4 nondrug ways to lower your cholesterol

Consumer Reports News: October 26, 2010 11:05 AM

Toss in some tofu to lower bad cholesterol levels.

Supplements containing red yeast rice can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol as effectively as some statins. That's actually not surprising, since they contain a naturally occurring form of one of those drugs, lovastatin. But don't choose the supplement over the drug. Red yeast rice poses the same risks as statins do, has no proven advantages over them, and it's hard to make sure you're getting the proper dosage.

But regularly adding significant amounts of the foods listed below to your diet might help lower your LDL level.

Plant stanols and sterols. Nuts, seeds, and whole grains are naturally high in those substances, which inhibit cholesterol absorption from food. Manufacturers now add stanols or sterols to other foods, including Benecol and Take Control margarines, and Minute Maid Premium Heart Wise orange juice. Having two daily servings of the spreads or juice could reduce LDL by 5 to 17 percent.

Soy protein. Getting 25 grams a day of this protein—the amount in two to three servings of foods such as soy milk, soy nuts, and tofu—might lower LDL by up to 10 percent.

Fiber. Any fiber-rich food—whole grains, beans, and produce— slightly lowers LDL cholesterol, possibly by absorbing saturated fat in the gut. But oat bran, psyllium, and possibly barley might be particularly effective, cutting LDL by 5 to 10 percent.

Combo approach. You're more likely to get substantial benefits from the foods listed above if you combine them. Toronto researchers have found that a diet high in soy protein, fiber, and plant sterols reduces LDL and CRP levels as much as a low-dose statin.

If you're taking a statin to lower your cholesterol, take a look at our free Best Buy Drugs report for information on which drug is best for you.

This article first appeared in the November 2010 issue of Consumer Reports On Health.

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