If you have high cholesterol and want to lower your numbers through diet, consider these six tips for healthier eating. High blood cholesterol occurs for a variety of reasons. The most common cause is poor diet choices, which can be improved through diet changes. High cholesterol can also be hereditary, and although improving the quality of your diet may improve your numbers to some degree, you may still require cholesterol-lowering medications to reduce your risk of cardiovascular implications.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that our bodies need to build new cells, make vitamins, and produce hormones. Although cholesterol is necessary for normal cell functions, it can be harmful in excess. Cholesterol is found in all animal products and animal by-products such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, butter, milk, and cheese. Cholesterol-containing foods are also high in saturated fat and often trans fat. Eating these foods often, or in large quantities, stimulates our liver to make more cholesterol than our bodies need. This puts us at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.
By following these six ways to lower your cholesterol, you can continue to eat the foods you enjoy while keeping your heart healthy too.
1.) Increase Soluble Fiber
Foods such as oats, peas, beans, and barley contain soluble fiber which promotes healthy digestion and reduces the body’s absorption of cholesterol. Berries, bananas, apples, pears, eggplant, and okra are also high in soluble fiber.
2.) Replace Animal Fats with Plant-Based Oils
Vegetable oils such as sunflower, canola, avocado, and safflower oils can take the place of animal-based fats to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Try swapping one of these vegetable oils in place of butter, lard, or shortening.
3.) Go for Fatty Fish Over Red Meat
Getting enough omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fatty fish delivers huge health benefits by decreasing triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, and helping to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Great tasting fatty fish to include in your diet are salmon, tuna, trout, and mackerel.
4.) Reduce Intake of Meat By One Day a Week
As mentioned above, cholesterol is found solely in animal products, so by reducing your meat intake by an entire day a week, you will eliminate a substantial amount of dietary cholesterol over the course of a month. Meatless Mondays is a term coined to encourage people to reduce meat in their diet for improved health of themselves and the planet.
5.) Snack on Nuts and Seeds
Some nuts such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, improve blood pressure, and reduce inflammation in the body. Give your salads a crunch by topping them with nuts instead of croutons, or snack on a handful of your favorite nut in place of potato chips for a healthier heart.
6.) Try Tofu
Tofu is made from soybeans, has no cholesterol, and is an excellent source of iron and calcium. Imagine the health benefits you’d receive by substituting this plant-based protein for a cholesterol-containing meat several times a month! Tofu helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and is low in calories compared to animal sources of protein.
Sarah Hammaker, RDN is a clinical dietitian working primarily in long-term care and acute rehabilitation hospital settings in Pennsylvania. Outside of work, Sarah enjoys spending time with her husband and their four children. She loves running and being outdoors. Her hobbies include reading, planting and shopping.
If you have more questions about your diet, it’s always a great idea to speak with a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are the only credentialed experts qualified to address your unique health questions. Click here to request a direct consultation with a dietitian today!
11 Foods that Lower Cholesterol. Available at