by crushing not just the skin and flesh
but the seeds, too, which are especially rich in flavonoids. White grapes
and grape juice won't do either, because they don't contain the flavonoids
that purple or red grapes do.
7Dark chocolate and Cocoa
A daily treat of dark chocolate can improve overall heart health and reduce
the risk of heart disease! Dark chocolate is also known as "bittersweet"
or "semisweet" chocolate. It contains a high percentage (70% or more) of
cocoa solids, and little or no added sugar. Dark chocolate contains a large
number of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries)
and appears to retain the highest level of polyphenols, such as catechins
Polyphenol-rich dark chocolate and cocoa powder has been shown to reduce
LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol
and protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation. The researchers
report that eating 100 g of dark chocolate for two weeks reduced blood pressure
and LDL cholesterol levels, improved flow-mediated dilation, and ameliorated
insulin resistance in patients with hypertension.
The beneficial effects of olive oil are due to both its high content
of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidants. No
other naturally produced oil has as large amount of monounsaturated as
olive oil. Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart
disease by raising HDL cholesterol levels and preventing the
oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
The FDA recommends using about 2 tablespoons (23
grams) of olive oil a day to get its heart-healthy benefits. Some research
suggests that the cholesterol-lowering effects of olive oil are even greater
if you choose extra-virgin olive oil. While all types of olive oil are sources
of monounsaturated fat, the fact that virgin olive oil is less processed
than others means that it also contains higher levels of antioxidants. Olive
oil is especially beneficial when it replaces saturated fat.
Flaxseed is high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and phytochemicals called
lignans. Flaxseed can help reduce total blood cholesterol and LDL
cholesterol levels. The fiber is probably mainly responsible for the cholesterol-lowering
effects of flaxseed. Other health benefits, such as protection from heart
disease and arthritis, are likely due to its high concentration of the omega-3
fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid.
Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fat that may actually help
to raise levels of "good" HDL cholesterol while lowering levels of "bad"
LDL cholesterol. They contain cholesterol-smashing beta-sitosterol (a beneficial
plant-based fat) more than any other fruit. Beta-sitosterol reduces the
amount of cholesterol absorbed from food. So the combination of beta-sitosterol
and monounsaturated fat makes the avocado an excellent cholesterol buster.
For thousands of years, garlic has been used in nearly every culture in
the world. Its nutritional value and flavor have made it a kitchen staple.
Today, it is used therapeutically to lower
cholesterol, prevent blood clots, reduce blood pressure, and protect against
infections. Research has found that it helps stop artery-clogging plaque at its earliest stage
(called nanoplaque). Garlic keeps individual cholesterol particles from
sticking to artery walls.
Brown rice can lower levels of LDL cholesterol. The thin brown layer that
is milled off in the processing of white rice, rice bran, is just as effective
as the other brans in fighting high cholesterol. Brown rice, of course,
has the bran intact. Since rice bran contains little soluble fiber - the
factor that helps oat bran to reduce cholesterol - the researchers
suggest that the oil in rice bran is the beneficial component. About 20
percent of rice bran's weight is oil.
In addition, rice bran can be tolerated by those who cannot digest gluten,
the protein found in wheat, rye, oats, barley and other grains and grasses.
Some people also find rice bran more palatable than oat bran.
Like many fruit juices, pomegranate juice contains antioxidants, especially
polyphenols. However, pomegranate juice contains antioxidants at much higher
levels than do other fruit juices. Preliminary research suggests that drinking
concentrated pomegranate juice provides several heart-protecting benefits,
including reducing LDL cholesterol.
14Fish and omega-3 fatty
The beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids on cardiovascular health
have long been recognized. In people who have already had heart attacks,
fish oil - or omega-3 fatty acids - significantly reduces the risk of sudden
Among the many effects of omega-3 fatty acids that are believed to contribute
to their cardiovascular benefits are:
small reductions in blood pressure
decreases in platelet aggregation (anti-thrombotic)
lowers triglyceride concentrations
improved endothelial function
potential antiarrhythmic effects
Omega-3 fatty acids have a pretty strong effect on lowering triglycerides.
However, beneficial effects on blood cholesterol levels have not been demonstrated.
Fish oil supplements appear to cause small improvements in high-density
lipoprotein and increases (worsening) in low-density
The regular consumption of onions has been shown to lower high cholesterol
and trigylceride levels. These beneficial effects are likely due to onions'
sulfur compounds, its chromium and its vitamin B6.
Blueberry compound, called pterostilbene, shows promise in preliminary
laboratory studies of lowering cholesterol as effectively as a medication