Reducing cholesterol levels is attainable for many people through simple changes in diet and lifestyle. The American Heart Association recommends a combination of healthy meal choices and adequate physical activity as a first step in lowering damaging LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and increasing beneficial HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Additionally, avoiding cigarette smoke, drinking only in moderation if at all, and maintaining a healthy weight can lead to significant changes in total blood cholesterol levels.
Things You'll Need
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean meat
- Fish and poultry
- Whole grains
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy
All foods from animal sources contain saturated fat and tend to be higher in cholesterol. Limit red meat as much as possible, favoring leaner protein sources such as chicken, fish and legumes. Eliminate trans-fats entirely. Trans-fats are created when oil is hydrogenised, and it raises LDL cholesterol. Trans-fats are found in baked and fried foods as well as peanut butter and other processed foods.
Increase omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Omega-3 fats raise HDL cholesterol, which lowers harmful LDL, when eaten as part of a low-fat diet. Good sources of omega-3s include salmon, tuna, sardines, nuts, seeds and beans. Fish oil and flaxseed oil supplements are another good source of omega-3s.
Consume foods that raise HDL cholesterol. Mayo Clinic reports that foods fortified with plant sterols, such as beta-sitosterol and sitostanol, may have a positive effect on blood cholesterol. Similarly, foods rich in niacin, one of the B vitamins, can raise HDL cholesterol levels up to 35 percent. Good sources are lean meat, chicken and fish, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and enriched breads and cereals.
Increase foods that lower LDL cholesterol. Foods containing soluble fiber provide many health benefits, including its ability to lower the amount of dietary cholesterol absorbed by the intestines. Good sources are whole grains, fruits and vegetables and nuts.
Get active. Aerobic exercise can raise HDL cholesterol 5 percent. As the exercise reduces your weight, your HDL level will improve even more. Mayo Clinic recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days per week. Walking, swimming, or even yard work count, as long as the activity raises your heart rate.
Increase your antioxidant intake. Antioxidants are vitamins and other phytonutrients that neutralize the hazardous effects of free radicals. Fruits and vegetables have high levels of antioxidants and are considered essential in maintaining heart health, lowering blood pressure and reducing LDL cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends five servings per day each of fruits and vegetables. Mayo Clinic suggests that pomegranate juice is much higher in antioxidants than other fruit juices and may play a role in lowering LDL cholesterol.