Cholesterol is an essential, waxy compound critical to healthy living. It stabilizes cellular membranes as well as acts as the backbone structure of steroidal hormones and vitamin D analogs (1),(2),(3).
However, the imbalance between the “good” and “bad” cholesterol can raise serious health concerns. In a simplified classification, cholesterol can be divided into Low-Density Lipoprotein(LDL) and High-Density Lipoprotein(HDL)(4).
LDL cholesterol is often classified as “bad,” while HDL receives the “good” guy tag. Consuming too much LDL cholesterol may increase your risk of atherosclerosis, stroke, coronary heart disease, and other conditions (5).
Watching your cholesterol levels
Diet plays a critical role in determining the level of cholesterol in the blood. Foods high in saturated and trans fats will significantly increase cholesterol levels(6). Ultra-processed snacks often have too much salt and saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol in the blood.
Luckily, there’s a better way to snack without significantly raising your cholesterol levels.
This article will explore 13 different types of low cholesterol snacks that will keep you feeling full while satisfying your craving for something tasty.
13 top low cholesterol snacks
1. Unsweetened Air-Popped Popcorn
Air-popped, unbuttered popcorn is an excellent cholesterol-friendly snack. It’s low in saturated fats, which only add up to 0.634g per 100g serving. Air-popped popcorn has zero cholesterol (7).
Additionally, the kernels are rich in dietary fiber that can help lower cholesterol levels (8). Research shows that soluble fibers can reduce LDL and total cholesterol in the blood. With approximately 1g of fiber per serving, 3 cups of air-popped popcorn can provide nearly 10% of the recommended daily intake of 25 g of fiber (9).
You may lose all these benefits if you add oil or butter to the popcorn. Popping in oil increases the saturated fat content to 5.03g while buttering the popcorn raises the levels to 14.8g (10),(11).
2. Hummus Dip With Baby Carrots
Hummus dips are a popular, Middle-Eastern garnish with low cholesterol. You can make a homemade spread from chickpeas, tahini, and lemon. The dish has no cholesterol and is an excellent source of vital minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium(11).
To make hummus at home, combine chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini (sesame seed butter), lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste if desired. Serve with fresh vegetables such as baby carrots for dipping.
3. Sliced Cucumbers with Greek Yogurt Dip
This low-cholesterol snack is a simple way to get your daily dose of healthy fats and minerals. Cucumbers are low in calories and fats, making them an excellent snack for individuals worried about their cholesterol levels.
For a 100g unpeeled cucumber, the USDA estimates you can receive (12):
- Carbs: 1.1g
- Protein: 0.4g
- Total fat: 0g
- Calcium: 54 mg
- Potassium 112 mg
- Zinc 0.11mg
You can add flavor to your cucumber slices by dipping them in greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is a protein-rich daily product with extremely low cholesterol levels (13). You can prepare your mid-morning snack with:
- Sliced, unpeeled cucumbers
- One cup of low-fat plain Greek yogurt
- Two tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley leaves
You can also toss in some pepperoni for extra flavor.
4. Citrus Avocado Salad
Avocados are nutrient-packed sources of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. Scientists believe that avocados have a moderate LDL-cholesterol-lowering effect. The monounsaturated fats in the fruit substitute saturated fatty acids responsible for an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (14).
One avocado serving(100g) may offer 9.8g of healthy unsaturated fats, 160 kcal, and zero cholesterol (15). You may also dress the avocado salad with the citrus fruit in season (oranges, tangerines, or grapefruit, for example). You may also decide to season with pepper and salt.
5. Roasted Edamame with Salt
Roasted edamame is a great snack for kids and adults alike. It’s high in protein and low in calories, fat, and sodium. This tasty treat also contains many other nutrients like iron, calcium, and folate, which are important for maintaining good health (16).
Soy protein, found in large quantities in edamame, is thought to reduce LDL cholesterol. One study review proposed that consuming 25g of soy protein reduced LDL cholesterol by 4-5%(). Edamame is also rich in dietary fiber, which can help lower total cholesterol levels (17, 18).
Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth or want something more substantial than just the raw soybeans (which can be quite bland), adding salt will add flavor to your meal while keeping it healthy.
6. Apple Slices With Almond Butter
For the moments you don’t have the luxury of preparing a homemade salad, apple slices dipped in almond butter can help keep things simple and healthy.
Almond butter is made from almonds, which are full of monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol levels. For every 100g serving, you can obtain 34.6 g of monounsaturated fats (19).
Besides, almond butter is a good protein source and high in vitamin E and magnesium. These nutrients help lower cholesterol levels, which can benefit your heart health.
