You can greatly reduce cholesterol levels by simply changing your diet and knowing the right foods to eat. Daily exercise also helps to reduce cholesterol. Lowering your LDL, or bad, cholesterol levels reduces the risk of plaque build-up in the arteries. LDL cholesterol can stick to the artery walls and form hard, thick plaque that can narrow the arteries and lead to heart disease and heart attack. HDL, or good, cholesterol fights LDL cholesterol by pushing it into the liver where it is eliminated to prevent plaque build-up.
Get at least 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber a day from fruits, vegetables, legumes, oatmeal, oat bran and whole grains, the American Heart Association recommends.
Limit your intake of cholesterol from food to less than 300 mg a day, but less than 200 mg per day if you have high LDL blood cholesterol and you are taking medication for high cholesterol.
Avoid the trans and saturated fats in vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, dried foods, potato chips and doughnuts. Stay away from trans fats, which are found in such items as baked cookies, crackers and cake. Trans fats can raise your LDL cholesterol levels and lower your HDL cholesterol levels.
Lay off of highly processed items, such as soda, refined sugar, sweetened cereals, bakery items and white breads, advises the Health Services at Columbia University. Replace them with fruits, whole-wheat breads, whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat pasta, oats, bran, brown rice and barley.
Focus on the right fats. Monounsaturated fats are healthy fats found in olive, peanut and canola oils, and almonds and walnuts. The Mayo Clinic recommends you consume no more than 10 percent of daily calories from saturated fat, which the body needs, but only to a certain degree.
Choose lean meats over organ meats, egg substitutes instead of egg yolks and skim milk rather than whole milk products
Eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These include salmon, mackerel, herring and tuna. Also consume cod and halibut, which have less total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than most meats and poultry.
Get plenty of exercise. Physical activity improves your HDL cholesterol levels. It is recommended that you put in 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day. This may include daily walks, bike riding or swimming. The Mayo Clinic points out that you don’t necessarily have to do your daily exercise in one session. You can work out in 10-minute intervals three to six times a day for the health benefits.
Don’t smoke, and if you do, quit. Smoking is known to elevate LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol levels.