Tara Tomaino, RD
T&B Nutrition Director
I recommend high fiber foods for lowering cholesterol! I encourage clients to focus on adding more high fiber choices into their diet versus dwelling on the foods that they should limit. My top recommendations include whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. Whole grains such as oatmeal, high fiber cereals (like Fiber One, Shredded Wheat, and Grape Nuts), and whole wheat breads can be great grain sources of fiber. Beans and bean-based products (like bean or lentil pastas) are another great source of fiber. Black beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans, kidney beans, and lentils are all fantastic varieties that can provide a fiber boost. Almost all vegetables and fruit will contain some fiber, although there are certainly a few that stand out above the rest. Avocado, raspberries, pears, apples, artichokes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and potatoes are a few notable produce items that pack at least 4 gams of fiber per serving. When possible, keep the skin on vegetables and fruits – that’s where a lot of the fiber is located!
Fiber in foods, specifically soluble fiber helps to bind cholesterol and remove it from the body. High fiber grains provide steady energy throughout the day and can also support blood sugar stabilization. Beans and lentils not only provide fiber, but are a great source of plant-based protein. Many animal products (including meats) contain saturated fat which may contribute to elevated cholesterol. Replacing meat with beans regularly is a great strategy for lowering cholesterol through diet. Vegetables and fruits are beneficial not only for their fiber content, but also for the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they provide to the body. We should be aiming to fill half of our plate with vegetables and some fruit at every meal.
It is possible to improve your cholesterol through dietary changes! It is important to know that it will take time and consistency in order to see the results. One salad isn’t going to do the trick. Another tip for lowering cholesterol with food is to keep track of how many grams of fiber you are eating per day. Adults should be eating 25-34 grams of fiber daily – a registered dietitian can help you determine just how much you should be striving for. While working on boosting fiber intake, it is very important to stay adequately hydrated by drinking plenty of water! Consuming more fiber than you’re used to without enough water can lead to some GI discomfort. It is also important to note that elevated cholesterol can be hereditary. In this case dietary changes may help to a certain extent, but your doctor may still recommend medication if levels remain high over time.
Cholesterol can be improved through dietary changes alone, although results may be further improved or even expedited with the addition of regular physical activity. Participating in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days of the week is recommended for general health and can also assist with improvements in cholesterol. Activities like brisk walking, running, cycling, dancing, strength training, etc. are all great ways to get moving and improve cholesterol!