5 Foods That Promote Healthy Cholesterol Levels

Jan 02, 2024
 5 Foods That Promote Healthy Cholesterol Levels
Just as the wrong foods can increase your blood cholesterol levels and undermine your health, the right foods can help return them to a better range and improve your well-being. Learn more about cholesterol-reducing foods here.  

It can be worrisome to learn you have high cholesterol, but knowing your numbers is the first step toward getting this serious problem under control before it compromises your health. At Comprehensive Care Clinic in Spring, Texas, our cholesterol management approach includes: 

  • Heart-healthy dietary changes 
  • Beneficial lifestyle modifications 
  • Cholesterol-lowering medication
  • Existing chronic disease control 

Here, Tyneza Mitchell, FNP, takes a look at how your diet can affect your cholesterol numbers, for better or worse: Just as the wrong foods can increase your blood lipid levels, the right foods can help return them to a healthy range. 

Cholesterol, by the numbers

Cholesterol is a vital waxy substance that your body uses to build cells, make vitamins, and create hormones. Your liver produces all the cholesterol you need to stay healthy, but certain dietary choices can elevate your blood cholesterol to less desirable levels.   

High cholesterol is a silent condition that occurs when you have excess “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol circulating through your body. What’s “bad” about having too much LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream? It accumulates in the walls of your blood vessels and makes them hard and inflexible. 

Over 110 million people in the United States — or two in five adults — have high cholesterol, which means total blood cholesterol levels above 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). 

If these statistics make you feel as if high cholesterol is a national epidemic, you’d be right. But that’s not the worst of it: Having unhealthy blood lipid levels significantly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death among Americans.  

Heart-healthy eating patterns

Foods that promote high cholesterol include meat (red and processed), full-fat dairy products, fried foods, and baked goods. Why? They’re rich in saturated fat, trans fat, or both, which raise your LDL levels by prompting your liver to produce more cholesterol. 

Luckily, switching to a heart-healthy diet can help you lower your numbers and keep them under control. This means establishing eating patterns that emphasize whole foods like:

  • Vegetables, legumes, and fruit
  • Whole grains, nuts, and seeds
  • Lean protein sources (i.e., poultry)
  • Fatty fish (i.e., salmon, tuna)
  • Unsaturated fats (i.e., avocados) 

Heart-healthy eating also limits processed foods, eliminates trans-fat, and is low in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars.

Foods that lower cholesterol

Within a heart-healthy diet, certain foods possess powerful cholesterol-reducing effects. Beneficial nutrients and natural compounds that promote healthier cholesterol levels include soluble fiber, phytosterols, and polyunsaturated fatty acids.  

Foods that can help you achieve healthier cholesterol numbers include:    

1. Whole-grain oats

An easy first step toward lowering your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Oats and other whole-grain cereals like oat bran and barley are rich in soluble fiber, which binds to cholesterol and its precursors in your digestive system so they can’t enter your bloodstream.

Getting 5-10 grams of soluble fiber each day can reduce LDL and total cholesterol levels by up to 10%

2. Beans and lentils

Legumes — or beans, peas, and lentils — are an excellent source of satiating plant protein and dietary fiber: both digestion-supporting insoluble fiber and cholesterol-reducing soluble fiber. 

This makes them an especially beneficial choice when trying to eat less meat, lose weight, and reach healthier cholesterol numbers. With so many choices and so many ways to prepare them, beans are a versatile dietary strategy for improved health. 

3. Pectin-rich fruits

Fruits like apples, pears, berries, grapes, oranges, and prunes are rich in pectin, a form of soluble fiber with unique gelling properties that blocks your body from absorbing cholesterol in the digestive tract. 

4. Fortified foods 

Plant stanols and sterols — also known as phytosterols — are powerful cholesterol-reducing compounds that work like soluble fiber to keep your cholesterol levels in check. Getting two grams of phytosterols a day can reduce your LDL cholesterol levels by about 10%

You can get phytosterols by eating a varied, heart-healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. In addition, eating foods fortified with plant sterols — including some breads and cereals, low-fat dairy products, and orange juice — helps boost your intake. 

5. Fatty fish or fish oil 

Eating fatty fish like salmon or tuna twice weekly can improve your cholesterol because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower triglyceride levels and boost “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. 

 HDL cholesterol lowers LDL and total cholesterol levels by picking up excess blood cholesterol and carrying it back to your liver for processing. If you don’t like fish, consider taking a fish oil supplement instead.

Start improving your numbers

Looking to protect your long-term wellness? Healthy cholesterol numbers are within reach, and we can help. Call or click online to schedule an appointment at Comprehensive Care Clinic in Spring, Texas, today.