Food & Nutrition

12 Foods That Help Lower Cholesterol

Protect your heart by eating more foods that have a beneficial effect on cholesterol. Here are the experts’ favorites.

New rules to live by

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High cholesterol is considered a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease, the top cause of deaths in the country and worldwide. One of the most effective ways to keep cholesterol in check is completely within your control: Watch what you eat. But that gets tricky when the rules for healthy eating have changed. “To understand how diet can affect your cholesterol, we first have to set the record straight,” says Elroy Vojdani, MD, IFMCP. “The story we heard in the ’80s and ’90s, that cholesterol in foods you heat can affect the cholesterol in your blood, is incorrect.” More recent research has shown that other kinds of foods can affect your cholesterol and your heart health—here are the ones experts favor.

Olives and olive oil

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“Various studies have shown that olive oil or an olive oil–rich diet lowers the levels of total blood cholesterol,” says Amy Riolo, author of the forthcoming book The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook. In a study of people with high cholesterol, blood samples taken just two hours after subjects ate a meal with olive oil showed less potential for harmful clotting compared to subjects who ate a meal cooked with corn oil. That may explain the low incidence of heart problems in countries where olive oil is the main cooking fat. If you’re curious what makes olive oil rank as extra-virgin, find the answer here.


Whole and chopped avocados on white wooden background, overhead view. Top view, from above, flat lay.Liudmyla Chuhunova/Shutterstock

When you replace saturated fats like those found in animal products—beef, bacon, butter—with mono- or polyunsaturated fats from plant sources like avocados, the impact on cholesterol is dramatic, says Dr. Vojdani. Levels of LDL, the kind of cholesterol that contributes to plaque buildup that can cause arterial blockages, decrease. At the same time, HDL or healthy cholesterol, which plays a role in clearing LDL cholesterol from the body, increases, says Dr. Vojdani. Here’s the secret to keeping your avocados fresh for months.

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