How to Reduce LDL Cholesterol

Medication isn't always needed to reduce "bad" cholesterol

Simple lifestyle changes can sometimes be enough to lower LDL cholesterol back to the normal range. Eating more heart-healthy foods, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking (if applicable) are ones you may have heard of. Other alternative treatments, like taking fenugreek supplements, may come as a surprise.

This article explains how to lower LDL cholesterol with lifestyle changes and alternative remedies. The following 12 options can reduce your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke, and improve your overall heart health.

Ways to Lower Your LDL Cholesterol
Verywell / JR Bee

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Eat Monounsaturated Fats

There are two types of healthy unsaturated fats: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.

According to the American Heart Association, eating monounsaturated fats in moderation reduces LDL cholesterol levels in your blood, lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Foods that are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats include:

  • Olives and olive oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sesame seeds and sesame oil
  • Peanuts
  • Almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans
  • Canola oil
  • Avocados
  • Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil

Like any other food, monounsaturated fats are healthiest when used in moderation. Select foods and oils that are rich in monounsaturated fats as a replacement for those that are high in saturated or trans fats.

Eat Polyunsaturated Fats

The second type of healthy unsaturated fat is polyunsaturated fat. The majority of fats you eat should come from both monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, rather than unsaturated or trans fats.

The American Heart Association states that polyunsaturated fats help reduce LDL cholesterol levels and provide nutrients that protect your cells. Polyunsaturated fats come from plant foods and plant-based oils.

Great sources of polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Sunflower oil
  • Corn oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Flax seeds and flaxseed oil
  • Walnuts
  • Fish
  • Canola oil

Also, omega-3 fatty acids are an important, heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat. Your body doesn't make this essential fatty acid, so you have to get it from food. Fish, flax seeds, and walnuts are all rich sources of this polyunsaturated fat.


Exercise is one of the healthiest lifestyle changes you can make to lower your LDL cholesterol naturally. Aerobic exercises, such as running, cycling, jogging, and swimming, stand the best chance of lowering LDL while also reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Other forms of exercise, such as yoga, walking, and weight-bearing exercises have been shown to modestly decrease LDL levels. However, these activities have not been studied to the same extent as aerobic exercise for lowering cholesterol.

Lose Weight

Being overweight or having obesity puts you at risk for developing high LDL levels and also contributes to heart disease and other chronic medical conditions.

A research study published in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine revealed that people who lost 5% to 10% of their weight significantly reduced their fasting blood sugar, triglycerides, and total cholesterol. The study found that greater weight loss correlated with greater cardiovascular improvements.

You don't have to lose a drastic amount of weight to improve your heart health. Research shows that losing even a small amount of weight (less than five pounds) may help lower your LDL levels.

If My LDL Goes Down After I Lose Weight, Will It Stay That Way?

Even if you lose weight and keep it off, LDL cholesterol levels might go back to what it was before you made these changes. If you're feeling frustrated, remember that there are many other health benefits of weight maintenance and a nutritious diet.

Avoid Smoking

Cigarette smoking is linked to higher cholesterol levels and the formation of a damaging form of LDL called oxidized LDL that contributes to atherosclerosis.

One of the quickest ways to lower your cholesterol is to quit smoking. Research has shown that cholesterol levels drop as soon as you stop smoking.

Each month after quitting, your LDL levels drop even more. After 90 days, the effects of smoking on cholesterol can be reversed quite a lot.

Drink Alcohol Moderately

Although research results are mixed, there is some evidence that light to moderate alcohol consumption—one serving a day for women and one to two servings per day for men—can raise HDL cholesterol levels.

This "good" cholesterol absorbs LDL and carries it back to the liver so it can leave the body, reducing LDL levels. With that being said, drinking more than three alcoholic drinks a day may increase your chances of developing heart disease.

Avoid Trans Fats

Trans fats are an unhealthy type of fat found in many natural and artificial food sources. Small quantities of trans fats are found in the meat and dairy of some ruminant (grass-eating) animals, including cows. Artificial trans fats are commonly used in highly processed, fried, and packaged foods.

Trans fats from artificial foods are known to raise LDL cholesterol, lower HDL cholesterol, and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Less is known about whether natural trans fats come with the same level of risk, but it is still better to avoid them.

You can avoid trans fats by searching for "hydrogenated oils" on ingredient lists. Doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffins, pies, cakes, and other commercially-fried foods are likely to contain trans fat.

