I remember way back in high school hearing the doctor tell me that my triglycerides were dangerously high.
Even then I knew I was in trouble because high cholesterol runs in the family. I’ve had family members that have died in part because of cholesterol and heart disease.
While triglycerides and cholesterol are different (triglycerides are a fat, cholesterol is not), ever since then I’ve kept reading about cholesterol levels and the overall picture of being heart healthy.
Unfortunately, the internet is a confusing place. Over the years I’ve read so many different things online about foods, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, risk of heart disease, and cholesterol-lowering tips.
There’s simply a ton of info on the internet about cholesterol and how to lower it.
To help clear the clutter I am going to keep things simple. No blood pressure medications, and no scaring you with risk of heart disease or other consequences.
Down below, after I talk about general cholesterol-lowering strategies, you’ll see a list of foods that will help lower cholesterol levels.
Then after that, you can read what foods are the biggest culprits causing ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Please note the affiliate links provided below. These links can serve as examples of foods that can help with cholesterol, and using these links helps support this Eating Enlightenment channel.
Big Picture: What Should I Eat For High Cholesterol?
If you have high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol then you’ll be told that you need lower cholesterol levels.
‘Bad’ cholesterol contributes to what is known as LDL cholesterol levels. ‘Good’ cholesterol, like the type found in omega 3 fatty acids, is known as HDL cholesterol.
Harvard Health reports generally speaking that if you have elevated cholesterol levels, then you want to eat lots of these 5 food groups, which will help you lower your cholesterol:
- Whole grains
This is the simple strategy I hinted at in the title of this blog post! Eating lots of veggies, fruits, beans, nuts and whole grains as part of your daily diet will help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of heart problems.
In fact, as we cover more in this blog post, these 5 food groups help lower cholesterol mainly because by eating them, you are not eating the foods that raise your LDL cholesterol.
It’s pretty simple. Avoid the stuff that raises your cholesterol and eat these 5 food groups instead. This is by far the best strategy to lower your cholesterol.
What Reduces Cholesterol Quickly?
Fruits, nuts, beans, vegetables and whole grains – oh my!
Remember that simple strategy I mentioned earlier? Just eat more of these 5 food groups and your cholesterol will go down.
But, now you may ask, what’s so special about these foods? Why do these foods make my cholesterol go down?
It turns out that by eating these foods (fruits, nuts, beans, vegetables and whole grains) you will lower LDL cholesterol because when you eat these ‘good’ foods on a regular basis, you’ll be eating less of the ‘bad’ foods that raise cholesterol.
Basically, avoiding the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol foods is just as important as eating the ‘good’ foods!
The key is to substitute the ‘good’ foods for the ‘bad’ foods.
What Are The Worst Foods For LDL Cholesterol?
Please note that throughout this blog article I’ve put ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in quotes because even the ‘bad’ foods listed down below can have a place in a daily diet.
For example, back in high school when my triglyceride levels were off the charts, it was because I was having crazy amounts of cheese.
Now I still will have cheese to this day, but I don’t have as much cheese. I’ll have cheese on pizza when I go out with my friends, but I don’t eat whole blocks of cheese like I used to in high school.
Here are some of the ‘worst’ foods that will contribute to high LDL cholesterol levels:
- Saturated Fats, such as found in meat, butter, cheese
- Trans Fats, such as found in cookies, crackers and cakes bought at the store.
Importantly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found Trans Fats to be such a key component of cholesterol that as of January 1, 2021, fats are to be categorized differently on all foods labels.
And I know what you’re thinking … meat, butter, cheese, crackers, cakes and cookies … that’s all the good stuff!
Here’s How To Start Substituting and Gradually Lower Cholesterol
Of course eating the 5 food groups listed above in the first section does sound simple, and in many ways it is simple!
But in practical terms it’s actually pretty difficult to eat these 5 food groups on a semi-regular / daily basis.
If you have too much ‘bad’ cholesterol, it’s very likely that you’re accustomed to eating foods that are raising your cholesterol. When you try to lower your LDL cholesterol levels you’ll feel a little strange because you are simply doing something different than you normally do.
This means that you’ll need to get out of your comfort zone and start trying new foods, like the ones listed above. You’ll have to experiment with new tastes, textures, smells and even going down different aisles at the grocery store.
I highly suggest you start out with the expectation that you’ll try one new food on the above list at least once per week to expand your tastes and daily diet.
Please don’t try to change your diet all at once. Stick with trying one new food per week from the food lists within this blog post to lower your cholesterol.
Just think of how much goes into changing your diet. You’re giving up familiar buying routines, eating routines, and tastes. You’re trying new foods which you may not like and which may cost a bit more than the foods you’ve been eating before.
This is difficult work! Now let’s list 1 specific food from each of the 5 food groups listed above.
5 Foods Best For Cholesterol Levels
Instead of listing a bunch of different foods for each food group, I’ve decided to only list 1 specific food for each of the 5 different food groups.
There are definitely more foods that lower LDL cholesterol than listed in this post. For example, omega 3 fatty acids can be found in fish and a variety of other sources. But I’m not listing fish with their delicious omega 3 fatty acids.
Why not? My intention here is again to keep things very simple and practical in this blog post. You have to draw the line somewhere!
Sometimes when people are given a lot of choices, they end up just procrastinating on taking action because they have too many choices.
So in this article I want to list just one example so that you can started, and I’ll even include links to foods that I myself purchase so that you don’t have to think too hard about brand names.
