Heart disease is the world’s leading cause of death.

Having high cholesterol levels — especially “bad” LDL — is linked to an increased risk of heart disease

Low “good” HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides are also linked to increased risk

Your diet has a powerful effect on your cholesterol and other risk factors.

Here are 13 foods that can lower cholesterol and improve other risk factors for heart disease.

1. Legumes

The plant foods beans, peas, and lentils are all legumes, which are also called pulses.

There is a lot of fiber, vitamins, and protein in legumes. You may be less likely to get heart disease if you eat more beans instead of refined grains and processed meats.

It was found that eating 100 grams of legumes every day can lower “bad” LDL cholesterol by an average of 6.6 mg/dl compared to not eating legumes. This was found in a review of 26 randomized controlled studies.

Other research shows that beans can help people lose weight, even when they are not on a low-calorie diet.







2. Avocados


Avocados are a food that is very high in nutrients.

Many polyunsaturated fats and fiber are found in them. These help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise “good” HDL cholesterol.

Avocados have been shown in clinical tests to lower cholesterol.

When overweight or obese people with high LDL cholesterol ate one avocado every day, their LDL levels went down more than when they didn’t eat avocados.

A review of 10 studies found that eating avocados instead of other foods was linked to lower levels of total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides.







3. Nuts — Especially Almonds and Walnuts


Nuts are another food that is very high in nutrients.

A lot of polyunsaturated fats are in them.Walnuts also have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, which are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is good for your heart.

L-arginine is an amino acid that helps your body make nitric oxide. Almonds and other nuts have a lot of it. In turn, this helps keep blood pressure in check.

Besides that, nuts have phytosterols. These plant chemicals have a structure that is similar to cholesterol. They help lower cholesterol by stopping your intestines from absorbing it.

Also found in nuts are calcium, magnesium, and potassium, all of which may lower blood pressure and heart disease risk.

A review of 25 studies found that eating two to three meals of nuts every day lowered “bad” LDL cholesterol by an average of 10.2 mg/dl.

A daily serving of nuts is linked to a 28% lower chance of heart disease, whether it kills or doesn’t.





4. Fatty Fish


Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids can be found in large amounts in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel.

Omega-3s are good for your heart because they raise “good” HDL cholesterol and lower inflammation and the risk of stroke.

A 25-year study of people found that those who ate the most non-fried fish were the least likely to get metabolic syndrome. This is a group of symptoms that includes high blood pressure and low “good” HDL levels.

Another big study looked at older people. Those who ate baked or grilled fish like tuna at least once a week had a 27% lower chance of having a stroke.

Do not forget that stewing or cooking fish is the best way to cook it for health. Fried fish may even make you more likely to get heart disease and stroke.

A lot of people in the Mediterranean eat fish, which has been studied a lot in terms of its heart health effects.

Fish may also be good for your heart because it has certain peptides that are found in fish protein.





5. Whole Grains — Especially Oats and Barley


Heart disease risk goes down when you eat whole grains, according to a lot of studies.

A review of 45 studies found that people who ate three meals of whole grains every day had a 20% lower risk of heart disease and stroke. It was even better for people when they ate up to seven meals of whole grains every day.

Because they have all of the grain’s parts still together, whole grains have more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant chemicals than refined grains.

All whole foods may be good for your heart, but there are two that stand out:

Oats have a type of fiber called beta-glucan in them that helps lower cholesterol.It is possible for oats to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol by 7% and overall cholesterol by 5%.
Barley is also high in beta-glucans and can help lower LDL cholesterol, which is the “bad” kind.






6. Fruits and Berries


For many reasons, fruit is a great addition to a heart-healthy diet.

There is a lot of soluble fiber in many kinds of fruit, which lowers cholesterol.

This is achieved by telling your body to get rid of cholesterol and stopping your liver from making this chemical.

Pectin is a type of soluble fiber that can cut cholesterol by up to 10%. Apples, grapes, citrus fruits, and strawberries are some of the foods that have it.

Fruit also has bioactive substances that help keep you from getting heart disease and other long-term illnesses by fighting inflammation and free radicals.

These plant chemicals are found in large amounts in berries and grapes, which can help raise “good” HDL cholesterol and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.







7. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa


Dark chocolate is mostly made up of cocoa.

Researchers have found that dark chocolate and cocoa can lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. It may sound too good to be true.

Healthy people in one study drank a cocoa drink twice a day for one month.

The amount of “bad” LDL cholesterol in their blood dropped by 0.17 mmol/l (6.5 mg/dl). Their “good” HDL cholesterol went up and their blood pressure went down.

Also, cocoa and dark chocolate seem to keep the “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood from oxidizing, which is a major cause of heart disease.

However, chocolate often has a lot of extra sugar, which is bad for your heart.

So, you should either use cocoa by itself or pick dark chocolate that has at least 75–85% cocoa.




8. Garlic


Many people have used garlic as a cure and in food for hundreds of years.

It has many strong plant chemicals in it, including allicin, which is its main active ingredient.

Garlic may help lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol, but the latter benefit is not as strong. Studies show that garlic lowers blood pressure in people who already have high levels.

As this heart-protecting effect requires a lot of garlic, aged pills are used in many studies because they are thought to work better than other garlic preparations.





9. Soy Foods


Soybeans are a type of vegetable that might be good for your heart.

The results of studies have been all over the place, but new research is looking good.

A review of 35 studies found that soy foods lowered “bad” LDL and overall cholesterol and raised “good” HDL cholesterol.

People with high cholesterol seem to be most affected.





10. Vegetables


A diet high in vegetables is very good for your heart.

These foods are low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins, which are important for keeping a healthy weight.

Some veggies have a lot of pectin, the same soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol that is found in apples and oranges.

Okra, eggplants, carrots, and potatoes are also high in pectin.

Also, vegetables contain many plant chemicals that are good for your health and can help protect against heart disease.




11. Tea


There are many plant chemicals in tea that are good for your heart.

A lot of people are interested in green tea, but black tea and white tea are also good for you in the same ways.

Two of the most helpful chemicals in tea are

Catechins help nitric oxide work, which is important for keeping blood pressure in a safe range. They also stop the production and uptake of cholesterol and help keep blood from clotting.
Quercetin may help blood vessels work better and reduce swelling.

Most studies show that tea lowers overall cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol. However, studies on “good” HDL cholesterol and blood pressure are not as clear.




12. Dark Leafy Greens


Dark leafy greens are especially good for your heart, but all veggies are good for you.

Some carotenoids, like lutein, are found in dark leafy greens like spinach and kale. These carotenoids decrease the risk of heart disease.

Carotenoids are antioxidants that get rid of free radicals that are bad for you and can cause arteries to harden.

Also, dark leafy veggies may help lower cholesterol by attaching to bile acids and making your body get rid of more cholesterol.

One study found that lutein drops the amount of oxidized “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood and may help keep cholesterol from sticking to the walls of arteries.





13. Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Adding extra virgin olive oil to your diet is one of the best ways to keep your heart healthy.

Over the course of five years, older people who were at risk for heart disease were given a Mediterranean diet and four tablespoons (60 ml) of extra virgin olive oil every day.

People who ate olive oil were 30% less likely to have a big heart event like a stroke or heart attack than people who ate a low-fat diet.

There are many monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil. These fatty acids may help raise “good” HDL cholesterol and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.

It also has polyphenols, some of which lower inflammation that can lead to heart disease.