Make some changes to your diet, including adding the right cholesterol-lowering foods, and you may be able to avoid taking cholesterol medications, according to a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in February 2005. Eating these foods instead of other, less healthy foods, can help improve your cholesterol levels as much as taking certain types of statin medications.
Get the recommended 25 grams of fiber each day, and make a portion of this fiber soluble fiber. Getting 3 grams of the soluble fiber beta-glucan from oats each day can help lower your cholesterol levels by up to 10 percent, according to a study published in "Nutrition Reviews" in June 2011. Other foods with soluble fiber include pears, apples, prunes, kidney beans and barley.
Replace some of the saturated and trans fats in your diet with monounsaturated fats. A study published in "The Canadian Medical Association Journal" in December 2010 found that adding this type of fat to a cholesterol-lowering diet led to higher levels of high-density lipoprotein, or good cholesterol, while lowering levels of low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol. Good sources include nuts, olives, extra-virgin olive oil and avocados.
Foods containing essential omega-3 fats, including seafood, walnuts, soybeans and flaxseed, may also improve your cholesterol levels. A study published in 2002 in "The Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that people who ate fish regularly had lower LDL levels and higher HDL levels than people who didn't eat fish regularly. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish per week.
Adding plant sterols to a cholesterol-lowering diet may help you lower your LDL cholesterol more than following this type of diet alone, according to a study published in "Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental" in 2008. You need to eat foods containing at least 1 to 2 grams per day of plant sterols for the best results. The easiest way to do this is to consume foods fortified with plant sterols, including some types of yogurt, margarine and orange juice.
Cholesterol-lowering diets often include soy protein. While some of the cholesterol benefits of using soy protein are due to soy replacing meats and other fatty sources of protein in your diet, soy protein itself also helps decrease cholesterol, according to a study published in "The Journal of Nutrition" in October 2010. Adding other types of legumes to your diet will result in lower cholesterol levels as well, according to another study published in "Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease" in February 2011, so don't worry if you aren't a big fan of soy.
- MayoClinic.com: Cholesterol: Top 5 Foods to Lower Your Numbers
- Nutrition Reviews: Cholesterol-lowering Effects of Oat β-glucan
- Journal of the American Medical Association: Effect of a Dietary Portfolio of Cholesterol-Lowering Foods Given at 2 Levels of Intensity of Dietary Advice on Serum Lipids in Hyperlipidemia
- Canadian Medical Association Journal: Adding Monounsaturated Fatty Acids to a Dietary Portfolio of Cholesterol-lowering Foods in Hypercholesterolemia
- Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Influence of Fish Consumption on the Distribution of Serum Cholesterol in Lipoprotein Fractions: Comparative Study Among Fish-consuming and Non-fish-consuming Populations
- American Family Physician: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental: Effect of Plant Sterols in Combination With Other Cholesterol-lowering Foods
- Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases: Non-soy Legume Consumption Lowers Cholesterol Levels: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.