What Is the Best Diet for High Cholesterol?

Reviewed on 7/22/2021
best diet for high cholesterol
What is the best low cholesterol diet? Here are the top foods that lower cholesterol, as well as the worst foods for high cholesterol

Making a few tweaks to your diet, along with regular exercise, can help you lower your cholesterol. But which diet plan is best?

There are quite a few diets that are good for reducing cholesterol levels, including the DASH diet (for hypertension) and Mediterranean diet, which emphasize the importance of consuming fish, poultry, vegetables, fruit, legumes, and plenty of water 

But one of the most effective ways to lower cholesterol is the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet, which is recommended for maintaining healthy weight.

What is the TLC diet?

The TLC diet is low in trans and saturated fats and high in soluble fiber and proteins. It recommends:

  • Consuming less than 7% of your total calorie requirement from saturated fats and keeping dietary cholesterol intake below 200 milligrams a day.
  • Increasing your intake of fruit, whole grains, vegetables, poultry, fish, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Consuming soluble fiber that lowers the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
  • Eating healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) found in oily fish, unsalted nuts, vegetable oils, and seeds.

What type of foods help lower cholesterol?

Try building your meals and snacks around whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. Examples include:

  • Whole grains
    • Oats, barley, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, and farro
  • High-fiber, nutrient-dense vegetables
    • Leafy greens, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflowers, peppers, zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, and tomatoes
  • High-fiber, antioxidant-rich fruits
    • Berries, citrus fruits, bananas, apples, pears, peaches, and melons
  • Fatty fish
    • Salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, and anchovies
  • Lean protein
    • Chicken, turkey, beans, nuts, lentils, tofu, and edamame
  • Dairy
    • Yogurt, kefir, milk, and (occasionally) cheese
  • Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory herbs and spices

What are the worst foods for high cholesterol?

Stay away from sugary, highly processed, and empty-calorie foods. Here are some to watch out for:

  • Fried foods: French fries, onion rings, fried chicken, and potato chips
  • Processed foods: Frozen foods, boxed meals, fast food, hot dogs, cookies, fruit snacks, and candies
  • Refined grains: White bread, white pasta, white rice, and white flour
  • Sweetened beverages: Juice, soda, energy drinks, and excessive amounts of alcohol

Some foods naturally contain dietary cholesterol but don’t significantly impact the cholesterol in your blood. They are low in saturated fats and fine to eat as part of a healthy diet, and you should only cut down on these foods if your doctor or dietitian has advised you to do so:

  • Eggs
  • Shellfish (such as prawns and crab)
  • Offal (such as liver, liver pate, and kidneys)

SLIDESHOW

How to Lower Your Cholesterol & Save Your Heart See Slideshow

What are recommended cholesterol levels?

There are two main types of cholesterol: 

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol or “good” cholesterol
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol

Too much LDL cholesterol can block your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke

Cholesterol numbers are measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Below are healthy levels of cholesterol by age and gender.

Men and women ages 19 years or younger
Type of cholesterol Healthy level
Total cholesterol Less than 170 mg/dL
LDL Less than 100 mg/dL
HDL More than 45 mg/dL

Men ages 20 years or older

Type of cholesterol Healthy level
Total cholesterol 125 to 200 mg/dL
LDL Less than 100 mg/dL
HDL 40 mg/dL or higher

Women ages 20 years or older

Type of cholesterol Healthy level
Total cholesterol 125 to 200 mg/dL
LDL Less than 100 mg/dL
HDL 50 mg/dL or higher

Your diet can be a powerful tool for managing your cholesterol, keeping LDL levels low and HDL levels high. Replacing high-fat, artery-clogging foods with heart-healthy choices will not only improve your cholesterol levels but also boost your energy and overall health.

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References
Cholesterol - healthy eating tips: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/cholesterol-healthy-eating-tips

Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/chol_tlc.pdf

Lowering Cholesterol with a Plant-Based Diet: https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/nutrition-information/lowering-cholesterol-with-a-plant-based-diet

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