According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 12% of adults age 20 or older have high total cholesterol levels. 
Before figuring out why these statistics are disturbing, let’s look into what the standard cholesterol profile includes :
- Quit smoking
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Lose weight
- Take medication prescribed by your healthcare provider
- Adopt diet changes
In fact, diet plays a key role in lowering cholesterol and maintaining its healthy levels!
In this article, we will look at cholesterol lowering diet. You will find a list of 48 different foods that lower cholesterol, as well as foods to avoid when trying to balance cholesterol profile. The article also gives you tips and suggestions about dietary changes and swaps that can help you in your journey to healthy cholesterol levels.
What is a cholesterol balancing diet?
Diet for improving cholesterol profile includes consumption of foods rich in plant sterols, soluble fiber, healthy fats: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (in substitution for saturated and trans fats), and nuts. According to Harvard Health Publishing, individuals eating about 2000 calories per day should aim for consuming specific amounts of the mentioned food groups :
- Soluble fiber: 18 grams per day from whole foods
- Nuts: one handful per day (at best, raw nuts)
- Soy protein: 42.8 grams per day from soy-based foods (More research is still needed to fully support the claim that soy protein improves cholesterol)
- Plant sterols: amount not defined
- Unsaturated fats (e.g., extra virgin olive oil, oily fish, omega-3 fatty acids) : amount not defined
Evidence suggests that 1-month long consumption of all the suggested food groups may lead to lower LDL cholesterol by 22-30%. In the long term (over 6-months consumption of all suggested foods) the LDL cholesterol is likely reduced by 15%. Individual consumption of only one food group (plant sterols, soy protein, soluble fiber foods, and nuts) may reduce the LDL cholesterol by 3-9%. 
One specific heart healthy diet that can be associated with reduced total cholesterol is plant-based diet (including vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, and flexitarian dietary patterns).  This diet may lower the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and promote heart health.
48 Foods that lower cholesterol
Fruits, vegetables, and legumes
- All vegetables (aim for 5 servings- each serving is ½ cup of veggies)
- Oats (specifically oat bran)
- Brazil nuts
- Cashew nuts
- Seeds (e.g., chia seed, sesame seed)
- Olive oil (extra virgin)
- Sunflower oil
- Rapeseed oil
- Canola oil
- Other nut and seed oils
- Edamame beans
Foods fortified with sterols and stanols
- Yogurt drinks
- Fat spreads
Dietary changes to lower cholesterol
Choose lean cuts of meat instead of fatty pieces. Examples include beef round, chuck, sirloin, or loin; pork tenderloin or loin chop; lamb leg, arm, or loin cuts.(limit to not more than 2x/week)
Trim all visible fat left on the meat cuts.
Choose white chicken and turkey over red meat, duck, and goose.
Use skinless poultry or remove the skin before cooking.
Limit processed and deli meat to a minimum (examples include sausage, salami, and ham)
Choose low-fat dairy products instead of full-fat ones.
Choose whole-grain products instead of foods with refined grains and carbs (e.g., whole grain pasta, bread or rice instead of white bread and rice).
Choose grilling, steaming, poaching, and boiling instead of frying/roasting.
Drain off excess fat when roasting, baking and broiling.
Foods to avoid with high cholesterol
According to MedlinePlus, people who aim to lower their cholesterol should limit their consumption of cholesterol (from foods) to less than 200mg a day.  Foods containing cholesterol include:
- Organ meats
- Whole milk
- Whole fat dairy products – I suggest limit as opposed to avoid
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Processed meats and deli meat
- Butter and ghee
- Lard, margarine, shortening
- Hard cheese
- Foods that contain coconut or palm oil
- Processed foods
- Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, fats and tropical oils (palm, palm kernel, and coconut oil)
- Fried foods
- Convenience foods