From chocolate to red wine to legumes, foods and beverages can help you lower cholesterol.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol that can cause plaque to form in the walls of coronary arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Each person’s ideal LDL levels vary, and it can be due to bad genes, obesity, and a lack of exercise.
Cholesterol is essential for health, but if levels get too high, LDL can build up in arteries and form plaques, leading to cardiovascular diseases such as chest pain, heart attack, and stroke.
A blood clot can form in an artery and block blood flow, leading to heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease (PAD). People with high LDL levels are at risk of developing PAD, which forms inside the walls of the arteries that carry blood to the head, stomach, arms, and legs.
Excess LDL is caused by a diet high in saturated fats and trans fats, so eliminating these foods is a good first step. Add some or all of the following LDL-lowering foods daily to improve LDL levels.
Foods that improve your cholesterol and triglyceride levels
Beans and legumes
Beans and other legumes are great sources of soluble fiber, which binds to cholesterol-filled bile salts in the small intestine and helps get rid of them with waste. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in June 2007 found that eating half a cup of cooked beans every day can lower both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol by a lot.
Apples: High in Fiber and Beneficial Antioxidants
Eating an apple a day (or better, two) can slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol due to the antioxidant polyphenols found in the skin. Antioxidants are important because when LDL cholesterol reacts with free radicals and oxidizes, it makes inflammation and plaque buildup in the arteries more likely.
Nuts and seeds: Full of protein and good fats
Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds are great sources of protein, heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They help lower LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol without affecting levels of good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. They are, however, high in calories and should be limited to half a cup per day.
Oats and oat bran: A little every day
Beta-glucan is a water-soluble fiber found in oats and oat bran. It lowers both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. A meta-analysis found that at least 3 grams (g) of fiber a day is enough to lower LDL cholesterol.
Green tea: Antioxidants help lower LDL cholesterol.
Green tea, which is particularly rich in epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a powerful antioxidant, has been found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 9 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) in 17 trials reviewed in the International Journal of Food Science Nutrition. Unlike other teas, green tea leaves are steamed to prevent EGCG from oxidizing. Drinking a few cups of green tea a day should help and keep you from consuming too much caffeine.
Red grapefruit: Up to 20% difference
Eating just one red grapefruit a day for a month may help lower LDL cholesterol levels by 20%. This cardioprotective effect is likely due to compounds called liminoids and lycopene present in the pulp, as well as pectin, a soluble fiber. But grapefruit may also make certain heart medications work better, so you should talk to your doctor before eating it.
Red Wine or Grape: Resveratrol Toast
Resveratrol is a chemical that comes from plants and can be found in red grapes. It may help lower LDL cholesterol and protect against coronary heart disease. Drinking red wine with a meal can help prevent the constriction of blood vessels that can lead to atherosclerosis and heart attack. Resveratrol is found in red, black, and purple grapes, as well as blueberries, cranberries. If you drink alcohol, limit your red wine intake to one or two 5 oz glasses a day.
Plant Phytosterols and Stanols: Watch Your Portions
Chocolate contains plant sterols and stanols, which can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 14 mg/dl, according to an analysis of 20 trials published in Atherosclerosis in May 2016. Phytosterols block cholesterol absorption in the small intestine, which helps reduce LDL.