19 Delicious Foods That Help Lower Cholesterol

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The China Study" by Colin Campbell. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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What are the foods that help lower cholesterol, fast? What you eat matters, especially if you have high cholesterol. A low-cholesterol diet plan can help you get your blood cholesterol levels under control.

We’ll cover what kinds of foods to avoid to keep your cholesterol levels in check, and what cholesterol-reducing foods to add to your diet.

Foods to Avoid to Lower Cholesterol

Before looking at the best foods to lower cholesterol, it’s important to know what foods increase blood cholesterol, and why. Animal protein leads to high blood cholesterol.

There is no safe level of cholesterol in the blood. If virtually any amount of cholesterol in the blood is bad, how do we decrease it?

Low-Cholesterol Diet Plan

Your low-cholesterol diet plan should include lots of plant foods and limited (or no) animal foods. In one study, plant foods were correlated with decreasing levels of blood cholesterol and animal foods were correlated with increasing levels of blood cholesterol.

Of all the dietary factors, animal protein had the strongest association with increased blood cholesterol. Eating saturated fat and cholesterol in foods also strongly increased levels, but not as dramatically as eating animal protein.

Why were Chinese cholesterol levels so much lower than American cholesterol levels in the study? Because in rural China, people only eat an average of 7.1 grams of animal protein a day. That’s the amount of protein in three McDonald’s chicken nuggets. For comparison, in America, people eat an average of 70 grams of animal protein a day.

Researchers concluded that cutting down on animal proteins was the most effective way to lower your blood cholesterol and, therefore, your risk of numerous diseases of affluence.

Milk Protein and Cholesterol

In one study, researchers fed casein (a milk protein) to rats, rabbits, and pigs. They found that casein alone, independent of fat and dietary cholesterol, raised the animals’ blood cholesterol levels. Does cheese cause high cholesterol? It contains casein, so it’s possible that milk and dairy products like cheese contribute to high cholesterol levels.

Conversely, feeding animals soy protein dramatically decreased their blood cholesterol levels, and human studies have indicated that eating plant protein has even more power to decrease cholesterol levels than decreasing fat or dietary cholesterol intake.

Don’t Eat These

Foods and nutrients that were shown to increase blood cholesterol included:

  • Animal protein
  • Fat
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Meat
  • Fish

Cholesterol-Reducing Foods: What the Research Says

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn

Esselstyn’s prescription of small amounts of cholesterol-lowering medication combined with a plant-based diet has gotten some of the best results ever recorded in the treatment of this disease. Esselstyn used foods that help lower cholesterol as the primary course of treatment.

In a study he began in 1985, Esselstyn instructed his patients with advanced heart disease to avoid meat, fish, oil and most dairy products. (Five years into the program, Esselstyn changed his recommendation to no dairy products.)


Over five years, cholesterol dropped from an average of 246 mg/dL to 132 mg/dL, far below the generally recommended 150 mg/dL target. This low-cholesterol diet plan was as or more effective than medication. It turns out that diet can be an effective high cholesterol treatment.

Best Foods That Help Lower Cholesterol

Eat these cholesterol-reducing foods to lower cholesterol, fast.

Foods and nutrients that have been shown to decrease blood cholesterol include:

  • Plant protein: Eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains.
  • Fiber: Eat broccoli, almonds, beans, bananas, and oranges.
  • B-vitamins: Eat whole grains, leafy vegetables, seeds, and legumes.
  • Legumes: Eat black beans, soybeans, chickpeas, lima beans, and lentils.
  • Fruit: Eat bananas, apples, oranges, and berries.
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Some grains: Eat oats, brown rice, and bulgur.

Following a diet plan full of these foods that help lower cholesterol can keep you healthy and reduce your need for medication.

19 Delicious Foods That Help Lower Cholesterol

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of "The China Study" at Shortform . Learn the book's critical concepts in 20 minutes or less .

Here's what you'll find in our full The China Study summary :

  • Why animal proteins (meat, milk) might cause cancer, diabetes, and other diseases
  • Why the medical institution is structured to hide the truth about disease and food
  • The precise diet you'll need to eat to live longer and feel happier

Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn is a writer and reading specialist. She’s published dozens of articles and book reviews spanning a wide range of topics, including health, relationships, psychology, science, and much more. Amanda was a Fulbright Scholar and has taught in schools in the US and South Africa. Amanda received her Master's Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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