Topic Overview

Food can affect the amounts of cholesterol in your blood. Some foods raise cholesterol. Other foods help lower cholesterol.

The table below lists different foods and how they affect
your total cholesterol level, your
HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and your
LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Effects of different foods on your cholesterol

Dietary element


Effect on your cholesterol level

Dietary fiber (soluble)
  • Oats
  • Dried beans
  • Peas
  • Barley
  • Citrus
  • Apples
  • Proved to reduce total cholesterol and

Dietary fiber (insoluble)

  • Whole wheat breads and cereals
  • Beets
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Does not affect cholesterol but promotes healthy bowel movement
Saturated fat
  • Fatty meats (beef, pork)
  • Poultry skin
  • Butterfat (in whole milk, cream, ice
    cream, cheese)
  • Tropical oils (coconut, palm)
  • Raises
  • Little effect on
    HDL or
Monounsaturated fat
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Avocados
  • Walnuts
  • Lowers LDL if substituted for saturated fat
  • Keeps HDL up
Polyunsaturated fat
  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Corn oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Linoleic acid, found in these oils, can lower
    LDL if used in moderation.
Omega-3 fats
  • All fish, especially fatty fish, such as
    salmon and mackerel
  • Plant sources, such as walnuts, canola, and
    flaxseed oils
  • Lowers triglycerides
Trans fats
  • Hydrogenated fats, found in some margarines, vegetable
    shortenings, nondairy creamers, and whipped toppings
  • Snack foods
    (potato chips, cookies, cakes)
  • Peanut butter that contains
    hydrogenated fat (except all-natural varieties)
  • Raises LDL
  • Little effect on HDL
    but at high levels can lower HDL

Soy protein

  • Soybeans
  • Soy products such as tofu
  • Lowers LDL by a small amount
  • No effect on HDL

Plant stanols and sterols

  • Specially labeled margarine
  • Lowers LDL
  • No effect on HDL


Other Works Consulted

  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2005). Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC (NIH Publication No. 06-5235). Available online:
  • Raymond JL, Couch SC (2012). Medical nutrition and therapy for cardiovascular disease. In LK Mahan et al., eds., Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 13th ed., pp. 742-781. St Louis: Saunders.
  • Sacks FM, et al. (2006). Soy protein, isoflavones, and cardiovascular health: An American Heart Association science advisory for professionals from the Nutrition Committee. Circulation, 113(7): 1034-1044. Also available online:


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD – Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O’Brien, MS, RD, CDE – Certified Diabetes Educator
Kathleen M. Fairfield, MD, MPH, DrPH – Internal Medicine

Current as ofOctober 5, 2017