Healthy Foods That Lower Cholesterol: Inspired by the Traditional Mediterranean Diet


Eating foods that lower cholesterol and thereby naturally reduce our intake of LDL, (low density lipoprotein, found mainly in saturated fats and trans fats), is a relatively simple, well-known cholesterol lowering strategy.

Because it seems so easy to lower your levels of LDL just through your diet, you may find yourself always thinking of new ways to include cholesterol lowering foods in your menus – and wondering how you might be able to combine several of them into just one recipe for a real cholesterol busting meal.

You may also know that in the optimal world, this is not good enough in isolation, we also need to increase our amount of physical exercise, and generally try to lead a more healthy way of life. This knowledge is power.

So surely the answer to lowering cholesterol is already in our hands?

Yes it is; we should use this knowledge positively in the ongoing battle to fight the life threatening effects of LDL.

But we also need to keep a healthy nutritional balance!

In this article on foods that lower cholesterol you will, among other things, get:

  • An easy-to-understand explanation of why a healthy cholesterol diet is a question of balance and not just avoiding LDL.
  • Interesting insights into the healthy traditional Mediterranean diet that is in fact a cholesterol lowering diet.
  • A list of foods that lower cholesterol and tips of how to implement them in your everyday life.

It’s not Just about Lowering Cholesterol, but Finding a Healthy LDL and HDL Balance

Although almost always portrayed as the bad guy, LDL does have an important role to play in the body by transporting cholesterol to our cells. Our cells need this energy so that they can continue to function properly without becoming fatigued.

But if there is too much LDL and not enough HDL (high density lipoprotein) – also popularly known as the “good cholesterol” which lowers levels of LDL – then LDL can become oxidized.

And oxidized LDL causes inflammation in the arteries and a build up of plaque.

It is this plaque in the arteries that causes them to become blocked – and blocked arteries are the major cause of heart attacks and strokes.

Using Success Models of the Past: The Traditional Mediterranean Diet was a Scientific Eye Opener

Old map of Europe showing the Mediterranean area where they would eat healthy diets of foods that lower cholesterolIt has long been established that eating a balanced diet containing foods that lower cholesterol combined with regular exercise, will help to lower cholesterol levels.

Last century, cardiac specialists noted a link between what is popularly known as the Mediterranean diet and lower instances of heart disease. Now further research and study proved a scientific link.

Foods that lower cholesterol are eaten in greater quantities by people living around the Mediterranean rim than they are in the USA.

In the Mediterranean areas of France and Greece, for example, rates of heart attacks compared with the US are considerably lower.

The Powerful Traditional Mediterranean Diet Is Suffering but We Can Still Learn

Healthy Mediterranean meal of various foods that lower cholesterol.In an old-style Mediterranean diet large quantities of olives, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, pulses (e.g. chickpeas, borlotti beans, lentils), nuts such as almonds and walnuts, and red wine were traditionally consumed.

Sadly, however, today the Mediterranean diet is fast becoming more westernized and higher in saturated fats – instances of high cholesterol and heart disease are on the increase.

The old-fashioned natural ways of eating (which also happened to lower cholesterol through a low fat low cholesterol diet) tend to become a thing of the past in these regions.

While these Mediterranean ingredients individually offer some protection against high cholesterol, it is thought that when combined (in soups, stews or sauces for example) the effects are more pronounced.

The high soluble fiber content and antioxidants in these recipes make them highly effective cholesterol lowering foods.

The List of Foods that Lower Cholesterol: Cooking with the Right Foods to avoid High Cholesterol

If you pick the right ingredients you can produce some wonderful meals using cholesterol lowering foods.

Home cooked, unprocessed, low in saturated fat – it’s the key to a natural cure for high cholesterol.

Use the foods described below as often as you can, combine them to produce recipes that fight back at hard arteries and plaque build-up.

Just by making a few simple changes to your diet you can immediately begin to lower your cholesterol levels.

Remember, eating foods that contain unsaturated fat rather than saturated fat can actually help to reduce cholesterol levels.

Oats, Oat Bran and Wholegrains: Soluble Fiber that Binds to LDL

You may have noticed that oats are always top on a list of foods that lower cholesterol – but for good reason.

Oats and wholegrains are high in soluble fiber, and soluble fiber is believed to bind to LDL cholesterol and prevent it from sticking to the walls of arteries.

In fact, soluble fiber passes through the body and helps to maintain a healthy digestive system. So, as it collects all that bad cholesterol on its way through your gut, it pulls it through the body and excretes it as a waste product. The LDL just doesn’t get a chance to stick around!

Adding oats and wholegrains into your diet is easy. Just a single bowl of oatmeal for breakfast or a wholegrain cereal, (such as shredded wheat), can increase your intake of soluble fiber by 1-2g.

It is recommended that out of a daily allowance of 20-35g of fiber per day, 5-10g of this should be in the form of soluble fiber.

Beans and Pulses: Another Powerful Source of Soluble Fiber

Assortment of mixed beans that are all good foods that lower cholesterol.This is another healthy group of foods high in soluble fiber.

And the selection is huge – peas, navy beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, chickpeas. Fresh or dried, these little parcels of soluble fiber pack a punch way above their weight.

And, they are easy to add to your diet.

Substitute your lunchtime cheese pizza slice for a jacket potato topped with beans in a tomato sauce.

Instead of a meat lasagne try making it with orange lentils.

Rather than reach for the full cream dips, reach instead for a healthy houmous made from chickpeas, garlic, tahini paste (sesame) and olive oil.

