Soluble fiber, found in foods such as oats, vegetables, and fruits, may help to lower cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that the liver creates. Cholesterol also
The body requires a certain amount of cholesterol to function properly. However, excess cholesterol can cause health problems.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: People refer to LDL cholesterol as “bad” cholesterol, because high levels of LDL cholesterol can collect in the arteries and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: HDL is “good” cholesterol, as it transports LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and returns it to the liver, where the body is able to eliminate it. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol may help protect against cardiovascular disease.
This article looks at the effects of fiber on LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, which type of fiber is best, and which foods may help improve cholesterol levels.
Certain types of fiber can help to lower cholesterol. There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber includes certain fruits, vegetables, oats, and legumes. Insoluble fibers include whole-grain foods, nuts, and seeds.
According to a
Bacteria in the large intestine ferment soluble fiber into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). The addition of SCFA into the gut also helps to lower cholesterol.
If people are taking statins to lower cholesterol, the addition of soluble fiber into the diet may also make statins twice as effective.
Although insoluble fiber does not have the same effects of soluble fiber in lowering cholesterol, it has many health benefits, including:
- supporting healthy digestion
- binding to toxins to eliminate them from the body
- reducing feelings of hunger after eating
- may lower the risk of certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and cardiovascular disease
There are a number of high fiber foods a person can try to help them control their cholesterol levels as part of a balanced diet, including:
Foods high in soluble fiber
Other foods that are high in soluble fiber
- legumes, such as beans and lentils
Whole or milled flaxseed and flaxseed lignans
However, flaxseed oil appears to have no effect on lowering cholesterol.
A 2021 review found strong evidence that tomatoes can help to reduce LDL cholesterol.
Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene. Research suggests that 25 milligrams (mg) of lycopene may help reduce total cholesterol by around 8 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
Almonds and other nuts
Evidence has shown that almonds can reduce LDL cholesterol. Walnuts and hazelnuts may also have small to moderate cholesterol-lowering effects.
Avocados may lead to a moderate to large reduction in lowering LDL cholesterol.
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fatty acids that
Olive oil is a key component of the Mediterranean diet and may have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels.
According to a study in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal
Foods containing phytosterols
Foods containing plant sterols or stanols, or phytosterols, may cause a moderate reduction in LDL cholesterol.
Phytosterols occur in plant-based foods, including:
- vegetable oils and margarine
Certain foods enriched with phytosterols may include:
- fat-based spreads and margarine
- dairy products, such as yogurt, milk, and yogurt drinks
Consuming a minimum of
According to a
Only specific fiber supplements may help to improve cholesterol. Those that contain gel-forming fiber, such as psyllium or beta-glucan, may be effective in lowering high cholesterol. Gel-forming fibers may also help to control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
Fiber supplements with insoluble fiber or non-gel-forming fiber do not have the same benefits. This includes:
- wheat dextrin
- wheat bran
Other steps that may help to lower cholesterol include:
- limit intake of saturated and trans fats, and replace with unsaturated fats, such as olive oil
- increase physical activity, particularly aerobic and resistance exercise, which increases HDL cholesterol
- maintain a healthy weight, to reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol
- limit alcohol, as this can increase triglyceride levels and the risk of heart disease
- avoid smoking, as this can reduce HDL levels and increase plaque buildup in the arteries
- take medications if necessary to lower cholesterol, such as statins
- unfiltered coffee may increase cholesterol levels, so choose filtered or decaffeinated instead
High levels of LDL cholesterol, and low levels of HDL cholesterol, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Soluble fiber can help the body to absorb and eliminate “bad” cholesterol and may lower LDL and total cholesterol levels.
Foods that are high in soluble fiber include oats, barley, legumes, and many fruits and vegetables. Eating a diet high in fiber may be more beneficial to health than fiber supplements, although supplements containing psyllium or beta-glucan may help.