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Other options: Eggplant, okra, apples, and pears are also good choices for soluble fiber.

  1. Oatmeal

Oats have a type of fiber (called beta-glucan) that lowers your LDL cholesterol. One and a half cups of cooked oatmeal or a little over a cup of cooked barley gives you the amount of beta-glucan you need daily to help lower your cholesterol.

Other options: You can also find beta-glucan in barley, shiitake mushrooms, and seaweed.

  1. Olive oil

A cornerstone of the traditional Mediterranean diet, olive oil is a great pick when you need to limit saturated fat (found in meat, whole milk, and butter). Fats from animal products, and trans fats (“partially hydrogenated oils”) raise your “bad” cholesterol and can make fat build up inside your arteries.

Other options:  Canola oil and safflower oil.

  1. Dark Chocolate

Cacao, the plant from which chocolate is made, is rich in flavanols, which can help lower your blood pressure and prevent blood clots. It also acts as an antioxidant, which can keep “bad” cholesterol from sticking to your artery walls.

Choose dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) to get more flavanols and less sugar, Johnson says. (Sugar raises your risk of heart disease.)

Other options: Think beyond the bar. Choose natural cocoa powder over Dutch-processed to get more flavanols. (Check the label to make sure you don’t get too much sugar.) For a totally unsweetened take, try cacao nibs. Add them to your granola.

  1. Avocados

These fruitsget their creamy texture from “good” (monounsaturated) fats, which lower your “bad” cholesterol.

“They also seem to have an anti-inflammatory effect, so you don’t get chronic inflammation that makes atherosclerosis -- the hardening of artery walls -- worse,” Johnson says.

Use mashed avocado as a spread in place of butter, or add cubes of it to salad, or over black bean chili. As delicious as they are, avocados are high in calories, so keep your portions modest.

Other options: Nuts and sunflower oil.

10. Unsalted almond butter

Nut butters are great on whole-grain toast instead of butter. They’re a wonderful source of monounsaturated fatty acids. Use unsalted, natural options to avoid added salt, sugar, and hydrogenated fats found in other forms of peanut butter, Johnson says.

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