It seems that everyone I know has high cholesterol.

This includes my wife, siblings and most friends in my age group.

And we’re not alone.

More than 30% of Americans have high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol.

High levels of LDL can lead to plaque build-up in our arteries and increases risk to heart disease and stroke.

Doctors would prescribe statins but these could possibly affect the liver, memory, cause muscle inflammation and increase blood sugar levels.

Dr. Mercola warns against taking this drug because it may cause “adverse effects” that range from sexual dysfunction, Anemia to increased cancer risk.

But regardless if you’re taking medication or not you still have to do your part to lower bad cholesterol and decrease your risk to cardiac arrest.

The Harvard Medical School recommends a two-pronged approach that includes decreasing (better yet, eliminating) consumption on foods that increase LDL and increase consumption of foods that lower LDL (and increase HDL).

Remember to always consult with your physician before ditching and going to an all-natural approach. You can work with them in order to find the right compromise if you want to reduce your dependence of medication. And always take a blood test to see if the dietary changes work because each of our bodies will react differently.

I’m publishing this article as a reference to myself and others who are in the same boat looking for more natural ways to combat this ailment.

1. Avocado

Avocado is a rich source of monounsaturated fats that easily burns for energy and is low in fructose. It helps lower bad cholesterol in the blood and can help raise HDL level (or good cholesterol).

A study done by the Journal of American Heart Association revealed that an Avocado a day can keep bad cholesterol at bay.

Forty five subjects, a mix of overweight, healthy and obese men and women, between ages 21 and 70 were given cholesterol fighting diets for 5 weeks.

One of those diets had avocado in it.

Results reveal that people who took the avocado had lowered their bad cholesterol by 13.5 points.

Another study had even better results – a 22 percent decrease in both LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides with an 11 percent increase in HDL or good cholesterol [1, 2].

How to add avocado to our diets?

There are different ways to eat Avocado. Most straightforward would be eating it as is (don’t forget to remove the seed). You can add it in salads with balsamic vinegar. Add it in a smoothie or in soups.

My favorite avocado recipe is simple that includes sliced cubes of fresh avocado, cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

2. Beans

New research in Canada revealed that eating one serving of legumes per day over a six week period can lower bad cholesterol by 5 percent. If you don’t know what a serving is – it’s equivalent to three quarters cup of cooked legumes.

Beans are a good replacement for foods rich in saturated fats like red meat, white rice or bread. It has high in fiber and protein which plays a huge role in reducing risk to cardiovascular disease [3].

How to add beans to your diet?

There are lots of different ways to cook beans. You can add it in soups, salads, rice and much more. My personal favorite would be minestrone soup where you can add it with garlic, onion, celery, oregano, carrot, tomatoes and pasta to make a hearty and healthy dish.

3. Beet

New studies reveal that daily intake of Beetroot juice will help improve cardiovascular function in people with elevated cholesterol levels.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition mentions after their study that daily consumption of beetroot juice (250ml/day) lead to a 24% improvement in FMD response.

Dietary nitrate from beet also improves vascular and platelet functions in patients with high cholesterol the study reveals [4].

How to add beet to your diet?

Beet is another versatile root crop that you just add to about anything. You can roast it and add it to salad, turn it to sandwich spread, use it as a replacement to beef in burgers and if you’re no-nonsense, just pickle it.

My favorite way to consume it would be adding it to just any juice recipe. You can combine this with celery and you’ll have an elixir that can lower cholesterol.

4. Celery

Celery contains a chemical compound called butylphthalide that not only gives celery it’s flavor and scent but it also is responsible for lowering bad cholesterol. A Chicago University study revealed that eating four celery stalks per day will help reduce bad cholesterol by 7 percent [5]!

It also contains phthalides that stimulate secretion of bile juices that helps reduce cholesterol levels.

How to add celery to your diet?

One of the best ways of consuming celery is eating the stalks raw because you’ll be consuming fiber that helps scrape out cholesterol in the bloodstream [6].

If you don’t fancy eating celery stalks then why not try to juice them? I’ve featured celery in different juice recipes that won’t taste as bad because it includes ingredients like lemon, apple and cucumber to mask the strong flavor.

