What you used to eat may have contributed to your high cholesterol, but what you eat now can help lower your numbers. High cholesterol affects one-third of U.S. adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is a risk factor for heart disease. Lifestyle changes, including diet, are the key to improving your blood cholesterol numbers. So, swap out the cholesterol-raising bacon and butter for cholesterol-lowering fish and nuts.
Oatmeal and Other Grains
You may already know that eating oatmeal helps lower your blood cholesterol, but oatmeal isn't the only whole grain full of soluble fiber -- which is the substance in the oatmeal that helps lower cholesterol. Adding 2 to 10 grams of soluble fiber to your diet may help lower your LDL cholesterol -- the bad cholesterol -- by 7 percent, according to a 1999 meta-analysis published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." Other grain sources of soluble fiber to add to your daily routine include barley, wheat bran, wheat germ, whole-wheat spaghetti, whole-wheat bread and raisin bran ready-to-eat cereal.
Lower Cholesterol With Fatty Fish
Eating more fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines or halibut, may also help get your cholesterol to a healthier range. These types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. People who eat a diet high in omega-3 fats tend to have higher levels of HDL cholesterol -- the good cholesterol -- lower triglycerides and lower total cholesterol, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. In addition, the fish may reduce your intake of saturated fat by acting as a protein replacement for your steak. The American Heart Association suggests you eat fish twice a week for heart health.
A Handful of Nuts a Day
Go ahead and eat a handful of nuts from that bowl on the coffee table. The unsaturated fat, as well as the fiber and antioxidants in nuts such as almonds and walnuts, may help lower LDL cholesterol by 3 to 19 percent, according to a 2006 review study published in the "British Journal of Nutrition." Nuts are high in calories, however, so keep your weight in check by limiting your daily intake to 1/3 cup.
Plant Sterol and Stanols
Plant sterols and stanols are substances found in the membrane of plant cells and are naturally present in foods such as vegetable oils, beans, fruits and vegetables. Eating 3 grams of plant sterols and stanols a day may help lower your LDL cholesterol by 12 percent, according to a 2014 review study published in the "British Journal of Nutrition." While plant sterols and stanols are naturally found in food, an average serving contains less than 500 milligrams, according to the Cleveland Clinic, which might make it difficult for you to get 3 grams per day. Foods fortified with these substances, such as orange juice, yogurt or margarine spreads, may make it easier to up your intake for lower cholesterol.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Cholesterol Facts
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Cholesterol-Lowering Effects of Dietary Fiber: A Meta Analysis
- American Heart Association: Lifestyle and Cholesterol
- Harvard University Health Services: Fiber Content of Foods in Common Portions
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: What Is Cholesterol?
- British Journal of Nutrition: Tree Nuts and Lipid Profile: A Review of Clinical Studies
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Does the Fat in Nuts Make Them Unhealthy?
- British Journal of Nutrition: LDL-Cholesterol-Lowering Effect of Plant Sterols and Stanols Across Different Dose Ranges: A Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Studies
- Cleveland Clinic: Phytosterols: Sterols & Stanols