Oatmeal and oat bran: Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad" cholesterol. Soluble fiber is also found in such foods as kidney beans, apples, pears, psyllium, barley and prunes. Soluble fiber appears to reduce the absorption of cholesterol in your intestines. Ten grams or more of soluble fiber a day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol. Eating 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal provides 6 grams of fiber. If you add fruit, such as bananas, you'll add about 4 more grams of fiber. To mix it up a little, try steel-cut oatmeal or cold cereal made with oatmeal or oat bran.
Walnuts, almonds and more: Rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, walnuts also help keep blood vessels healthy and elastic. Almonds appear to have a similar effect, resulting in a marked improvement within just four weeks. A cholesterol-lowering diet in which 20 percent of the calories come from walnuts may reduce LDL cholesterol by as much as 12 percent. But all nuts are high in calories, so a handful (no more than 2 ounces or 57 grams) will do.
Fish and omega-3 fatty acids: Research has supported the cholesterol-lowering benefits of eating fatty fish because of its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids also help the heart in other ways such as reducing blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. Doctors recommend eating at least two servings of fish a week. The highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are in mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon. However, to maintain the heart-healthy benefits of fish, bake or grill it. If you don't like fish, you can also get omega-3 fatty acids from foods like ground flaxseed or canola oil. If you decide to take a supplement, just remember to watch your diet and eat lean meat or vegetables in place of fish.
Olive oil: Olive oil contains a potent mix of antioxidants that can lower your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol but leave your "good" (HDL) cholesterol untouched. The Food and Drug Administration recommends using about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil a day to get its heart-healthy benefits. To add olive oil to your diet, you can saute vegetables in it, add it to a marinade, or mix it with vinegar as a salad dressing. Some research suggests that the cholesterol-lowering effects of olive oil are even greater if you choose extra-virgin olive oil, meaning the oil is less processed and contains more heart-healthy antioxidants. But avoid "light" olive oils.
Foods fortified with plant sterols or stanols: Foods are now available that have been fortified with sterols or stanols — substances found in plants that help block the absorption of cholesterol. Margarines, orange juice and yogurt drinks fortified with plant sterols can help reduce LDL cholesterol by more than 10 percent. The amount of daily plant sterols needed for results is at least 2 grams — which equals about two 8-ounce (237 milliliters) servings of plant sterol-fortified orange juice a day. The American Heart Association recommends foods fortified with plant sterols for people with levels of LDL cholesterol over 160 milligrams per deciliter (4.1 mmol/L).
Mayo Clinic, May 2008 - For complete article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/CL00002
An excellent snack or breakfast bar that is fortified with plant sterols are the gourmet wellness bars from Kardea Nutrition. While many snacks enriched with plant sterols have minimal amounts of plant sterols, each Kardea bar has 1g of plant sterols, along with 7g of fiber and protein, in only 150 calories. The bars come in four flavors and really satisfy the need for crunch and texture. They're available at many health food stores and online at