What is the best food for lowering cholesterol?


If you’re thinking Cheerios, think again.

If you ask the average American on the street to name the best food for lowering cholesterol, my guess is that 50% or more would say Cheerios. That’s because General Mills has built that brand as the heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering brand — I mean, look at the carton. And they have spent a lot of money producing some terrific ads — emotional scenes with children that we all remember.

Now, I am not picking on Cheerios, because compared to most of the “junk food” on the cereal aisle these days, it’s really not that bad. But it is a processed food, even though they use whole grain oats. And the ingredient list also includes the following in addition to the oats: modified corn starch, sugar, salt, tripotassium phosphate, wheat starch, and mixed tocopherols. By contrast, my Old Fashioned Oatmeal has one ingredient: whole grain rolled oats.

One ingredient: Whole grain rolled oats. Just look at the ingredient list; there are many brands that have that same single ingredient. Cheerio's is not one of them.

The problem is that most people get virtually all of their nutritional information from their TV’s and from the front of the food packages they buy. But, with the latest CNN Special, “The Last Heart Attack,” more books like The China Study, and informational videos like the one described below; the word is beginning to get out there about the ultra-simplicity of the most nutritious diet possible. It can be summed up in two words: whole plants. And if you eat enough of them, you can protect yourself against virtually all diseases and reverse most of the ones you might already have.

CNN recently produced a video about foods that lower cholesterol best, citing information from a recent study in Canada that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). There is a link to that short video below (it does have a 30-second ad at the beginning.) But here’s the primary information:

  • There were two groups of people in the study; all had cholesterol levels between 243 and 263.
  • One group was told to eat a low fat diet that included dairy as well as fruits and vegetables.
  • The other group was told to eat foods that were known to reduce cholesterol: a list that included ONLY plant-based foods, mostly whole and unprocessed.
  • The “Low Fat” group reduced their bad cholesterol 3%.
  • The “Whole Plant-based” group was almost five times as successful in reducing theirs: an average of 14%.

Leveraging the simple, yet powerful concept of maximizing the percent of your calories from whole plant foods -- still in nature's package

In our own 4-Leaf Program, we have build on the simplicity of maximizing the percent of your calories from whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods. Since we established 80% or better as the “4-Leaf Level,” some people call it the 80-20 diet.

But whatever you call it, if you’re getting over 80% of your calories from a broad range of whole plant-based foods, you will be eating a very healthy diet. And even though you can eat all you want, your body will take care of finding it’s ideal weight. 

If you like what you see here, you may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

If you’d like to order our book on Amazon,  visit our BookStore now.

—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com

PS: Occasionally an unauthorized ad may appear beneath a blog post. It is controlled by WordPress (a totally free hosting service). I do not approve or personally benefit whatsoever from any ad that might ever appear on this site. I apologize and urge you to please disregard. 

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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3 Responses to What is the best food for lowering cholesterol?

  1. maule5662h says:

    Nutrition from plants lowers cholesterol. Don’t add statins to get even lower! This is a big subject. Go to http://www.spacedoc.com to hear of the huge harms from statins, also read “Overdosed America.” Do not follow SpaceDoc (Dr. Duane Graveline) advice on nutrition, though!

  2. Salvatore Liggieri says:

    Where did the 20% non-plant food concept come from? What is the rationale for 20%, why not 15%, 10%, 5%. Who is right, MacDougall, Fuhrman, Barnard, Hicks? It’s all confusing.

    • jmorrishicks says:

      Sal, thanks for your question. First of all, our entire 4-Leaf concept (See our 4-Leaf Page) was created to simplify and consolidate all of the confusing advice that was floating around out there. So we decided to base our program on the “common ground” that all of the “veggie docs” seemed to agree on. Therefore, the foundation of 4-Leaf was based on the “common ground wisdom” of Campbell, Esselstyn, Ornish, Fuhrman, McDougall and Barnard. While they may disagree among themselves on a few minor points, they all agree that we should maximize the percent of our calories from whole, plant-based foods.

      So why did we choose 80% as the threshold for our 4-Leaf Level? Primarily to remove the “all or nothing” mentality from our thinking and adding a bit of flexibility to the equation. There is nothing magic about 80% or 85%; we just thought that 80% was a reasonable number and most people are already familiar with the old 80-20 rule. Since most people simply don’t like the “all or nothing” approach, we were striving to create something that would seem reasonable to everyone, while still comprising a powerful, health-promoting diet-style.

      By shooting for 80% or more of your calories from whole plants, you will be getting fifteen times as much of these nutritious foods than the average American, you will be eating a health-promoting diet, and your body will seek its ideal weight. As for the 20% non-plant, we have never recommended consuming ANY animal products. The 20% is for all calories that are not WHOLE plants, still in nature’s package.

      These foods would include all bread, all pasta, potato chips, tofu, olive oil, cookies, breath mints, sugary cereals, wine, beer and scotch, to name a few. So why not whole grain bread and pasta? We’re not saying that they’re harmful like meat or dairy, we’re just saying that they’re not as nutritious as the whole, unprocessed plant. Further, we have observed that vegetarians who load up on these type of foods never seem to achieve the results they were seeking.

      So what about the guy that chooses to eat a little cheese and salmon in his 20%? He will still be eating a health-promoting diet that is far superior to that of his fellow American. He will very likely reverse whatever heart disease he has and will improve his overall well-being in countless ways. And I believe that all of the doctors mentioned above would agree with that statement. Dr. McDougall says that he has a little turkey on Thanksgiving; therefore he is not a vegetarian. As for me, I never buy any animal products and I never order any from a restaurant menu. But I did have a few bites of my salmon entree at the Harvard Club in New York, where I was the guest speaker at the New York Rotary.

      A new friend Hunter in Florida likes to call our 4-Leaf Program the “80-20 diet.” Take a look at his comment dated 8-29-11 on our Comments Page. Right now, it is the first comment listed, followed by a comment by Dr. Campbell. In Hunter’s case, if I had told him that he needed to be 100% vegan, he would probably not have found that prospect very attractive and would have made no changes in his diet; and would have had a zero increase in whole plant calories. By going the “80-20” route, he has increased his consumption of these foods by at least ten fold.Be well, J. Morris Hicks

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