Add This Popular Fish To Your Diet To Lower High Cholesterol

If you're on a mission to lower high cholesterol levels, adding seafood to your plate may be a good place to start. Not just any seafood, though. There's one omega-3-rich fish that appears to be uniquely qualified when it comes to lowering levels of "bad" cholesterol: salmon.

It's safe to say that salmon is a goldmine of nutrients. In a 3-ounce serving of cooked, wild-caught Atlantic salmon, you'll find 534 milligrams of potassium, 218 milligrams of phosphorus, over 31 milligrams of magnesium, 12.8 milligrams of calcium, and over 21 grams of protein, reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In taking an even closer look at salmon's potential health benefits, researchers from a 2024 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that this popular fish contains four heart health-related compounds, and hundreds more that were distinct only to salmon. The four compounds that the researchers zeroed in on were linked with reductions in participant LDL cholesterol (or bad cholesterol) as well as other improvements in indicators of cardiometabolic health.

Salmon has specific compounds that may help lower bad cholesterol

Over the course of two five-week sessions, 41 participants diagnosed with overweight or obesity maintained a Mediterranean diet that included two servings of salmon weekly (via The Journal of Nutrition). Testing revealed that salmon contained two metabolites and two salmon food-specific compounds known to support heart health. The research revealed a connection between these four compounds and short-term improvements in participant total cholesterol levels, LDL "bad" cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and apolipoprotein B, a protein that moves plaque-making substances through the bloodstream (via Cleveland Clinic).

These study findings build upon the results of earlier research highlighting salmon's potential benefits for cholesterol levels. This includes a 2007 study published in the scientific journal Atherosclerosis where over 40 non-obese adults ate 125 grams of salmon daily for four weeks, after which time they abstained from eating fish for the next four weeks. Compared to blood test results taken during the no-fish-eating period, daily salmon consumption was shown to lower LDL cholesterol by 7% and boost HDL cholesterol by 5%.

The importance of a balanced diet for healthy cholesterol levels

While salmon may have some unique superpowers when it comes to our cardiovascular health, that doesn't mean other types of fish don't also have benefits to offer. "The [Mediterranean] diet includes a variety of other fish that have a similar nutritional profile and are associated with numerous health benefits," nutritionist Conner Middelmann told Medical News Today, citing trout and sardines for their omega-3 fatty acid content and various nutrients.

In addition to eating a well-rounded diet that keeps trans fat and saturated fat intake to a minimum, exercise is also important for keeping cholesterol levels within a healthy range. Specifically, the American Heart Association (AHA) reports that adults will want to aim for 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week to effectively lower one's cholesterol. By implementing healthy lifestyle habits, we can help keep our cholesterol levels below 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Anything above that is considered high cholesterol, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).