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11 Cholesterol-Lowering Foods

Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on August 3, 2016Written by Brian Krans

Lose the cholesterol, not the taste

Has your doctor told you that you need to lower your cholesterol? The first place to look is your plate. If you’re accustomed to eating juicy hamburgers and crunchy fried chicken, the thought of eating healthymight turn your stomach. But fear not! It turns out you don’t have to sacrifice flavor for better eating habits.

The sweet, stinky onion

According to a , onions may help prevent the inflammation and hardening of arteries, which may be beneficial to people with high cholesterol. Try tossing red onions into a hearty salad, adding white onions to a garden burger, or folding yellow onions into an egg-white omelet.

Tip: Pass on the onion rings. They’re not a cholesterol-friendly choice.

The biting, fighting garlic

Garlic is awesome for your heart if you have diabetes, according to . Try simmering whole cloves of garlic in olive oil until they’re soft, and use them as a spread on foods you find bland. Garlic tastes better than butter, and it’s a whole lot healthier — particularly for lowering cholesterol.

The mighty mushroom

An older yet reliable from 1996 found that the nutrients in mushrooms may help reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and increase HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Although shiitake mushrooms have been the subject of much of the research, many other varieties available in the supermarket or at your local farmer’s market are also thought to be helpful for lowering cholesterol.

The awesome avocado

These creamy delights are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, something your heart and brain love. Avocado is great by itself with a squeeze of lemon. You can also harness the power of the onion with the avocado by making some guacamole.

The powerful pepper

Nothing gets the blood pumping (in a good way) quite like the heat from peppers. Capsaicin, a compound found in hot peppers, may reduce your cholesterol, according to the . Whether you’re making a soup, a salad, or something else, peppers can liven up meals with a little bit of spice. If you’re timid about spicy foods, try bell peppers to start. From there you can work your way up the heat scale as you please.

Salsa, pico, and more

Forget about mayo or ketchup. Get out your chef’s knife and start chopping. Throw together tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, and other heart-healthy ingredients for fresh dips that make snacking healthier. Be careful with store-bought salsa, which is often high in sodium. You should closely monitor your sodium intake if you have heart disease or high blood pressure.

Flavorful fruit

Vegetables aren’t the only foods that are good for your heart; there’s fruit, too! Not only are fruits packed with vitamins and flavor, but they’re also good for your heart, especially like:

  • apples
  • citrus
  • grapes
  • strawberries

Add fruit as a complement to your meal, or enjoy it as a light snack. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Have you ever tried mango salsa? This easy-to-make salsa works well as a side dish or swapped in for mayo on a sandwich.

Aww nuts!

Time for some crunch! says that a nut-filled diet may lower your cholesterol and your risk for heart disease. That’s good, but the flavor and texture of nuts are even more enticing. Go for the unsalted variety to avoid excess sodium.

Using common sense

If you’re trying to eat a heart-healthy diet, the foods you don’t eat can be as important as the ones you do. In addition to adding more of these cholesterol-lowering ingredients to your diet, you should also leave out danger foods like red meat. (Sorry, you can’t slap pico de gallo on a four-pound hamburger and call it healthy.) However, you can enjoy leaner meats like turkey, chicken, and fish.

Keep it fresh

The easiest way to determine if food is good for your heart is to ask yourself if it’s fresh. This means choosing fresh produce over foods that come in jars, bags, and boxes. You also need to be wary of salt while watching your cholesterol. Many processed foods marketed as healthy are high in sodium, which is bad for your heart.

More information

Hungry for more heart-healthy ingredient substitutions? You can find them here. Check out Healthline’s High Cholesterol Learning Center to learn more about taking care of yourself and those you love.

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