Cholesterol-Lowering Diet

( Low-Density Lipoprotein [LDL] Lowering Diet)

The primary goal of this diet is to lower your levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad, cholesterol. This diet may also raise your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good, cholesterol. Having too much LDL cholesterol, and/or not enough HDL cholesterol, can lead to a condition known as atherosclerosis , which causes plaque to build up in your arteries. Plaque buildup narrows and hardens your arteries, increasing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Cholesterol level is one factor considered when determining your overall risk of having a heart attack, heart disease, or stroke. Other factors that are considered include:A cholesterol-lowering diet may be recommended if you are at high risk for heart disease or stroke. The goal of this diet is to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.

Diet and Cholesterol

Diet is just one of the factors that affect the level of cholesterol in the body. Adjusting certain elements in your diet may help to lower your blood cholesterol levels.


Fat is an essential nutrient with many responsibilities, including transporting the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, protecting vital organs, and providing a sense of fullness after meals. Fat can be broken down into four main types:
Fats that increase LDL levels and should be avoided or limited:
Saturated fat Found in margarine and vegetable shortening, shelf stable snack foods, and fried foods, it increases total blood cholesterol, especially LDL levels.
  • Animal fats that are saturated include: butter, lard, whole-milk dairy products, meat fat, and poultry skin
  • Vegetable fats that are saturated include: shortening, palm oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter
Hydrogenated or trans fat Found in margarine and vegetable shortening, it increases total blood cholesterol, including LDL levels. It also decreases HDL levels.
Fats that improve cholesterol profile and should be eaten in moderation:
Monounsaturated fat Found in oils such as olive and canola, it can decrease total cholesterol level while keeping levels of HDL high.
Polyunsaturated fat Found in oils such as safflower, sunflower, soybean, corn, and sesame, it can decrease total cholesterol.
Less than 7% of calories should come from saturated fat on a cholesterol-lowering diet. Trans fat intake should be less that 1% of calories with a goal to eliminate them completely. On an 1,800 calorie diet, this translates into less than 20 grams of saturated fat per day, leaving 40 grams to come from mono- and polyunsaturated fats.


Dietary cholesterol is found only in animal products. Although dietary cholesterol can increase LDL cholesterol, it does not affect it nearly as much as saturated or trans fats. On a cholesterol-lowering diet, you should consume no more than 200 milligrams of cholesterol a day.


Eating a diet high in soluble fiber can help lower your LDL cholesterol. There are 2 main types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. While both are very important to health, only soluble fiber impacts cholesterol levels. When soluble fiber is digested, it dissolves into a gel-like substance that helps block the absorption of fat and cholesterol into the bloodstream. Soluble fiber is found in foods such as oatmeal, oat bran, barley, soy products, legumes, apples, and strawberries. On a cholesterol-lowering diet, you should consume at least 5-10 grams of soluble fiber per day, and ideally 10-25 grams.

Stanols and Sterols

Stanols and sterols are substances found in certain plants. Plant stanols and sterols can lower LDL cholesterol levels in a similar way to soluble fiber, by blocking their absorption from the digestive tract. Certain foods, including margarines and orange juice, are now being fortified with these cholesterol-lowering substances. Research shows that consuming at least 2 grams of plant stanols or sterols a day can reduce LDL cholesterol by more than 10%.

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