It doesn’t matter if you currently have high cholesterol or if it runs in your family, we can all benefit from preventive strategies to maintain healthy and normal cholesterol levels.

As a registered dietitian (RD), I coach people about various topics, from establishing long-term healthy eating habits, to strategically working with clients to create a plan that supports their current health condition, such as high cholesterol.

And adding whole foods that are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats into your daily diet is one way to do this.

So if you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, below are three of my favorite cholesterol-friendly foods, in addition to some tips on how to incorporate them into your daily diet.

Beans

While beans are a great source of fiber, which can help you to feel fuller, longer, they can also help to lower unhealthy cholesterol.

There are many types of beans you can enjoy. A few of my favorites are:

  • black beans
  • pinto beans
  • kidney beans

And while beans are great for managing cholesterol levels, they’re also incredibly delicious and versatile to use in cooking.

How to cook with them:

Try adding beans to your next salad or stir fry. Black bean soup is also another great, hearty option, ideal for lunch or dinner.

Salmon

Salmon, or any fish that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to help:

  • decrease LDL levels
  • lower inflammation
  • decrease risk for heart disease, including stroke

To get the most benefit, try adding salmon to your weekly meal plan at least three times (or three servings).

If you like to mix it up with plant-based protein sources, you can also add in a high-quality omega-3 supplement to meet your needs and support healthy cholesterol levels. Flax and chia seeds are also good plant-based options, packed with omega-3s and fiber.

If you’re considering adding supplements to your diet, consult with your doctor to make sure it’s the right choice for you.

How to cook with it:

Salmon or any fatty fish is delicious, especially in the warmer months of the year.

Try it:

  • grilled and served with grilled vegetables
  • steamed
  • baked with a squeeze of fresh lemon

You can also serve it with:

  • fresh lime juice
  • ground cumin
  • a dollop of fresh made pico de gallo
  • avocado (another cholesterol-supporting food)

Olive oil

When it comes to oil, the first question I get in my practice is “Isn’t eating fat going to make cholesterol levels worse?”

And the answer is: Not with the right oils.

It’s the type of fat that matters, and choosing heart-healthy unsaturated fats more than saturated and trans fat can be beneficial for lowering cholesterol.

Cooking with high-quality olive oil can actually be part of your cholesterol-lowering diet, or can at least allow you to support heart health and healthy cholesterol levels. Olive oil is also associated with lowering LDL “bad” cholesterol, increasing HDL “good” cholesterol, and is rich in monounsaturated fats and polyphenols that can help reduce inflammation.

How to cook with it:

Try using olive oil:

  • in a salad
  • over whole grain pasta
  • over steamed or roasted vegetables
  • while cooking fatty fish

Ultimately, a great way to think about incorporating more of this oil into your diet is to simply use it instead of vegetable-based oils you’d normally reach for.

The bottom line

Taking steps to preventing high cholesterol is never a bad thing. And adding cholesterol-friendly foods to your diet is one way to do this.

To get started, considering adding one (or all) of these foods to your daily diet.


McKel Hill, MS, RD, is the founder of Nutrition Stripped, a healthy living website dedicated to optimizing the well-being of women all over the globe through recipes, nutrition advice, fitness, and more. Her cookbook, “Nutrition Stripped,” was a national best-seller, and she’s been featured in Fitness Magazine and Women’s Health Magazine.