We did a little research to see what foods do best in lowering cholesterol, and it’s no wonder almost all are plant based. Incorporating a vegan or vegetarian diet has proven to significantly lower cholesterol levels and allow for a healthier and more productive lifestyle. But don’t just take our word for it. Let’s see what the healthy brains at Harvard Medical School have to say:
Foods that make up a low cholesterol diet can help can lower your cholesterol and improve the armada of fats floating through your bloodstream. Adding foods that lower LDL, the harmful cholesterol-carrying particle that contributes to artery-clogging atherosclerosis, is the best way to achieve a low cholesterol diet. Atherosclerosis begins when white blood cells move into the lining and artery wall. These white blood cells transform into foam cells, which accumulate fat and cholesterol. Other substances, such as calcium, also collect at the site. Eventually, an atherosclerotic plaque, or atheroma, forms. These plaques thicken and harden the artery wall and bulge into the bloodstream to reduce or block blood flow. When an atheroma ruptures, it can trigger a blood clot leading to heart attack or stroke.
Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.
Ten foods that lower cholesterol
- Oats. An easy first step to lowering your cholesterol is adding oats to your diet. A single serving provides 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram. Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber. (The average American gets about half that amount.)
- Barley and other whole grains. Like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fiber they deliver.
- Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take a while for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That’s one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. With so many choices — from navy and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond — and so many ways to prepare, beans are a very versatile food.
- Eggplant and okra. These two low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber.
- Nuts. A bushel of studies shows that eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts is good for the heart. Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day can slightly lower LDL, on the order of 5%. Nuts have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways.
- Vegetable oils. Using liquid vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, and others in place of butter, lard, or shortening when cooking or at the table helps lower LDL.
- Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits. These fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL.
- Foods fortified with sterols and stanols. Sterols and stanols extracted from plants gum up the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol from food. Companies are adding them to foods ranging from granola bars to orange juice and chocolate. They’re also available as supplements. Getting 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols a day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10%.
- Soy. Eating soybeans and foods made from them, like tofu and soy milk, was once touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol. Analyses show that the effect is more modest — consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day (10 ounces of tofu or 2 1/2 cups of soy milk) can lower LDL by 5% to 6%.
- Fiber supplements. Supplements offer the least appealing way to get soluble fiber. Two teaspoons a day of psyllium, which is found in Metamucil and other bulk-forming laxatives, provide about 4 grams of soluble fiber.
Putting together a low cholesterol diet
A largely vegetarian “dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods” substantially lowers LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure. The key dietary components are plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of highly refined ones, and protein mostly from plants, as well as plant sterols; oats, barley, psyllium, okra, and eggplant, all rich in soluble fiber; soy protein; and whole almonds.
Of course, shifting to a cholesterol-lowering diet takes more attention than popping a daily statin. It means expanding the variety of foods you usually put in your body and getting used to new textures and flavors. But it’s a “natural” way to lower cholesterol, and it avoids the risk of muscle problems and other side effects that plague some people who take statins.
Just as important, a diet that is heavy on fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts is good for the body in ways beyond lowering cholesterol. It keeps blood pressure in check. It helps arteries stay flexible and responsive. It’s good for bones and digestive health, for vision and mental health.
Fiber supplements. Supplements offer the least appealing way to get soluble fiber. Two teaspoons a day of psyllium, which is found in Metamucil and other bulk-forming laxatives, provide about 4 grams of soluble fiber.
At Fruits & Roots, we are here to support your heart-healthy diet. We offer an extensive selection of cholesterol-lowering choices, from delicious oat bowls and smoothie bowls, fresh fruit, soups & salads, black-bean burgers to a wide range of creatively prepared soy and veggie-based menu items.
It’s never too late to start eating healthier and protecting the flow of life within your body. And we are here to help you on that journey.
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Fruits and Roots Juice Bar and Vegan Cafe, Stuart, Florida
Shoppes on Colorado
710 S Colorado Ave., Stuart, FL 34994 | 772-678-6627
Open Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Mondays – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sources: Harvard Health, WebMD