Best foods to lower cholesterol

What are the best foods to lower cholesterol? Most of us have a pretty good idea of what to eat in order to be reasonably healthy, but if you’re worried about your cholesterol levels, it helps to know some specific cholesterol-lowering foods. Here’s a list of the ones I recommend.

Vegetables—all kinds

This includes everything from leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach to cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts to beets, carrots, mushrooms, asparagus…you name it, if it’s a veggie, it’s probably good for your cholesterol.

This is because, for one thing, vegetables are all high in fiber, which has evidence of improving cholesterol levels. On top of that, vegetables are nutrient-dense foods, which means you get a lot of nutrition in relatively few calories.

When it comes to cholesterol levels, vegetables aren’t all created equal, however. The ones I would recommend the most include spinach, kale, beets, broccoli, bell peppers, and tomatoes. They’re also delicious!

Fruit—not fruit juice

Fruit definitely comes in second to veggies. Fruit has more calories (mainly from sugar, fructose) and fewer nutrients than vegetables, generally speaking, and too much fructose is probably not good for your cholesterol levels. But a little fruit, in moderation, is still one of the best foods to lower cholesterol levels.

Stick with berries—they’re about the best fruits out there, including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, Goji berries, and cherries. Apples and bananas aren’t bad either.

Wild Fish

Wild fish like salmon is high in omega 3 fatty acids. This is great for us because our modern diet is way, way, WAY too high in omega 6 fatty acids with far too few omega 3s. Eating wild fish regularly can help to balance out those omega-3 to omega-6 levels closer to what they should be, for optimal cholesterol levels.

Monounsaturated Fats from Olive Oil, Avocado, and Nuts

Unlike most conventional advice, I’m not on the “saturated fat is the devil” bandwagon. I’ve read some really convincing arguments for why they really aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be. Check out some books like The Perfect Health Diet and Good Calories, Bad Calories.

But I digress. While I’m not recommending avoiding saturated fat for cholesterol, for the purpose of lowering cholesterol I would recommend monounsaturated fats from natural, healthy sources like extra virgin olive oil, avocadoes, and nuts. I think it’s best to avoid super-processed oils like corn, safflower, canola, and other vegetable oils, unless it’s extra virgin like olive or coconut oil.

Red Wine, Beer, and Liquor

Party! No, really, there is evidence that moderate alcohol consumption exhibits a cardioprotective effect. In other words, it’s good for your heart. But the key word is moderate. If you binge drink, it will be horrible for your cholesterol levels. Keep it to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women. Those who drink in moderation like this are considered to have a lower risk for heart disease and stroke than teetotalers (people who don’t drink at all).

Green Tea and Chocolate

These two are probably the shakiest recommendations, but everybody loves these foods and they seem to have at least a moderately positive influence on your health and cholesterol levels. Of all the foods listed here, these probably aren’t the very best foods to lower cholesterol, but their high levels of antioxidants make them a good choice nevertheless. Just don’t overdo it, especially with the chocolate. Make sure it’s dark chocolate (I prefer at least 70% cocoa) without a lot of extra sugar.

Lastly, just notice that I'm not recommending any whole-grain wheat, oats, or any other grain product. I've come to believe that we should avoid grains in order to eat for optimal health, and that includes healthy cholesterol levels. Make your own decisions, but that's my opinion.