8 drinks that could help lower cholesterol

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Many different types of drinks, including green tea, oat drinks, soy drinks, and plant milk smoothies, contain compounds that may help reduce or manage cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance the body uses to make cells and hormones. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) are two different kinds of cholesterol.

HDL is the “good” type of cholesterol, and it is desirable to raise levels of this type for optimal health. In contrast, LDL is the “bad” type, and lower levels of this can help improve health. Additionally, drinks that raise HDL levels or lower LDL may be helpful.

When cholesterol levels are in excess levels, it increases the risk of serious health conditions, such as stroke or heart attack. However, optimal levels may differ between people.

This article discusses drinks that may help control cholesterol levels, drinks to avoid, and alternative approaches to lower cholesterol levels.

Many types of drinks can help lower or control cholesterol levels. These include:

1. Green tea

Green tea contains catechins and other antioxidant compounds that seem to help lower LDL and total cholesterol levels.

Researchers in a 2020 study examined the effects of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), another beneficial antioxidant in green tea, on human, animal, and in vitro (outside a living organism) models.

In human models, researchers associated higher green tea consumption with lower LDL cholesterol levels. In animal models, EGCG lowered certain enzyme concentration levels and decreased LDL cholesterol levels.

According to research in a 2021 review, black tea may also have positive effects on cholesterol.

2. Soy drinks

Soy is low in saturated fat. Replacing saturated fats with soy products may help reduce or manage cholesterol levels.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends consuming 25 grams (g) per day of soy protein as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol to help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Additionally, it is preferable to consume soy in its whole and minimally processed form with little to no added sugars, salts, and fats.

The organization Heart UK recommends consuming 2–3 servings of soy-based foods or drinks daily, with one serving representing 250 milliliters (mL) of soy milk. People can check the nutrition facts label on soy drinks to check how much soy protein they contain.

3. Oat drinks

Oats contain beta-glucans, which create a gel-like substance in the gut and interact with bile salts. These soluble fibers may inhibit cholesterol absorption and help reduce cholesterol levels.

A 2018 review suggests that oat drinks, such as oat milk, may offer a more consistent reduction in cholesterol than semi-solid or solid oat products. A 250 mL glass of oat milk may provide 1 g of beta-glucans.

People can also check oat drink labels to ensure they contain beta-glucans, which may appear as part of the fiber information, and how much they include per serving.

4. Tomato juice

Tomatoes are rich in a compound called lycopene, which may improve lipid levels and reduce LDL cholesterol.

Research suggests processing tomatoes into juice increases their lycopene content. Tomato juice is also rich in cholesterol-reducing fiber and niacin.

A 2019 study found that unsalted tomato juice helped improve serum LDL cholesterol levels in 260 adults in Japan over a year.

5. Berry smoothies

Many berries are rich in antioxidants and fiber, which may help reduce cholesterol levels.

In particular, anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant agent in berries, can help improve cholesterol levels.

Berries are also low in calories and fat.

To include berries in the diet, people can make a berry smoothie by blending two handfuls — around 80 g — of any berry. Combine the berries with 1/2 cup of low fat milk or yogurt and 1/2 cup of cold water.

Examples of berries include:

6. Drinks containing sterols and stanols

Sterols and stanols are plant chemicals similar in shape and size to cholesterol that block the absorption of some cholesterol.

However, vegetables and nuts contain low levels of sterols and stanols that cannot lower cholesterol. Companies may add these ingredients to drinks, such as:

The FDA states that most people should try to consume 1.3 g or more of sterols and 3.4 g of stanols per day.

Individuals can try to consume these sterols and stanols with a meal that contains saturated fat for effectiveness.

7. Cocoa drinks

Cocoa is the main ingredient in dark chocolate. It contains antioxidants that doctors call flavanols that may improve cholesterol levels.

According to a 2022 review, cocoa products can reduce LDL and total cholesterol, although they may not significantly affect HDL cholesterol levels.

However, drinks containing processed chocolate can have high levels of saturated fats. People may wish to limit chocolate with added sugars, salts, and fats.

8. Plant milk smoothies

Many types of plant-based milk contain ingredients that may help lower or control cholesterol levels. People can make a smoothie base using soy milk or oat milk.

A person can make a soy or oat smoothie by blending 250 mL of soy or oat milk with cholesterol-lowering fruits or vegetables, such as:

People who wish to improve their cholesterol levels or maintain moderate levels may wish to avoid drinks high in saturated fats, such as:

  • coffee or tea with cream, high fat milk, or creamer
  • drinks or smoothies containing coconut or palm oils
  • pressed coconut drinks
  • ice-cream-based drinks
  • high fat milk products

Drinking more than 12 ounces of sugary drinks per day may also reduce HDL levels and increase triglyceride levels, or levels of fat in the bloodstream.

Alcohol and cholesterol

Some research suggests that low to moderate alcohol consumption could be more beneficial for heart health than not drinking at all. Moderate alcohol consumption may help increase HDL cholesterol levels.

However, the effects that alcohol can have on cholesterol levels may depend on factors that include how much someone drinks, their age and sex, and the type of alcohol they consume.

Additionally, heavy drinking increases cholesterol, and consuming alcohol carries so many health risks that its adverse effects may outweigh its benefits.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol levels:

  • limiting foods high in saturated fats and trans fats, including red meat and whole dairy products
  • limiting foods high in sugar or salt
  • eat nutritious foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week
  • quitting smoking, if applicable
  • maintaining a moderate body weight

Doctors can also prescribe medications, such as statins, to help keep cholesterol levels healthy.

The AHA recommends that most adults check their cholesterol levels and any other heart disease risk factors roughly every 4–6 years. As long as their risk remains low, they can continue with checks at this frequency.

People can work with a healthcare professional to determine whether they should check their cholesterol levels more or less frequently.

A healthcare professional can check a person’s cholesterol levels with a simple blood test.

If someone has high cholesterol, their doctor may suggest lifestyle changes. If these adjustments do not sufficiently lower cholesterol levels, a doctor may also prescribe medication, such as statins.

A person can also work with a registered dietitian to ensure they eat a balanced diet.

Below are answers to common questions about drinks and cholesterol levels.

What drink reduces cholesterol quickly?

There is no single drink that will reduce cholesterol levels immediately. However, doctors may suggest dietary changes, such as replacing full fat dairy products with soy alternatives, to lower cholesterol.

These changes may make a difference over a matter of weeks, but every person is different, so the extent of lifestyle changes is variable, and the effects may take longer for some people.

Does lemon water lower cholesterol?

According to a 2021 review, research suggests lemon juice may lower LDL cholesterol levels and increase HDL cholesterol levels in animal models. However, further research is necessary to prove this effect in humans.

What is the best juice to lower cholesterol?

Certain fruit juices, including tomato juice, may help lower cholesterol levels as part of a balanced diet.

However, some fruit juices may contain added ingredients, such as sugar. The AHA suggests that regularly consuming sugar-sweetened drinks may have an adverse effect on cholesterol levels.

Maintaining cholesterol levels is vital to overall health, particularly cardiovascular health. As part of a balanced diet, drinks that may help improve cholesterol levels include soy milk, tomato juice, and green tea.

However, there is no quick-fix way to reduce cholesterol levels. It may take weeks or months for lifestyle or dietary changes to have an effect.

People can speak with a doctor to arrange cholesterol level testing and plan lifestyle changes, such as a balanced diet.

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