Fruit, other Vegetables and Oils: Even More Soluble Fiber

What list of foods that lower cholesterol would be complete without a big call out to the humble fruit and vegetable?

Once again they are high in that all important ingredient – soluble fiber.

The quantities of fruit and vegetables in the Mediterranean diet played a big role in making it so healthy. If meat was added it may not have been the most lean cuts, but it was eaten in much smaller portions than in the USA.

The sheer amount of saturated fat in many of the processed and convenience foods bought in US is shocking.

By following a diet that places more emphasis on vegetables rather than meats high in saturated fats, you can introduce a low fat low cholesterol diet without really trying too hard.

As you would imagine the list of vegetables and fruits that lower cholesterol is huge. The ones mentioned here barely scratch the surface, but they are among the most well-known, easily available, and versatile!

So you can easily use them in your home cooked low fat low cholesterol diet plans.

Substitute with Olive Oil

A bottle of delicious olive oil which helps to lower your cholesterol naturally.Starting with those all important Mediterranean diet ingredients, there are olives, which includes olive oil as well.

Substitute any saturated fats you use when frying and roasting for olive oil. Instead of mayonnaise on your salad add a drizzle of olive oil. Containing high levels of antioxidants, olive oil can reduce your LDL levels.

Embrace the Cholesterol Lowering Newcomer, the Tomato

A slice of a juicy red tomato to help lower your cholesterol naturally.Another Mediterranean staple, the tomato can now be included on the list of foods that lower cholesterol.

Recent studies have shown tomatoes – cooked tomatoes especially – can reduce LDL. Just 50g of tomato paste a day can have the same effect as taking a low dose statin.

Leafy Greens Are Still Going Strong

Leafy greens and spinach are perfect as foods that lower cholesterolLeafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are among the foods that lower cholesterol, so try and increase your intake. Greens are packed full of luteins which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers.

Snacking Friendly Fruits
Fruits high in pectin, such as apples, grapes, citrus fruits, strawberries and blueberries are foods that lower cholesterol. Snacking on fruit is great way to add more soluble fiber into your diet – and much better for you than snacking on chips!

Other Do-Good Oils such as Rapeseed Oil and Avocado Oil

Aside from olive, other good unsaturated oils include sunflower, rapeseed, avocado, corn and walnut.

Substitute any of these for saturated fat.

If you aren’t sure which fats are saturated and which are unsaturated a good rule to follow is: if it sets hard at room temperature it is a saturated fat. e.g. butter, lard, dripping.

But don’t confuse these with the speciality spreads that have added rather than sterols and stanols, these are spreads which can be substituted for butter or margarine.

They are clinically proven to lower high cholesterol.

Oily Fish – Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Fat fish like brown trout are also foods that effectively lower cholesterolOmega 3 is known to reduce triglyceride and LDL levels in the blood, thereby preventing the build up of plaque.

Not all fish contain omega 3, but the following are super high in it: trout, herring, mackerel, pilchards, sardines, salmon, fresh tuna.

Doctors recommend eating at least two servings of oily fish per week. So BBQ some trout fillets next time instead of a burger!

Nuts and Seeds: Small in Size, Big in Power

Nuts are also good as food that lower cholesterolThese little power houses are high in fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants.

But beware, they’re also very high in calories – as with all foods, eat in moderation.

A small portion of mixed nuts and seeds as a snack is so much better than a cream cheese bagel.

Try combinations of almonds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.

Add in a few dried fruits such as goji berries and raisins and there you have it. A handful of high fiber foods that lower cholesterol.

Aah, Dark Chocolate. A Treat that is also a Cholesterol Lowering Food!

Yes, believe it or not, chocolate with a high cocoa content (over 70% cocoa solids) really is one of the foods that lower cholesterol.

Optimal combo: They contain polyphenols which reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol.

But, do I have to mention that we are not talking whole bars at a time?

In studies patients given just 100g per day showed signs of lower cholesterol levels.

So do enjoy, but don’t go crazy! :-)

Yes, to Alcohol, too – But Consumed in Moderation!

As glass of wine will also help you to lower your cholesterol naturallyModerate consumption of alcohol, particularly red wine, can raise the all important levels of HDL cholesterol.

This is up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men – one drink equates to 1.5 ounces of hard liquor (spirits), 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.

However, if you overdo it, excessive consumption of alcohol will increase your LDL levels.

But, as proven with the Mediterranean diet, in moderation alcohol, particularly red wine which contains antioxidant polyphenols, can be good for you!

The Bad Guys: Foods to avoid if You Want to Follow a Low Cholesterol Regime

We’ve discussed foods that lower cholesterol, but what about foods that have the opposite effect?

Foods that power cholesterol!

Having a knowledge of the worst offenders can help you make wise food choices and avoid them, or at the very least cut down on your intake. The common factor with these foods is that they all contain high levels of saturated fat.

Butter, hard cheese, fatty meat, red and processed meat, biscuits, cakes, cream, lard, dripping, suet, ghee, coconut oil, palm oil.

You’ll notice that with just a few exceptions, most of these are animal products or a significant proportion of their ingredients are.

Following a Healthy Diet Plan to Reduce Cholesterol

Your diet is just one of the natural ways to lower cholesterol that you have complete control over.

If you follow a healthy diet using foods that lower cholesterol, cut back on saturated fats and exercise more, your cholesterol levels should decrease.

The effects are often immediate, so don’t waste any more time.

Get started! :-)

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