Other ways to add celery into your diet is mixing it with other veggies in a salad, turning it to stew or making celery soup.

5. Dark Chocolate and Cacao Powder

If you love eating chocolate this is great news for you. A study done at Penn State showed that incorporating cacao powder and dark chocolate into a diet that’s rich in antioxidants such as fruits, vegetables, tea and wine will result in a high antioxidant intake and will reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The cacao powder and dark chocolate infused diet resulted in a 4 percent higher HDL and slowed the rate of oxidation by 8 percent [7].

Kris-Etherton stresses that cacao powder and dark chocolate should be “incorporated sensibly and prudently” in a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, skim milk, reduced fat dairy products, lean meat, fatty fish, poultry and fish.

How to add dark chocolate and cacao powder into your diet?

Adding dark chocolate is easy, just buy a bar at your local grocery store but make sure to buy organic dark chocolate bars.

Try sprinkling some cacao powder on smoothies, cookies or homemade ice cream.

Remember to eat in moderation because chocolate is high in calories and saturated fat.

6. Foods with Plant Stenols and Stanols

For those who are not familiar, plant stenols and stanols that have a similar structure with cholesterol.

Plant sterols work by mimicking cholesterol and competing with it for absorption. This results in less cholesterol absorbed in the body and less bile.

And to make more bile, we should remove more cholesterol from our system.

Heartuk.org.uk says that regularly consuming plant stenols and stanols will help reduce cholesterol up to 10%.

The Journal of the American Medical Association mentioned in their 2011 study that people who ate cholesterol lowering foods like nuts, soy and margarine fortified with plant sterols lowered their cholesterol by 13% [8].

Another study revealed that people that used margarine that contains plant sterols over regular margarine was able to lower their LDL cholesterol by 14% in one year [9].

How to add plant sterols and stenols to your diet?

Foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole bran, wheat germ, nuts and legumes contain low levels of plant sterols. Other sources include fortified foods such as milk, juice, margarine, etc.

To get results, you’ll need to consume at least 2 grams of plant sterols per day. This is equivalent to 2 cups of fortified orange juice.

7. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and trout are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, the so-called good fat.

Omega-3 fatty acids has been proven to lower triglyceride levels which is a type of fat in the blood.

It also helps slow down buildup of plaque in arteries. In short omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce risk to heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (to be more specific fatty fish) at least two-times a week [10, 11].

How to add fatty fish to your diet?

As it turns out the way you prepare these foods makes a difference in how it affects your blood cholesterol levels says Keecha Harris, DrPH, RD. Best practice would be broiling, steaming or grilling these over deep frying that will cancel out the health benefits.

8. Garlic

Garlic is one of the most popular health supplement to fight high cholesterol but does it really work?

Studies look promising on both humans and animals show that garlic can reduce total cholesterol and triglyceride by up to 20mg/dl. But it does not seem to lower LDL cholesterol as much. However there are studies that refute the effectiveness of garlic to fight high cholesterol.

What does this all mean? There isn’t enough conclusive evidence that prove garlic can lower bad cholesterol.  So garlic may not be the best choice [12, 13, 14, 15].

How to add garlic to my diet?

To get the full benefit of garlic, you’ll have to eat it raw. But at the expense of bad breath and dealing with the strong flavor.

Other options include garlic powder, tablets or fermented garlic (a.k.a. black garlic).

9. Ginger

Ginger is another superfood that can help lower bad cholesterol levels.

One such study in done in Babol at the northern part of Iran revealed that there was a significant reduction in triglyceride cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) and  very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) after 3 grams of ginger capsules per day in a 45 day period [16].

How to add ginger to your diet?

You can add ginger to just about any dish you can think of. It’ll all depend on how creative you are.

You can stir fry it with broccoli in just 30 seconds to make a healthy lunch time meal.

Or mix it with fish and tomatoes for a hearty soup dish. You can also make carrot ginger soup with ginger, orange, carrot and chicken stock. The options are limitless!

But if you ask me my favorite way of consuming ginger is adding it in juices if you want a little bit of kick to it.