Apples are a rich source of fiber and various other essential nutrients, such as vitamin C.
7. Roasted Garbanzo Beans
The chickpeas or garbanzo bean cans in your pantry may be a hidden low-cholesterol snack gem. Roasted in the oven, you can transform the chickpeas into a savory, crispy snack.
Every 100g serving contains 140 kcal, 8.8g of protein, and 2.59g of total fat. The low lipid profile makes the roasted snack an ideal solution for individuals looking to lower their cholesterol intake (20).
You can start by opening the cans of chickpeas and draining the excess water with a strainer. Rinse thoroughly before drying them with clean paper towels. Spread them over a baking sheet before sprinkling some olive oil and salt.
Roast the beans for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. You can play around with spices within your home to attain the desired flavor.
8. Trail Mix Snack Packs
A trail mix is a mixture of nuts, dried fruit, and other healthy ingredients that can be made at home or bought in a store. The great thing about trail mix is that you can customize it to suit your taste by choosing different types of nuts and dried fruits.
Trail mix contains protein, fiber, healthy fats, and minerals such as copper and magnesium that help lower cholesterol levels in the body. Nuts and seeds have huge amounts of monounsaturated lipids of up to 24.9g per 100g serving (21), depending on the ingredients chosen.
Your trail mix can include:
- Unblanched almonds
- Unsalted sunflower seeds
- Dried apricots
- Pumpkin seeds
You may need to moderate your consumption to avoid excessive calorie intake.
9. Whole Grain Toast With Guacamole
Looking to lower your cholesterol intake doesn’t have to lead to missing out on the much-needed calories. Whole grain bread is rich in fiber, which can help lower LDL and total cholesterol levels.
You can also prepare guacamole spread to create a nutrient-rich punch for your morning snack. Avocados have high quantities of monounsaturated fats that help lower cholesterol levels(22).
You can prepare a simple guacamole dip by mixing a ripe avocado, chopped onion, garlic, and fresh cilantro.
10. Mixed Berry Smoothie With Almond Milk
Fruit smoothies are a naturally sweet and refreshing way to enjoy your mid-day snack. Even better, it takes you less than 5 minutes to prepare.
You can toss some frozen mixed berries, bananas, chia seeds, and almond milk into your blender for a creamy treat. Bananas are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which can assist in lowering cholesterol. Besides, they have zero cholesterol (23).
Almond milk has no saturated fats and is rich in several vitamins and minerals. Observational studies show that almond oil is closely associated with a favorable lipid profile and lower cardiovascular risk (24),(25).
11. Tuna Lettuce Wraps
You can roll yourself tuna lettuce for a healthy afternoon bite. The fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids reduce triglycerides and other LDL cholesterol compounds. The findings indicate a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks (26).
You can prepare a tuna lettuce wrap by combining the tuna, celery, onion, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir with a fork. Arrange a leaf of lettuce over a tortilla wrap before arranging the tuna salad over the lettuce. Fold two opposite ends of the wrap and start rolling to form your tuna tortilla.
12. Roasted Okra Chips
Okra is a low-calorie vegetable, richly packed with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. The plant is an excellent source of magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K. One cup serving has zero cholesterol, making it a perfect low-cholesterol snack (27).
You can convert the ‘ladies’ fingers’ into a delicious snack by roasting them in your oven. To add texture, you can rinse the okra before marinating them in salt and vinegar. Place them on a baking sheet and place them in an oven preheated at 400 degrees.
13. Oatmeal Bars
Are you searching for a chewy, nutritious snack for your morning? Oatmeal bars may be the perfect go-to low-cholesterol snacks. Homemade bars are easy to bake and will only take less than an hour to prepare.
Scientists believe that consuming oat products significantly reduces plasma cholesterol levels, thus modulating cardiovascular disease risk. The findings are tied to Beta-glucan, which aids bile action on cholesterol (28).
Additionally, oat products have high levels of dietary fiber. The soluble fiber is critical in modulating the body’s LDL and total cholesterol levels (29).
You can start by mixing oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk milk, eggs, canola oil, and vanilla together before adding to the oat mixture. Let the blend sit for approximately 15 minutes before spreading it on a baking pan. Bake the bars in an oven preheated at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Related: 40 healthy snacks for weight loss
Cholesterol plays a critical role in modulating endocrine and cell-membrane functions in the body. However, you may need to take care of certain types of lipoproteins as they can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
The thirteen snacks provide an alternative, healthy option to ultra-processed chips and waffles. When choosing low cholesterol snacks, go for those packed with high fiber content and healthy monounsaturated fats.
You may need to pay attention to portion sizes to avoid replacing your main meals with snacks.