A high blood cholesterol level is linked to the development of a number of serious medical conditions, including heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and coronary artery disease. While a number of cholesterol-lowering medications can keep cholesterol levels in check effectively, there are also many foods that, when consumed regularly, are linked to a natural drop in blood cholesterol.
The large amount of soluble fiber found in oatmeal–as well as in oat bran–directly reduces the amount of circulating cholesterol by inhibiting the intestinal tract from absorbing LDL cholesterol into the bloodstream. Since high LDL cholesterol is linked to heart disease, eating oatmeal regularly could be one of the most important dietary changes you could make to significantly decrease your chance of developing heart problems later in life.
Fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and trout, contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. These unsaturated fatty acids can significantly lower cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming at least two servings of these fish every week, with a single serving being approximately 3 1/2 oz., cooked.
Using olive oil–especially extra virgin olive oil, which undergoes less processing than other types of olive oils–for sauteing, basting and in salad dressings or marinades, not only decreases the amount of higher cholesterol oils you may consume, but it contains antioxidants that actively decrease LDL cholesterol levels. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2 tbsp. per day is sufficient to begin affecting the amount of cholesterol in the blood.
Consuming soy products, such as tofu and soy milk, on a regular basis can lower LDL cholesterol levels. Soy can also be eaten in the form of dried soybeans or edamame, young soybeans still contained within a pod.
Eating nuts, like walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios, in small amounts daily is strongly supported by a number of research studies as an effective cholesterol-lowering diet strategy.