A lot of people with high cholesterol just focus on reducing the amount of saturated fat in their diets to lower their cholesterol. However, to get the best results, it’s recommended that those with high cholesterol also eat more foods that actively lower cholesterol.
Doing both of these helped me to lower my cholesterol from 6.2 to 4.4 mmol/l in 2016, and has helped me to keep my cholesterol low ever since.
The majority of cholesterol-lowering foods are inexpensive and versatile, so it’s been pretty easy to fit them into my daily diet. I try to include at least one of these cholesterol-lowering foods in every meal and snack:-
Oats contain soluble fibre, which reduces your LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol. There are plenty of cholesterol-lowering ways to include them in your daily diet, for example:-
- Oat pancakes
For more ideas and cholesterol-lowering oat recipes, see this post.
Research has shown that eating one or two apples a day can help to lower your cholesterol, so try to include them in your daily diet. Here are some suggestions:-
- Grate them into porridge.
- Add cubes to muesli.
- Blend them into a smoothie.
- Snack on slices with nut butter.
- Bake them for a dessert.
For more suggestions and cholesterol-lowering apple recipes, see this post.
Just like oats, beans are rich in cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre, so eating them every day can really improve your heart health. I keep lots of ready-to-eat tinned beans and lentils in my kitchen cupboard to add to meals. For example:-
- Black beans in Mexican tortillas – recipe here.
- Chickpeas in curries – see this recipe.
- Kidney and cannellini beans in chilli con carne – recipe here.
- Butter beans in sausage casseroles – see this recipe.
Or simply make baked beans on toast, using reduced salt and sugar varieties of baked beans, and high fibre wholemeal, seeded or rye bread.
There are also some really easy ways to include beans in your snacks, such as:-
- Houmous with oatcakes or carrots.
- A handful of Edamame beans.
- A low fat bean soup with wholemeal bread.
- Spicy oven-roasted chickpeas – recipe here.
Almonds are rich in healthy fats that not only lower ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL), but also raise ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL). Here are my favourite ways to fit them into my daily diet:-
- Mix almond butter into porridge.
- Snack on oatcakes with almond butter.
- Eat whole almonds as an on-the-go snack.
- Add flaked almonds to curries.
Note: I use 100% almond butter (Biona, Meridian or Tesco own-brand), which is made using just nuts and no added sugar, salt or oil.
There are lots of other nuts that also help to lower cholesterol, such as walnuts, pecan nuts, hazelnuts and peanuts, so you can choose your favourites. Make sure you use raw nuts rather than salted, roasted or sweetened ones.
Just like nuts, seeds are rich in healthy fats that can help to lower cholesterol, so I eat at least one tablespoon every day. Ground flaxseeds are particularly good at lowering cholesterol and can be added to all sorts of things without affecting the taste. For example:-
- Breakfast cereal
Other seeds, like chia, sesame and pumpkin seeds are also good cholesterol-lowering protein sources. See this post for more ideas on how to include seeds in your daily diet.
6. Cholesterol-lowering drinks
Cholesterol-lowering yoghurt drinks like Benecol contain plant stanols, which have been proven to lower cholesterol if consumed regularly. I drank a bottle every day with my evening meal during the first 6 weeks of starting my cholesterol-lowering diet. The bottles are really small and taste nice, so I found it really easy to fit them into my daily diet.
By the time I hit my target cholesterol level I had established a sustainable diet that contained lots of cholesterol-lowering foods, so I decided to stop drinking the yoghurt drinks. My cholesterol levels have remained low ever since.
Flora ProActiv have a similar cholesterol-lowering product, which contains plant sterols instead of plant stanols. Some of the UK supermarkets, like Tesco and Asda, sell own-brand versions too, which are cheaper than Benecol and Flora ProActiv.
Note: Benecol is not recommended for pregnant or breast feeding women and children under five years old, and also may not be suitable for anyone taking cholesterol lowering medication. It’s best to consult your GP before using any cholesterol-lowering products like Benecol to make sure they’re suitable for your individual needs.
To lower my cholesterol I mostly ate foods that contain less than 1.5g saturated fat per 100g, and I also added at least one cholesterol-lowering food, such as oats, apples, beans, nuts and seeds, to every meal and snack. I’ve continued to do this to keep my cholesterol low.
In addition, I eat foods that help to raise my ‘good’ cholesterol levels (HDL), such as salmon, olive oil, brown rice, avocado and blueberries.