14 Foods That Can Help You Lower Your Cholesterol, According to Experts

Lentils and Legumes
Photo: Rick Lew

Although cholesterol is not inherently bad for you, health experts say that high levels of a certain type of cholesterol can cause fatty buildups in your arteries, which may lead to severe heart problems including heart disease or a heart attack. According to the American Heart Association, high cholesterol may be genetic but it can also be caused by smoking, a poor diet, or lack of physical exercise. If you're actively trying to lower your cholesterol, add—or increase certain amounts of—healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes to your diet, which will have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being, too.

There are two kinds of cholesterol—HDL (high-density lipoprotein), which is considered good cholesterol, and LDL (low-density lipoprotein), the bad kind of cholesterol. Experts say that adding ingredients with high levels of soluble and dietary fiber can have the most significant impact on lowering bad cholesterol levels. Legumes, which include black beans, kidney beans, lentils, and chickpeas, are among the best things you can eat to increase fiber and lower cholesterol.

Of course, health experts always tout the benefits of raw fruits and vegetables. While all produce has health benefits, the best fruits for lowering cholesterol include bananas, citruses, apples, plums (and prunes), grapes, and strawberries. Even cooked fruits and vegetables have some health benefits, but if you want to maximize their nutritional content, they're best consumed raw. Here, we're sharing the best foods to add to your diet to lower high levels of bad cholesterol.

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A bowl of oatmeal or oat-based cereal contains soluble fiber, which is an essential nutrient for lowering cholesterol. One cup of cooked oatmeal contains four grams of fiber, according to the USDA, which makes this breakfast staple a great addition to your diet.

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Kidney Beans

Full Frame Shot Of Kidney Beans

Beans are high in fiber and low in unsaturated fats, which is a winning nutritional combination for lowering cholesterol. Kidney beans may also help slow the spike in blood sugar. Enjoy them as a healthy side dish or in salads, soups, and chilis.

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Also in the legume family, chickpeas contain one gram of soluble fiber and six grams of dietary fiber. A 2014 study found that eating just one serving of chickpeas a day can reduce bad cholesterol.

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Marcus Nilsson

Experts at Harvard Medical School say that eggplant is a low-calorie vegetable that can help lower bad cholesterol.

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Brittany Wright

Certain fruits including apples are rich in pectin, which is packed with soluble fiber and can lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein). They're a winning snack on their own, but they can be added to both sweet and savory dishes for a health boost.

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One cup of cooked, pearled barley contains six grams of dietary fiber, making it one of the most nutritious foods you can eat when you want to lower cholesterol and your overall risk of heart disease.

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Olive Oil

Olive Oil on a Spoon
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Using extra-virgin olive oil in place of butter or shortening can help to lower levels of LDLs. Experts say that consuming one to two tablespoons (though no more) of olive oil per day can help prevent cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol levels.

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Romulo Yanes

High in protein and fiber, lentils can help leave you feeling fuller for longer, which can also aid with weight loss. Lentils contain one gram of soluble fiber and eight grams of dietary fiber.

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selection of sustainable fish, wild salmon, barramundi, halibut, mussels, and sardines over ice
John Kernick

Certain types of seafood (think salmon, tuna, and mackerel) are lean proteins that are high in omega-3s, which are essential to preventing heart disease. Although omega-3s do not necessarily lower LDL, they can raise HDL levels (good cholesterol), which can benefit your overall heart health.

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Eating just two ounces of nuts—whether that means almonds, cashews, peanuts, or walnuts—a day can slightly lower levels of bad cholesterol, according to studies by Harvard Medical School. Nuts also contain omega-3s and unsaturated fat, which can boost your heart health.

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Black-Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas
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Black-eyed peas contain 1 gram of soluble fiber and 5.5 grams of total fiber, which can help to lower bad cholesterol and keep you feeling full.

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Janelle Jones

All citrus fruit can help to lower cholesterol. And if you're wondering whether fresh oranges are better than orange juice, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says that one orange has six times more fiber than a four-ounce glass of orange juice.

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Eat a banana on its own or slice it over oatmeal for even more soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol. One banana contains one gram of soluble fiber and three grams of dietary fiber.

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Prunes on a vintage brass spoon

One cup of pitted prunes contains 12 grams of dietary fiber, which makes this the perfect thing to snack on when you want to lower high levels of cholesterol.

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