It’s easy to think that the only surefire way to lower your cholesterol is through the use of medication. In reality, medication is often used as a last resort – a healthy diet and regular physical activity may be enough to achieve normal cholesterol levels in many people. The National Institutes of Health developed the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, or TLC model, to help those with high cholesterol lower their numbers without the use of medication. The main principles behind this diet are to eat less saturated and trans fat and more fiber. This can be done by eating fewer processed foods and red meat and more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Fruits, veggies, and whole grains are not the only foods that can help lower your cholesterol. Foods that contain soluble fiber (the kind that helps you feel full and clears the bad cholesterol from your body), polyunsaturated fat, plant sterols and stanols, and omega-3 fatty acids also have cholesterol-lowering effects. According to Harvard Medical School, the ten best foods to lower cholesterol contain one or more of these components:
- Oats such as oatmeal or cold, oat-based cereal like Cheerios
- Barley and other whole grains
- Eggplant and okra
- Vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, and safflower
- Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits
- Foods fortified with sterols and stanols, which include foods ranging from margarine and granola bars to orange juice and chocolate
- Soy, such as tofu or soy milk
- Fatty fish
Whether you have high cholesterol or not, it wouldn’t hurt to regularly include these foods in your diet. They may help lower your cholesterol and are an easy way to incorporate a variety of nutritious, delicious foods into your everyday eating.