10. Lemon

Fresh lemon is rich in vitamin C and it has been proven to lower bad cholesterol in rats that is [17].

Take note that the studies was on albino rats and not humans so take this with a grain of salt. But it does not hurt to start your day with a hot cup of lemon water.

Another term for Vitamin C is Ascorbic acid. And it is a necessity in our daily nutrition because it helps repair cells, maintain skin health, blood vessels and more. It is a known anti-oxidant that helps with our immune system.

How to add lemon to your diet?

Most straight forward way would be drinking squeezing it over a glass of hot water as a replacement to caffeine. Yes lemon water is a perfect way start your day – much healthier than a glass of cafe mocha if you ask me.

11. Nuts

Nuts, to be more specific walnuts, almonds and other tree nuts are rich in mom and polyunsaturated fatty acids that lower LDL or bad cholesterol.

But wait there’s more.

Regularly eating nuts not only lowers LDL cholesterol, it also decreases blood pressure and reduces fat visceral adiposity or the fat that surrounds the abdomen.

Having too much of visceral adiposity increases an individual’s risk to type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Walnuts in particular are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Yup that’s the same omega-3 in fatty fish like salmon, herring, trout, sardines and mackerel.

Omega -3 fatty acids are known for their heart benefits [18, 19, 20].

What are the best nuts that’ll lower high cholesterol?

Nuts that contain high amounts of unsaturated fats and low saturated fats include walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds and pistachios. Make sure to buy unsalted nuts without any sugary coating.

Mayo clinic suggests that eating a handful or around 1.5 ounces (or 42.5 grams) a day may reduce your risk to heart disease [21]. You can add it to salads or as a healthy snack alternative to chips or cake.

12. Oatmeal

Eating a bowl of oatmeal can lower cholesterol according to this article from Live Science.

Oatmeal contains soluble fiber that becomes gooey when digested.

This gooey substance sticks to cholesterol so the body does not absorb it.

It prevents cholesterol from getting into the system and instead flushes it out [22].

How to add oatmeal to your diet?

Replace whatever you’re having for breakfast now with a bowl of oatmeal.

To liven it up, you can add fruits like strawberries, blueberries or banana.

You’ll see different types of oats when you shop for one in the grocery – instant or rolled oats. Both products will work but I’d prefer rolled oats because it makes me fuller.

Avoid flavored oatmeal since it has added sugars.

13. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For folks looking for a healthier option to hydrogenated oil, extra virgin olive oil maybe a healthier option.

Researchers at the University of Rome, Italy discovered that a diet rich in olive oil may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Subjects who used extra virgin olive oil instead of corn oil in their Mediterranean lunch had lower post-meal blood glucose and LDL levels.

This will help reduce the negative effects of glucose and cholesterol in the cardiovascular system [23, 24].

14. Spinach

As it turns out spinach does not only make Popeye strong when he needs to fight Bluto. It also cholesterol fighting properties thanks to its carotenoid content [25].

One hundred grams of spinach will give you 11,000mg of lutein, 558mg of potassium, 100% of your daily vitamin A requirements, 46% of your daily vitamin C needs, 15% iron and 19% DV of magnesium. All of which helps in lowering the risk of heart disease [26, 27, 28].

How to add spinach to your diet?

You can add spinach to just about anything you can think of.

Mix it with some garlic and sauté it, add it to salad, include it in a juice or smoothie recipe.

There are a lot of ways to eat spinach raw or cooked.

15. Green Tea

Hands down one of my favorite drinks for lunch or dinner would be a glass of hot tea, to be more specific green tea.

A cup of this drink helps you relax and keeps your body warm during cold winter months. Research done in Nagano prefecture, Japan revealed that drinking 10 cups of green tea/day helps lower LDL cholesterol levels but will not raise HDL cholesterol [29].

To Wrap Up

Lowering bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol levels will always start with the food we eat. You cannot rely on any single food in this list. It’ll take a total change in lifestyle to make it happen.

This includes watching what we eat. Replace processed, sugar-rich, oily food with a healthy diet rich in vegetables, lean meat, fish, fruits, etc.