Some foods and supplements may help lower your levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in addition to exercise and dietary changes.

Carrying high levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood increases your chance of heart attack and stroke. That’s why you want to try keep your cholesterol levels healthy.

If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe statins, a medicine used to lower LDL cholesterol. Your doctor may also suggest changes to your diet and exercise routine. Dietary changes could include foods particularly good for lowering cholesterol.

There are two main kinds of cholesterol:

  • low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also called “bad” cholesterol
  • high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also called “good” cholesterol

You want to have low levels of LDL and higher levels of HDL. The recommended cholesterol levels are:

  • Total cholesterol: less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
  • LDL cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dL
  • HDL cholesterol: 60 mg/dL or higher

You could be at risk for high LDL cholesterol if you’re overweight or don’t get enough exercise. You can also inherit a tendency for high cholesterol.

Your liver makes cholesterol. You can also get it from certain foods that contain it — but not as much as from foods that contain saturated and trans fats. These types of fat cause your liver to produce extra cholesterol.

But there are foods — and supplements derived from foods — that can lower your cholesterol, too.

Talk to a doctor about any supplement you’re considering, especially if you’re pregnant.

Niacin is a B vitamin. Doctors sometimes suggest it for patients with high cholesterol or heart concerns. It increases the level of good cholesterol and reduces triglycerides, another fat that can clog arteries. You can get niacin from foods, especially liver and chicken, or from supplements.

The recommended daily intake of niacin is 14 milligrams for women and 16 milligrams for men.

Don’t take supplements unless your doctor recommends it. Doing so can cause side effects like skin itching and flushing, nausea, and more.

There are two kinds of fiber: soluble, which dissolves into a gel in liquid, and insoluble. Soluble fiber lowers cholesterol absorption in your bloodstream.

The recommended daily amounts of fiber are:

  • men 50 and under: 38 grams
  • men over 50: 30 grams
  • women 50 and under: 25 grams
  • women over 50: 21 grams

The good news is that soluble fiber is probably in foods you already enjoy:

  • orange: 1.8 grams
  • pear: 1.1 to 1.5 grams
  • peach: 1.0 to 1.3 grams
  • asparagus (1/2 cup): 1.7 grams
  • potato: 1.1 grams
  • whole wheat bread (1 slice): 0.5 grams
  • oatmeal (1 1/2 cups): 2.8 grams
  • kidney beans (175 milliliters, approximately 3/4 cup): 2.6 to 3 grams

Psyllium is fiber made from the husks of seeds of the Plantago ovata plant. You can take it in a pill or mix it into drinks or food.

Taking psyllium regularly has been shown to significantly reduce cholesterol levels. It also relieves constipation and can lower blood sugar for people with diabetes.

Phytosterols are waxes derived from plants. They prevent your intestines from absorbing cholesterol. They’re naturally present in whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

Food manufacturers have begun adding phytosterols to prepared foods, such as margarine and yogurt. That’s right: you can eat a food containing cholesterol and counteract the effect of that cholesterol, at least a little, at the same time!

Soy beans and foods made with them can lower LDL cholesterol a little.

Tofu, soy milk, and steamed soy beans are a good source of lean protein, which means eating them instead of a fatty food like beef can reduce the overall cholesterol in your diet.

The cholesterol-lowering effect of garlic is unclear. It could help prevent heart disease, but a 2009 meta-analysis of medical studies concluded that it doesn’t reduce cholesterol specifically.

Garlic is thought to have other health benefits, though, including lowering blood pressure. You can get the benefits from food or from a supplement.

Red yeast rice is white rice that has been fermented with yeast. It’s eaten and used as a medicine in China.

Some red yeast rice supplements have been shown to lower cholesterol, because they contain monacolin K. This has the same chemical makeup as lovastatin, a cholesterol-lowering medicine.

However, you won’t find monacolin K in the red yeast rice sold in America because the FDA ruled in 1998 that monacolin K was a medicine and couldn’t be sold as a supplement.

You can still find red yeast rice supplements, but they don’t contain monacolin K.

Red yeast rice may also cause kidney, liver, and muscle damage.

One 2014 study showed that ginger can lower your total cholesterol and triglycerides levels, while a study from 2008 showed that it can reduce LDL cholesterol levels and boost HDL cholesterol.

You can add raw ginger to food, or take it as a supplement or powder.

Flax is a blue flower grown in temperate climates. Both its seeds and the oil drawn from them are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have a number of health benefits, including raising HDL cholesterol levels.

To get the biggest health boost from flaxseed, use its oil or eat flaxseed ground, not whole. Our bodies can’t break down the shiny outer shell of the seed.

If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, dietary changes can help. Certain foods and supplements can help lower your cholesterol levels. Talk to a doctor before trying any new supplement. They will help you find the best supplement and dosage for you.