Eat Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber is a type of dietary fiber found in plant foods, especially fruits, vegetables, oats, and barley. Sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, whole grains, and legumes are all excellent sources of soluble fiber.

Many studies have proven that consuming plenty of soluble fiber decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease while lowering LDL cholesterol levels. Furthermore, eating fiber can increase the effectiveness of the statin cholesterol medications you may already be taking.

The recommended daily allowance (RDAs) for daily fiber intake is 38 grams per day for adult men and 25 grams per day for adult women.

Take Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV), or just cider vinegar, is a type of vinegar made from fermented apple juice. It is widely regarded for its profile of health benefits, and can even be used to lower LDL cholesterol.

One study published in 2021 investigated the effects of drinking one spoonful (15 mL) of apple cider vinegar per day for eight weeks. By the end of the study, people who drank apple cider vinegar had significant reductions in LDL cholesterol levels.

Keep in mind that apple cider vinegar, like any other healthy substance, should be consumed in moderation. While there are no official recommendations for how much apple cider vinegar to take, it's best to stick to one or two spoonfuls per day.

Too much apple cider vinegar can lead to negative side effects, including hypokalemia, in which potassium levels become dangerously low. If you have low potassium levels to begin with, ask your healthcare provider before using ACV.

Adopt a Plant-Based Diet

Plant-based or vegetarian diets exclude meat and place an emphasis on eating fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains instead. Some vegetarian diets also include dairy products and eggs, while the vegan diet strictly consists of plant foods.

Adopting a plant-based diet is one of the best ways to lower LDL cholesterol, both in the short and long term. Without meat on the table, the foundation of a plant-based diet is plenty of fiber and little to no saturated fat.

Plant-based diets are also naturally rich in phytosterols. These cholesterol-like plant compounds are proven to lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Reduce Meat Intake

Eating meat, especially red meat, increases the risk of high LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, inflammation, and, all together, fatal heart disease.

Across many studies, red meats (like beef, pork, and lamb) have been linked to cardiovascular disease due to their high saturated fat content. Compared to white meats (like chicken and turkey), red meats are particularly unhealthy in terms of cholesterol and cardiovascular risk.

Understandably, if you're used to eating meat, jumping into a purely plant-based diet may be difficult at first. If you must eat meat, try to avoid red meat and opt instead for white meat, extra lean, or lean red meat.

Try Supplements

From fiber to omega-3 fatty acids, you can get most cholesterol-lowering nutrients from foods. Many of those same food nutrients are also available in supplement form and can be used to lower LDL cholesterol naturally.

These supplements can help lower LDL cholesterol:

  • Soluble fiber supplements can contribute to your daily fiber intake.
  • Niacin is a B vitamin that helps raise HDL cholesterol levels. It is often recommended in combination with statin drugs to lower LDL cholesterol.
  • Curcumin is a bright yellow chemical found in turmeric and ginger. It is known to benefit the heart with its LDL cholesterol-lowering properties.
  • Fenugreek can lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol simultaneously. Fenugreek supplements may be especially effective in people with diabetes.
  • Psyllium is a soluble fiber that comes from Plantago seeds. Taking 10 grams of psyllium every day may significantly lower LDL cholesterol within three weeks.
  • Phytosterols are well-regarded for their ability to lower LDL cholesterol. Phytosterol supplements can contribute to the RDA of plant sterols—two grams of plant sterols per day.
  • Garlic can reduce your LDL cholesterol by as much as 9% when taken daily. Garlic supplements may be more effective for this purpose than raw garlic.
  • Red yeast rice contains high levels of a natural statin called monacolin K, making it one of the most effective nutritional supplements for lowering LDL levels. Research shows that monacolin K supplements can lower LDL cholesterol levels by 15% to 25% within eight weeks.
  • Flaxseed supplements are a good option for lowering LDL cholesterol, thanks to their high polyunsaturated fat content.

Supplements are not FDA-regulated to the same degree that drugs are, and some supplements can interfere with medications. If you are considering a supplement to lower your cholesterol, discuss it with your healthcare provider first.


Many natural ways to lower your LDL cholesterol will work best if they become part of your lifestyle for the long term.

Eating well, managing your weight, exercising, quitting smoking, and limiting your alcohol intake can lower your LDL cholesterol levels and help keep them in a healthy range. You can also try taking a supplement like red yeast rice or psyllium to lower LDL cholesterol within weeks.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.