Medicinal Foods That Can Lower Cholesterol

By Michael A. Smith, MD

When I was in medical school, we were taught to treat high cholesterol in one step. We were told to prescribe cholesterol lowering medications. This happened to be right when statin medications were exploding onto the market, generating billions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies.

A cardiologist once told me, “Statin medications will cure heart disease and should be added to the water.” He wasn’t joking and, of course, he was terribly wrong on both issues.

Statin drugs have been prescribed for almost three decades now and heart disease continues to kill more Americans than any other disease. Think about that for a moment. Big Pharma has made billions of dollars selling drugs marketed as the cure for heart disease. Yet, in 2012, heart disease remains our number one killer. What happened?

Well, the answer is twofold. For one, there are many heart disease risk factors, of which high cholesterol is only one. Secondly, taking a drug without making any significant changes to lifestyle is asking a lot from one drug. So what’s missing?

By the Way, Eat Less Fat

Now to be fair to conventional doctors, many of them did advise their patients to eat less saturated fat. Of course, this was more of an afterthought that went something like this, “Oh and by the way eat less fat.” No education. No nutritional consultation. Doctors yesterday and today command their patients to take a statin drug and eat less fat. And people today continue to die. Go figure.

And here’s the kicker: It turns out that the advice to eat less fat may have been wrong anyways. Now, doctors were giving advice they thought was correct. However, new research shows that eating targeted foods known to lower cholesterol may actually work better than just limiting saturated fat from your diet. Let’s take a look at the study.

Medicinal Foods Beat Low Fat Diets

Consuming specific “medicinal” foods known to have a cholesterol-reducing effect are more helpful to reduce LDL-cholesterol than sticking to a low saturated fat diet, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in late 2011.1

In a multicenter trial, 351 men and women with elevated serum lipids were randomized to either a control group who received six months of dietary advice concerning low-saturated fat diets or were placed on a diet rich in foods like plant sterols, soy protein, soluble fibers and nuts — all of which have been associated with lower cholesterol.

While participants who adhered to the low fat control diet experienced a 3% reduction in LDL-cholesterol, those who received the medicinal foods had on average a 13% decrease in “bad” cholesterol. This is an impressive win for food.

The researchers concluded, “This study indicated the potential value of using recognized cholesterol-lowering foods in combination. We believe this approach has clinical application. A meaningful 13% LDL-cholesterol reduction can be obtained after only 2 clinic visits of approximately 60 and 40 minute sessions.”

Targeting Cholesterol with Food

Are you trying to lower your cholesterol? Try a menu similar to the one below for three months and let us know how it works out for you.


  • Sprouted grain cereals
  • Whole grain cereal bars providing 4-6 grams of fiber
  • Protein, like 1 egg, with whole grain toast
  • Greek yogurt with sprouted grains or other whole grains
  • Baked oatmeal with honey
  • Coffee or water

  • Lean proteins, like chicken or fish, with whole grain or high fiber breads and leafy greens
  • Salads with lean proteins and nuts and olive oil vinaigrette
  • Fresh vegetable soup with whole grain bread and dark berries
  • Fresh fruit kebabs, hummus and whole grain crackers
  • White fish marinated in lime juice and Dijon mustard
  • Water or apple cider vinegar with water and stevia or iced tea

  • Baked chicken and wild rice with onion and tarragon
  • Baked salmon with Southeast Asian marinades
  • Grass-fed beef and vegetable kebabs
  • Broiled trout with tomato and red onion relish
  • Broiled white sea bass or any broiled fish with couscous
  • Grilled chicken salad with olives and oranges
  • Mediterranean-style grilled salmon or tuna or any fish
  • Water or apple cider vinegar with water and stevia or red wine or iced tea

  • Nuts like walnuts, almonds and pistachios
  • Fresh fruit cocktail and cottage cheese
  • Baby minted carrots and tomatoes
Please remember that the dishes above simply represent foods with cholesterol-lowering medicinal properties. Play around with the dishes. Add flavor with lots of spices. This is just a starting point!

Do you have any favorite heart-healthy recipes that include medicinal foods? Please share them with us in the comments.


  1. JAMA. 2011 Aug 24;306(8):831-9.


Anonymous said...

It's not just either/or....what about the high cholesterol patient who DOES watch their diet and exercises daily but still has high cholesterol??? I would do anything to get off statins but each time I do, my count skyrockets. It's high even when I take lipitor, exercise SEVEN days a week, and eat a near perfect diet, quite similar to the one you posted in the article. I constantly ask my dr for alternatives, red yeast rice, etc., but nothing else works but statins......I am at a loss.

Life Extension said...

We empathize with your struggle. But sometimes the drugs are necessary. You might want to speak with one of our advisors. Maybe they can help you by making additional supplement suggestions. They can be reached at 1-800-226-2370.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that high cholesterol has anything to do with heart disease. Inflammation, sugar consumption, trans-fat, and low vitamin K2 are the primary causes in my opinion. 60 minutes did a story on the toxic nature of sugar.

Anonymous said...

Dr Stephen Sinatra is a Highly Respected Cardiologists who is a Great one to check in to for info. Watch this 3+ minute video for what I mean(your cholesterol number is pretty much meaningless). <~ What Is a Healthy Cholesterol Level? |

Luis said...

Awesome issues here. I’m very happy to peer your article. Thank you a lot and I am having a look forward to contact you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

Anonymous said...

Red yeast rice is a statin.

Anonymous said...

Red yeast rice did nothing for me.

Life Extension said...

Anonymous - Have you tried anything else?

Faith Camp said...

i have seen people that eat the right stuff, slender, exercise - do everything right and still have high cholesterol - if it is in your genes - nothing helps

Life Extension said...

Faith Camp - You're right. There are people like that, although keeping the right diet could help but not eliminate the cholesterol issues with these people. Supplementation or medication may be necessary in these cases.

Elizabeth J. Neal said...

What a fantabulous post this has been. Never seen this kind of useful post. I am grateful to you and expect more number of posts like these. Thank you very much. Michail

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