Nearly one in two American women has high or borderline , and over 60% of women in their 50s suffer from it as well. Scary, right? Thankfully, adding these foods to your diet can help lower cholesterol, reduce plaque buildup in your arteries, and lower your risk of developing heart disease.
First, a quick explainer: Cholesterol is a waxy substance that travels through your bloodstream, but not all of it is bad. HDL cholesterol (a.k.a. "good" cholesterol) actually sweeps away LDL cholesterol, or the "bad" kind. A high LDL level puts you at risk for heart attacks and strokes because it can clog arteries with plaque, a condition called . A blood test can determine whether you have high cholesterol, and your doctor may recommend exercise or medication in addition to a healthier diet.
A half cup of black beans contains just 100 calories and packs up to 8 grams fiber and about 8 grams protein. Eating adequate fiber (at least 25 grams per day) can help decrease LDL levels, reducing your risk of heart disease.
Science agrees: An apple a day may in fact keep your cardiologist away. Evidence has shown that frequent apple consumption may reduce total cholesterol. That’s thanks to the phenolic compounds found in apple skins — a.k.a. the antioxidant compounds that promote healthy cellular function and proper blood flow.
Pecans are chock-full of monounsaturated fatty acids, a type of fat linked with improving total cholesterol levels. Another benefit of these tasty tree nuts: Pecans are filled with plant-based antioxidants— including beta carotene and vitamin E — that protect cells from damage from chronic inflammation.
Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, parsnip, and other good-for-you tubers are lower in calories, filled with fiber, and chock-full of potassium and beta-carotene, both of which protect against heart disease.
Oats contain a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which is with lowering LDL levels. It does this by absorbing water in your GI tract and removing excess saturated fat before it enters your bloodstream.
Lentils are pulses, a.k.a. the dry edible seeds of certain crops (like beans, chickpeas, and peas). Pulses are just everywhere these days because they’re packed with plant-based protein and fiber, not to mention antioxidants, minerals, and B vitamins. All of those compounds help protect you from plaque buildup while optimizing blood flow and assisting your body in efficiently using the nutrients you consume.
Eating walnuts regularly was linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, according to data from the . Eating as little as one serving of these nuts each week can lower your chances of cardiovascular disease by up to 19%! Consider swapping walnuts for croutons in salads and soups; add ‘em to breakfast cereal or yogurt; or nosh on walnuts with fruit to reap the cholesterol-lowering benefits.
Flavor foods with herbs and spices whenever you can. It’ll help you cut back on condiments high in saturated fat while maximizing flavor. Spices and herbs also pack antioxidants, which can help improve cholesterol levels when combined with veggies. Ones we love: Basil, cilantro, rosemary, sage, ginger, garlic, tarragon, black and red chili pepper, mint, and oregano.
Because they're rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats and fiber, avocados can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Clinical trials have consistently found that eating avocados can lower your LDL cholesterol, with a beneficial effect on lipid and lipoprotein profiles.
Some studies have connected eating blueberries regularly with decreased blood pressure. That’s thanks to their circulation-boosting effect on blood vessels (otherwise known as "vasodilation"), which slows the rate of atherosclerosis.
Cooking up more quinoa could lower your risk of heart disease by improving total cholesterol, triglycerides, and lowering LDL, . That’s thanks to the wholesome grain’s antioxidant, fiber, and B vitamin content that may improve blood flow.
Adding more leafy greens to your plate can help lower cholesterol by promoting your body production of nitric oxide (NO), which helps dilate blood vessels and reduce atherosclerosis.
Peanuts pack resveratrol and other phytosterols, compounds linked with blocking cholesterol absorption in the gut. The protein powerhouses also work in 8 grams in just 2 tablespoons of peanut butter!
This Mediterranean diet staple is chock-full of monounsaturated fatty acids, the type of fat linked with improving total cholesterol levels. Specific compounds in olives may also limit the initiation of the inflammatory process — another high-cholesterol-promoting risk factor.
Like other produce, grapes contain polyphenolic compounds that may reduce cellular damage. Eating about 1 to 2 cups of grapes per day can also help protect your tissues and decrease markers of inflammation.
This nightshade has been with reducing oxidative stress, a process that can lead to high cholesterol by initiating chronic inflammation and plaque formation.
Filled with plant-based antioxidants and minerals, this protein-packed dairy alternative can help improve your lipid levels. That’s because it’s lower in saturated fat than other vegan swaps (ahem, coconut oil). Unsweetened versions cut back on sneaky sources of added sugar often found in beverages, so use it in your morning latte for a cholesterol-lowering caffeine boost.
This overlooked cooking oil belongs in your pantry because it contains plant-sterols, compounds that decrease how much cholesterol-raising saturated fat your body absorbs. Plus, it’s packed with antioxidants like other plant-based oils: canola, olive, grapeseed, peanut, safflower, sunflower, and avocado.
Research has linked pistachios with raising while lowering LDL cholesterol. Since these nuts are fiber-rich and antioxidant-packed, they also protect your body's cells from oxidative stress, the damage that allows for plaque build-up in your arteries.
Fiber-rich grains like buckwheat, barley, and bulgur provide similar cholesterol-lowering benefits as oats. But our favorite thing about B grains is their versatility. Try buckwheat noodles or buckwheat flour in pancakes, barley in soups and bulgur in salads and cereal for a healthy dose of soluble fiber.
Bananas lower cholesterol by removing it from your digestive system, preventing it from moving into your bloodstream and clogging your arteries. For an extra heart-healthy boost, slice bananas on top of morning oats with a tablespoon of chia seeds.