The Best Foods to Keep Your Heart Healthy and Reduce Cholesterol


An estimated 18 million deaths each year are caused by heart disease, making it the leading cause of mortality globally. 

However, many heart health risks can be prevented or managed through dietary and lifestyle changes. In this article, we will explore the top foods to incorporate into your diet to support cardiovascular wellness and lower high cholesterol.

A photo with foods like salmon, blueberries, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables.

Oatmeal - Soluble Fiber to Lower LDL 

Starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal is one of the easiest ways to lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels. Oats contain a special type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan that has potent cholesterol-reducing effects. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract and safely removes it from the body before it can be absorbed. 

Clinical studies show that consuming just 3 grams of oat soluble fiber per day can lower LDL cholesterol by 5-10%. To reap the cholesterol-lowering benefits, choose steel cut or rolled oats and avoid pre-sweetened instant oatmeal packages.

Nuts - Healthy Fats and Plant Sterols 

While high in fat and calories, nuts provide monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that benefit heart health when eaten in moderation. Walnuts are a star when it comes to lowering LDL cholesterol due to their high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds, pecans, pistachios and hazelnuts contain plant sterols that help block cholesterol absorption. Aim for a 1 ounce serving, around 22 whole nuts, once or twice per day.

Olive Oil - Anti-Inflammatory MUFAs

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) like oleic acid which have anti-inflammatory effects to protect arteries and the heart. Using olive oil instead of butter, lard or other saturated fats for cooking and dressings can lower LDL while raising HDL or “good” cholesterol. Extra virgin olive oil provides the biggest health boost thanks to its potent antioxidants like polyphenols.

Avocados - Potassium and Healthy Fats

Creamy, green avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients including potassium which helps control blood pressure, an important risk factor for heart disease. Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats that improve cholesterol levels. 

Introduce more avocado into your diet by adding it to smoothies or using it as a substitute for mayo or cheese on sandwiches.

Fatty Fish - Omega-3s to Decrease Triglycerides 

Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and other fatty fish provide omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which have cardioprotective benefits. 

Omega-3s lower triglycerides - a type of fat in the blood that raises heart disease risk at high levels. Aim for at least two 3.5 ounce servings of fatty fish weekly. For vegetarians, plant-based omega-3s from walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed are also helpful.

Beans - Soluble Fiber and Folate 

All types of beans are packed with nutrients important for heart health. Black, pinto, kidney and other beans supply soluble fiber to lower cholesterol. They also provide folate, a B vitamin that prevents the buildup of homocysteine, an inflammatory compound linked to heart disease. Add beans to soups, salads, tacos, pastas and more.

Following a heart healthy diet rich in whole grains, healthy fats, antioxidants and fiber from unprocessed plant foods can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Consult your doctor about any medications or supplements that may be beneficial too. But focusing first on heart-nourishing foods provides the foundation for lifelong cardiovascular wellness.