Top Ten Foods to Lower Cholesterol

In my San Diego acupuncture and Ayurveda practice I see a lot of patients with high cholesterol whose doctors want to or have put them on Statin drugs. Some of them are even on multiple versions.

But statin drugs are not without a frightening array of risks-- pain, inflammation, liver damage, ALS, and memory loss are a few. And according to the world famous Mayo Clinic

the risks are greater under the following conditions:

• Taking multiple medications to lower your cholesterol
• Being female
• Having a smaller body frame
• Being age 65 or older
• Having kidney or liver disease
• Having type 1 or 2 diabetes

Given that once you are on statins you are expected to stay on them for the rest of your life, it would seem prudent to at first try conservative measures like diet and exercise before jumping into a lifelong relationship with a dangerous drug.

Let's Talk Diet

Changing what you eat can lower your cholesterol and improve the quality of the fats floating through your bloodstream.


Good Cholesterol: HDL
Lousy or Bad Cholesterol: LDL

Different foods lower cholesterol in different ways.

*Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation.

*Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL.

*Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol. Of course they all have numerous other nutrients that are part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Top 10 Foods that Lower Cholesterol

1. Oats. An easy first step to improving your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. (See my oatmeal with kombu sea vegetable recipe) It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Adding apples, pear, banana, blueberry, dried fruit or Kombu add more, on avg. about a half-gram.

But Kombu does not add sugar, and berries have less sugar than banana or apple. Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber. (The average American gets about half that amount.)

2. Barley and other whole grains. Like oats and oat bran, barley and all the other whole grains can help lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, perhaps via the soluble fiber they deliver. Do you read the ingredients of the packaged foods you buy? If it says wheat, that means white, non whole grain. It has to say Whole wheat to be whole grain..(See my whole grain pancake recipe)

3. Beans. Beans--kidney, pinto, navy, garbanzo, and all the various lentils, brown, yellow, pink, french green, beluga, mung, toor are especially rich in soluble fiber. They take more time than grains to digest, which helps blood sugar levels.

That’s one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. Try adding Azuki beans or Black Eyed peas to your oatmeal like they do in Asia, and lower the glycemic index of your morning cereal.

4. Brassicas family vegetables, from Cauliflower to Collard greens. These low-calorie vegetables are excellent sources of soluble fiber while providing an array of phyto-nutrients that fight disease. They should be #1, really, not 4.

5. Nuts. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, etc. are good for the heart. Eating nuts helps lower LDL, and nuts have other nutrients that protect the heart in other ways. High in fiber, but also fat, so be careful if you are getting a lot of fat elsewhere. In Ayurveda nuts benefit the nervous system, too.

6. Vegetable oils. Using liquid vegetable oils such as sesame or olive in place of butter, lard, or shortening when cooking or at the table helps lower LDL.

7. Fresh fruits. Fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL.

8. Soy. Eating cultured foods made from soy, like tofu and tempeh, as well as soy milk, helps lower LDL .

9. Fatty fish. Eating fish two or three times a week can lower LDL in two ways: by replacing meat, which elevates bad cholesterol, and by delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. Omega-3s also reduce triglycerides and protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms.

10. Fiber supplements. Supplements offer the least desirable way to get soluble fiber, since they have no other phyto-chemicals, but they do provide it. Wouldn't you rather eat delicious food?

Two teaspoons a day of psyllium, which is found in Metamucil and other bulk-forming laxatives, provide about 4 grams of soluble fiber. But you must drink a lot of water with psyllium or it actually causes constipation.

copyright Eyton J. Shalom, M.S., L.Ac. San Diego, CA All Rights Reserved, Use With PermissionAyurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diego