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Nutrition March 05, 2024

7 Foods That Lower Cholesterol Levels

Written by Favour Obioha

As a child, I carried a constant worry that my mother's health might fail her. This fear lingered with me through the years and, in a way, stayed with me into adulthood, albeit in a different form.

Growing up, my mother always seemed to have her own menu. While the rest of the family enjoyed their meals together, she would retreat to the kitchen to prepare something different just for herself. At the time, I didn't grasp the significance of her actions until later when she advised me to be mindful of my diet. She explained that if she had high cholesterol, there was a good chance I might have it too.


At the time, I dismissed my mother's warnings as mere attempts to enforce healthy eating habits. Occasionally, I even teased her by indulging in the foods she had to avoid, right in front of her. I convinced myself that if she gave in just once, it wouldn't make much difference to her health. Somedays, she would fall for it; on most days, they wouldn't move her.


Watching how intentional she was about her health, I made a mental note of all the foods she ate and the ones she avoided. Now, as a fully grown adult, I have surprisingly adopted that same lifestyle. However, there are moments when I slip up, catching myself eating noodles that I even prepared in an unhealthy way.


In this article, I am going to share with you some realistic cholesterol-lowering foods you can add to your diet; but first, let's talk about cholesterol and what causes it.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs for good health. It is only required in the right amounts and when the levels go up, it can lead to a condition called high blood cholesterol.

What are the Types of Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is carried through your bloodstream by lipoproteins:

  • Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL), is sometimes called “bad” cholesterol because it causes fatty deposits to build up in the blood vessels. These deposits can block blood flow and increase your risk of coronary heart disease and strokes.
  • High-density Lipoprotein (HDL), is sometimes called “good” cholesterol because it helps remove cholesterol from the body through the liver, reducing your risk of coronary heart disease and strokes.

What Causes High Cholesterol?

Your diet plays a significant role in your cholesterol levels — some foods can increase cholesterol, while others lower it. When my mother would eat specific types of food, she would try to keep her cholesterol level in check or probably lower it. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels can help prevent several health issues, especially the ones relating to the heart.


Other causes of high cholesterol include:

  1. Excess body weight or obesity, particularly with abdominal fat
  2. Low levels of physical activity and exercise
  3. Smoking
  4. Excessive alcohol consumption
  5. Some medications
  6. Genetics – It isn’t surprising that my mother thinks I could be at risk of developing high cholesterol in the future. Your family history may affect your cholesterol level, a pattern known as familial hypercholesterolemia. In Nigeria, about 38% of people have high cholesterol levels. This study found that women tend to have slightly higher rates of high cholesterol compared to men. The region with the highest prevalence of high cholesterol is the South-south, where about 53% of people have it, while the southwest and northeast regions have the lowest rates, with only about 3% to 4% of people affected.
  7. Certain medical conditions like kidney and liver disease, hypothyroidism, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Cholesterol-lowering Foods to Add to Your Diet

Below are 7 of the best foods that may help lower your cholesterol levels

1. Okra

If you are in Nigeria, you know the drill. Okra is a popular and inexpensive vegetable that you can use to prepare the soup. Researchers have found that a gel in okra called mucilage can help lower cholesterol by binding to it during digestion, helping cholesterol leave the body through stool.

2. Avocado

Avocado is another easily accessible food in Nigeria, although it doesn’t come cheap anymore. They are packed with monounsaturated fats and fiber, which are beneficial for reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Adding at least two servings of avocado per week to a healthy diet can lower your risk of heart disease. Try adding them to your salad or make a toast with them.

3. Fish

Fish is a great cholesterol-lowering food due to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA. These special fats help to lower the bad cholesterol in your blood, which can clog up your arteries and cause heart problems. Eating fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout regularly can make your heart healthier and reduce your chances of having heart issues. 


So, adding fish to your meals is a smart choice for keeping your heart strong and healthy. The healthiest ways to cook fish are steaming or stewing. Fried fish may increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. 

4. Nuts

Nuts, like almonds, walnuts, and cashews, are packed with nutrients that can help improve heart health, including healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants. The authors of a 2023 review found that these nutrients work together to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the blood while also increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels. 


Eating a handful of nuts as a snack or adding them to meals like salads or oatmeal can be a tasty and effective way to support heart health and manage cholesterol levels. Just remember to enjoy them in moderation, as nuts are also calorie-dense.

5. Legumes

Legumes, such as beans, are fantastic for your heart health. They're packed with fiber, protein, and nutrients that can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease as found in a 2019 review. The fiber in legumes helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by blocking its absorption in the gut. Plus, they're low in fat and contain no cholesterol, making them an excellent choice for a heart-healthy diet. Adding legumes to your meals regularly, whether it's in soups, salads, or side dishes, can contribute to better heart health and overall well-being.

6. Fruits

Fruits are excellent for lowering cholesterol due to their high fiber content, which helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the gut. Additionally, fruits contain antioxidants that protect the heart by combating inflammation and oxidative stress. Berries, oranges, apples, and bananas are particularly beneficial choices for incorporating into your diet to help manage cholesterol levels and support heart health.

7. Oats

Oats are a fantastic cholesterol-lowering food. They're rich in soluble fiber, which acts like a sponge in your digestive system, soaking up cholesterol and helping to flush it out of your body. This soluble fiber also helps to slow down the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream, keeping your levels in check. 


Eating oats regularly, whether in the form of oatmeal or oat-based cereals, can significantly reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while also promoting heart health. So, starting your day with a hearty bowl of oatmeal or adding oats to your baking recipes can be a simple yet effective way to support your heart.

Foods to Avoid

Reducing the amount of saturated and trans fats in your diet can lower cholesterol and heart disease risk.


To reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, you should limit your intake of the following foods that contain high levels of saturated and trans fats:

  1. Fatty meat, such as pork
  2. Butter and cream
  3. Palm oil
  4. Cakes
  5. Pastries
  6. Fried foods
  7. Full-fat dairy products


High cholesterol levels are a big concern for heart health in Nigeria. But by incorporating certain foods into your diet, you can lower this risk and keep your heart strong. 


Adding more of these recommended foods to your diet will help you eat well and take care of your heart. You can also try mindful eating techniques to enjoy your food fully without eating too much.


Relying on my mother for accountability has been invaluable in my journey toward healthier eating habits. However, if you're seeking someone to support and guide you on your own path to wellness, it's beneficial to turn to someone who understands your goals or, even better, an expert in the field.


That is why we've developed OneWellness, an app designed to connect you with a dedicated care partner who will monitor your habits and assist you in making healthy choices. Whether you're striving to improve your diet, increase physical activity, or enhance overall well-being, our app is here to support you every step of the way. 


Download OneWellness from your app store and take control of your health journey today.


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