High cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease and other lifestyle diseases. Before you reach for the meds, talk to your doctor about trying to alter your diet instead. These cholesterol-lowering recipes can help!
How I Lowered My Cholesterol with Diet Alone
When I was 25, I went in for a routine physical and learned that my cholesterol was shockingly high: in the upper-200s. This actually wasn’t the first time a doctor had flagged my cholesterol levels. High cholesterol runs in my family, and it’s something that I have dealt with on and off since childhood.
At this appointment, though, the doctor suggested putting me on statins. For the rest of my life. Did I mention that I was 25?
That suggestion seemed wild to me, so I pushed back, asking if I could have some time to address the issue with diet, rather than pills. I was pescatarian back then and decided to cut out eggs and dairy and cut back on eating fried foods. I eventually eliminated fish, as well, going 100 percent vegan.
At my three-month followup, my cholesterol was in the normal range, and 14 years later, it remains that way.
Of course, my success is only one case. While there is evidence that changing your diet can help get cholesterol under control, you should definitely be working with your doctor, getting regular cholesterol tests to make sure that things are improving.
If you want to try to control your cholesterol with diet, it can seem daunting, especially if you eat the Standard American Diet or tend to center your plate on meat in general. These cholesterol-lowering recipes are meant to jumpstart your journey to heart-healthy eating.
A plant-based diet was my key to lower cholesterol, and it turns out there are specific plant-based foods that are cholesterol-lowering powerhouses. These recipes incorporate those foods deliciously!
1. Pressure Cooker Baba Ghanoush
This flavorful eggplant dip is great for snacking with your favorite veggies. It’s a healthy spread to use in sandwiches and wraps. Eggplant is a great source of cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. You may be worried about the teaspoon of salt in this recipe, but don’t panic! The salt helps “sweat” the eggplant, removing its bitterness. Once that process is done, you rinse the salt away. Be as thorough as you can, so you’ll end up with a low-salt dip.
2. Pumpkin Spice Overnight Oatmeal
Oats are also packed with soluble fiber, so this is a great way to sneak in some fiber goodness first thing in the morning. Instead of refined sugar, this recipe gets its sweetness from bananas, which bring even more fiber to the table.
3. Roasted Eggplant and Barley Salad
Packed with veggies, fiber-rich whole grains and heart-healthy olive oil, this cholesterol-lowering recipe works great as a side dish or an entree. Just omit the feta cheese or use homemade vegan feta. This salad also delicious the next day, so bring those leftovers for lunch!
4. Kidney Bean Curry
Beans are also packed with soluble fiber, making them excellent at keeping cholesterol in check. Serve this flavorful curry over your favorite whole grain for even more cholesterol-lowering power.
5. Whole Roasted Okra
Unlike boiled okra, roasted okra isn’t slimy. But it is rich in soluble fiber, making it excellent at lowering cholesterol. Serve this up as a side dish with your favorite plant-based proteins. It would be lovely alongside the kidney bean curry listed above.
6. Oil-Free Sage and Walnut Pesto
Not only have nuts been proven to lower cholesterol by about five percent (if you eat two ounces per day), but they are also delicious. This oil-free, plant-based pesto is perfect tossed with whole grain pasta or as a spread on sandwiches and wraps.
7. Black Bean Soup
Black bean soup is one of my favorite cold-weather dishes. It can be a meal on its own, or you can serve it with your favorite whole grain and a side of veggies. Like kidney beans, black beans are rich in soluble fiber.
8. Fermented Almond Farmers
Think that cutting dairy means no cheese? No way! Vegan cheese has come a long way, baby, and this almond-based cheese is living proof. What a delicious way to get that two-ounce serving of nuts into your diet!
9. Cashew Queso
I told you that cheese wasn’t off the table! This cashew-based queso is kid- and omnivore-approved and a great source of cholesterol-lowering nuts, olive oil and even some sneaky veggies. Serve it up as a dip with baked tortilla chips and veggies, use it as a spread for sandwiches or dollop it onto your next taco or burrito bowl.
10. Cinnamon-Apple Steel Cut Oats
Your pressure cooker makes fiber-packed steel cut oats in record time. On top of the oats, this recipe is sweetened with apples, which are an excellent source of cholesterol-lowering pectin. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can use this guide to translate the directions to the stovetop.
11. Chickpea Salad Sandwich
This recipe combines beans with the pectin-packed power of grapes! If you aren’t wild about buying vegan mayo, you can try this tofu-based vegan mayo instead. Tofu and other whole soy foods also have cholesterol-lowering benefits.
12. Sesame-Coated Tofu with Spicy Broccoli
Like I mentioned above, soy has also been shown to lower cholesterol, and this healthy tofu recipe is a great way to get more soy into your day. Worried that soy is bad for your health? Don’t! Dr. Holly Wilson does a great job busting the soy myths that the meat and dairy industries have been feeding us for decades.