The Best Cholesterol-Lowering Food: Cruciferous Vegetables

The best cholesterol-lowering food is as close as the crisper. From kale to cabbage, these Brassica family veggies deserves a starring role on your plate.

Cholesterol-lowering food

Many studies have shown that eating foods from the Brassica family helps to significantly lower cholesterol levels in both healthy subjects and patients with high cholesterol.

When it comes to cholesterol-lowering food, you can’t go wrong with cruciferous vegetables of the Brassica family. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and Brussel’s sprouts contain many valuable nutrients for the human body, and even fight cancer and heart disease.[1]

What Makes Cruciferous Vegetables so Powerful?

Cruciferous vegetables are high in fiber, which is known to help fight high cholesterol.[2] They are also high in polyphenols, which have many disease-fighting properties: They fight inflammation, lower blood sugar, have anti-cancer properties, and they are considered cholesterol-lowering food. There are over 40 phenolic compounds identified in the cruciferous vegetables of the Brassica family, which make them a potent source of these valuable compounds.[3]

The ability of cruciferous vegetables to bind to bile acids is also important. The liver produces bile, which is stored by the gallbladder. When we eat, this bile is released by the gallbladder to emulsify, digest, and absorb fats. Cruciferous vegetables efficiently bind to bile acids, causing them to be excreted by the body instead of being reabsorbed. The body must then use cholesterol stores to replace the lost bile acids, resulting in a decrease in cholesterol levels.[1]

The red coloration of many cruciferous vegetables is also significant. Anthocyanins are compounds that cause the red and purple coloring of many kales, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables.[3] A study found that when an extract from red cabbage rich in anthocyanin was administered to rats, it reduced cholesterol levels, even when the rats were fed high-cholesterol diets.[4]

Research Shows Cholesterol Reduction

Many studies have shown that eating foods from the Brassica family helps to significantly lower cholesterol levels in both healthy subjects and patients with high cholesterol. One study found that healthy volunteers given a beverage of mixed green vegetable and fruit two times a day for three weeks showed a significant decrease in LDL (the bad cholesterol) levels. The green drink was made primarily of broccoli and cabbage. A follow-up study found that patients with high cholesterol saw a reduction in LDL levels after drinking the test beverage for 12 weeks.[2] Another study found that supplementation with kale juice in men with high cholesterol led to a 10% reduction in LDL cholesterol levels.[5]

Whether you like green drinks, prefer raw veggies, or make broccoli for dinner, incorporating cholesterol-lowering food into your diet is a simple way to fight high cholesterol. Try making a habit of using these veggies on a daily basis to experience the benefits of cruciferous vegetables.

Check out a recipe for quick and easy kale chips to get started. Or try delicious roasted broccoli (recipe below.) Roasting broccoli enhances its sweetness and gives it a pleasing texture.

Roasted Broccoli

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches of fresh broccoli
  • 4 T olive oil (or enough to coat the broccoli)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 peeled garlic cloves or diced garlic
  • ¼ C dairy or vegan parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Cut the broccoli into florets. Make sure they are thoroughly dry after washing.
  3. Toss with the broccoli with the oil, salt, pepper and garlic.
  4. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes. When it’s done, it will be crispy on the tips of the florets.
  5. Squeeze lemon juice over the top and sprinkle with cheese.

Share Your Experience

What are your favorite recipes for cooking with cruciferous vegetables? What other dietary tips do you have for lowering cholesterol? Let us know in the comments section below.

This post originally appeared in 2014 and has been updated.


[1] Nutr Res. 2008 Jun;28(6):351-7.

[2] J Agric Food Chem. 2002 May 22;50(11):3346-50.

[3] Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2012 Nov;34(3):783-90.

[4] J Sci Food Agric. 2012 Jun;92(8):1688-93.

[5] Biomed Environ Sci. 2008 Apr;21(2):91-7.

 

Comments
  • Cruciferous vegetables are also an excellent source of sulphur, which is very important but often overlooked nutrient. I won’t go into the details here, but you can do a web search for “cruciferous sulphur” to learn more all about its role in things like detoxification, cancer prevention and the overall health of our immune systems.

    One of my favorite cruciferous vegetables is red cabbage, for one thing because unlike most fresh veggies it keeps, like, forever. I always have a head in my vegetable drawer, and eat some maybe three times a week. But what on earth do I do with it? Well, I have some kind of lightly steamed green leafies with my dinner absolutely every day, and I often just toss in some coarsely chopped red cabbage to steam along with it. Not only does it taste good, it also adds a bit of interesting color which to me just makes my leafies appear all the more appetizing.

    Reply
  • I love mixing red cabbage with cilantro, avodado, lime, salt, and yogurt to use on fish or chicken. It’s delicious and I love the beauty of the purple and green.

    Reply

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