If you have high LDL cholesterol, changing your diet can go a long way towards getting those numbers down. LDL cholesterol is the “bad” kind that can block arteries due to plaque buildup. The higher your LDL level, the greater your risk of heart disease.
Fortunately, many delicious foods can help lower elevated LDL cholesterol when consumed regularly. Let’s examine what these foods are and how they work their magic.
Soluble Fiber Lowers High LDL Cholesterol
One of the most effective ways to lower high LDL cholesterol through your diet is to eat more soluble fiber. Soluble fiber behaves similarly to a sponge in your digestive system, binding to cholesterol and eliminating it from your body before it enters your bloodstream. Focus on getting at least 5-10 grams of soluble fiber daily. Here are some great sources:
- Oats – A bowl of oatmeal at the beginning of the day is an easy way to reduce high LDL cholesterol. Oatmeal contains 1-2 grams of soluble fiber per serving. Top it with fruit for even more fiber.
- Barley – As with oats, barley is a whole grain that delivers soluble fiber. Use it in soups or as a hot cereal.
- Beans – Whether you enjoy black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, or lentils, aim to eat them several times weekly. Beans have a very high content of soluble fiber.
- Fruits – Eat the whole fruit to maximize the benefits. Fruits with soluble fiber include apples, pears, oranges, grapes, strawberries, and prunes.
Plant Sterols and Stanols Lower High LDL Cholesterol
Plant sterols and stanols are substances found naturally in many plant foods. When added to products such as margarine, yogurt, granola bars, and orange juice, they’ve been shown to lower LDL cholesterol by up to 10%.
Plant sterols and stanols prevent your intestines from absorbing cholesterol, which is then removed from your body unused. Aim for about 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols per day to experience the benefits.
Nuts Lower High LDL Cholesterol
Nuts are delicious snacks that are good for your heart, thanks partly to their LDL-lowering powers. Eating around 1 ounce of nuts daily (about a small handful) may lower LDL cholesterol by 5-10%.
Almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts are all great options. Nuts contain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, fiber, and plant sterols that all reduce high LDL cholesterol. Just watch your portion sizes, as nuts are high in calories.
Vegetable Oils Lower High LDL Cholesterol
Using olive, canola, sunflower, safflower, or other vegetable oils in cooking and at the table will lower LDL cholesterol by replacing saturated fats. Animal products such as butter, lard, and bacon grease contain saturated fats, as do coconut, palm, and other tropical oils.
These fats raise LDL cholesterol. Swapping them for vegetable oils reduces saturated fat and provides heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Use vegetable oil spreads rather than butter on bread, and drizzle vegetable oils on vegetables or salads.
Soy Foods Lower High LDL Cholesterol
Adding soy foods to your diet can reduce high LDL cholesterol. Soybeans and foods made from them, such as tofu, edamame, soy milk, and tempeh, contain protein that lowers LDL. Eating 25 grams of soy protein daily equals about 10 oz of tofu or 2.5 cups of soy milk.
Including soy foods in your meals displaces meat, which is higher in saturated fat. The soy protein also has a direct LDL-lowering effect.
Fatty Fish Lower High LDL Cholesterol
Eating fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, trout, and tuna two or three times per week can lower LDL cholesterol thanks to their content of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and protect against abnormalities in heart rhythms.
Fatty fish should also replace red meat, often containing LDL-boosting saturated fat. If you already eat two or more servings of fatty fish per week, you are likely receiving maximum LDL-lowering benefits.
How These Foods Lower High LDL Cholesterol
Now that you know some of the top foods for lowering high LDL cholesterol, you may be wondering about the mechanisms behind their effects. Here are some of the ways these foods help lower elevated LDL cholesterol:
- Delivering soluble fiber – Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol and eliminates it from the body before entering the bloodstream.
- Providing polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats – These types of fats help lower LDL cholesterol by replacing saturated fats in the diet.
- Blocking cholesterol absorption – Plant sterols and stanols prevent cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestines, lowering overall levels.
- Displacing high saturated fat foods – Soy, nuts, beans, and fish replace red and processed meats, which have a high content of saturated fats that raise LDL cholesterol.
Rely on Imperial Center Family Medicine for Assistance with a Diet to Lower High LDL Cholesterol
While dietary changes can significantly lower high LDL cholesterol, food alone may not be enough to reach optimal levels, especially if your LDL is elevated substantially.
That’s why you should take a multi-pronged approach, including regular exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, limiting alcohol, quitting smoking if needed, and taking medication if prescribed by your doctor. Imperial Center Family Medicine has helped countless patients understand, monitor, and control high LDL cholesterol.
Our healthcare experts partner with you to reduce risk and keep your heart healthy. Contact us today at 919-873-4437 or online to schedule a cholesterol screening and comprehensive heart wellness review.