1 – Oats
For many years now I’ve prepared oatmeal for breakfast, and it’s a habit I highly suggest you try too!
Whole grains are also known as soluble fiber. Soluble fiber takes more water to digest than simple fibers. Simple fibers are things like muffins, cakes, crackers, and white bread.
Soluble fiber on the other hand, the type found in oats, is very heart healthy. Getting more soluble fiber (or whole grains depending on your terminology preference) is why oatmeal is so great.
With oatmeal, you can easily add fruits and nuts – both of which are high in soluble fiber. Mix in some yogurt and you have a hearty, delicious meal!
Oh, and I also give a good drenching of honey over my oatmeal with fruit, nuts yogurt. Kind of like a parfait!
So instead of having a sugary bowl of Frosted Flakes cereal in the morning, switch on over to oatmeal and be sure to add in some foods to make it taste great.
Now when you are wandering the grocery store aisle looking for oatmeal, I highly suggest you simply get plain, unflavored oatmeal.
While there are flavored oatmeal products out there that advertise ‘low sugar’, I distrust these on instinct. I think going with just your standard, plain, unsweetened, unflavored brands are the way to go. For example, I personally use Organic Extra Thick Rolled Oats.
2 – Black Beans
Beans might be the ‘best’ food in the world. Seriously.
Beans are eaten by every single group of people who reside in the BlueZones. If you haven’t heard of the BlueZones, it’s some of the most fascinating research.
Basically there are 7 BlueZones all across the world, where the people who live in them on average live over 100 years old!
Research has identified various factors that all 7 groups of people from across the world share. From communal living, to daily movement, and yes … to beans!
The people who live the longest in the world eat beans. Every day.
Now me personally, I don’t have time to cook beans. I know it’s probably better if I boiled the dry hard beans, but I’ve found that what works best for me is the low-sodium canned beans. For around $25 you can get 12 cans of beans without any salt added, gluten free, and fat free here!
3 – Slivered Almonds
Let’s talk about nuts because nuts drive me nuts talking about nuts!
I have nuts everyday. Nuts I simply cannot go without. Nuts I am about nuts!
Nuts go so well in so many different foods such as:
- Sprinkled nuts in salads
- Nuts in baked, mashed sweet potatoes
- Nuts in oatmeal 🙂
- Plain peanut butter sandwiches, yummy!
Nuts are also one of the foods people in BlueZones eat. But overall, I just think nuts help me feel satisfied with food in my belly, heart and soul.
So many times people graze on food because they never really get satisfied. And for me, I oftentimes will find myself adding slivered almonds to pizza because pizza won’t give me that nice full, content feeling unless I had nuts.
My recommendation is simple: try slivered almonds. Almonds are familiar. And the slivered almonds make them extremely accessible to add in different foods like salads or even on pizza!
I know you might think slivered almonds are expensive, but honestly they are not. You can get a pound of Slivered Almonds here for $8 bucks. That’s a lot of great food for very little! Definitely worth way more than a meal from a restaurant!
4 – Olive Oil
Ok, I might get in trouble here because I know that olive oil is not a vegetable.
However, this oil relates to vegetables because you can lightly cook your vegetables with this oil from olives!
But overall, why I’m including olive oil in this list, is because it’s an essential ingredient you can use to replace butter, lard or shortening.
Remember, the name of the game in terms of reducing cholesterol is substituting the ‘good foods for the ‘bad’ foods. Olive oil is a great substitute for many of the ‘bad’ foods like butter that can sneak into your meals.
I also think this oil helps keep me full, like nuts. I cook oftentimes with olive oil, like for eggs and veggies.
You can also marinade with this oil, or mix with vinegar for a great dressing. Heck, you can switch out butter and use olive oil on your bread instead. It’s great!
The good news is that there’s rarely any other ingredients or flavors added in (unlike with sugary, flavored oatmeal).
Generally speaking Extra Virgin olive oil is considered to be ‘healthier’ but in our case we don’t want to get too particular here. Just get a case of Olive Oil and get going!
5 – Apple
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. I’ve said again and again that apples are a great part of a daily diet.
For example, I write about how apples can also be a key part of diabetes prevention in this article here.
It’s hard to go wrong with apples. They go with oatmeal, and you can pair them with peanut butter too. They go on salads, and heck I bet you can even add apples to pizza too!
As far as I’m concerned too, all apples are great so just go on over to your store and go get some! Pink ladies, Gala, or whatever else suits your fancy I’m sure will do the trick 🙂
Other Lifestyle Tips To Reduce Cholesterol
My intention within this blog article has been to keep things simple.
If you have remaining questions then please use the comment form down below. Would love to know what else is coming up for you.
I’d like to wrap up our conversation about cholesterol by switching briefly over to ‘lifestyle’ tips. No fancy lifestyles here, I’m just talking about a few other activities and routines that lend themselves to cholesterol reduction.
- Exercise / Movement: While we haven’t talked about the ‘good’ type of cholesterol, just know that exercise can help you boost the levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (also known as HDL).
- Niacin B3 Supplements: I take a complex of B vitamins most days before bed, but in terms of cholesterol, niacin is the B vitamin that’s most important. Research indicates that Niacin both lowers the ‘bad’ cholesterol and raises the ‘good’ cholesterol.
- Find Stress Relief: One interesting science test saw that students in college had increased cholesterols levels before tests. By an average of 10%! I’m sure you get the point: take a hot bath every once in a while or do some other stress-reducing action.