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Diet to Lower Cholesterol

Updated on April 16, 2013

What's Your Cholesterol IQ?

If you’re asking the question “what is cholesterol,” yours is probably too high. Most people skip through life without a thought to their cholesterol levels until a routine medical test shows that their levels are in an unhealthy range. When your doctor tells you to follow a low cholesterol diet, take heart. By making small, but important diet changes, you can lower cholesterol levels and increase your odds for a long and healthy life.

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a thick, white and waxy substance, produced in your liver or eaten in your diet. Because it’s waxy, cholesterol does not dissolve in your bloodstream. The sticky substance flows along but eventually it can stick to the inner lining of your arteries and vessels, forming plaque and slowly reducing blood flow.

What's Your Cholesterol IQ?

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What Cholesterol Numbers Mean

LDL Cholesterol
HDL Cholesterol
Total Cholesterol
Below 100 (optimal)
Below 40 (Low)
Below 200 (Desirable)
100-129 (near optimal)
Over 60 (High)
200-239 (Borderline)
130-159 (borderline high)
Over 240 (Too High)
160-189 (High)
Over 190 (Very High)


Not all cholesterol is bad. When test results indicate that your cholesterol level is too high, that means your lipoprotein (LDL) level is higher than it should be. LDL is the type of cholesterol most doctors are talking about. When your blood contains too much LDL, the sticky substance begins sticking to the lining of your vessels.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good stuff. While HDL is also a type of cholesterol, it flows your blood stream and acts like a “scrubber” to scour away plaque formed by LDL cholesterol.

On a low cholesterol diet, the goal is to decrease the amount of foods that contain LDL cholesterol and increase the amount of foods that contain HDL. High cholesterol increases your risk of developing many health conditions, especially heart disease.

The Relationship between Fats and Cholesterol

Saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol, putting you at risk for high cholesterol. Animal fats are among the worst culprits. Saturated fats are found in milk, cream, butter, lard and fatty meats. The layer of fat between the skin of the chicken and the meat is high in saturated fat as is prime rib, which is a fatty cut of beef. When cooked, the heat causes this type of fat to melt, but at room temperature, it solidifies once again. In your blood stream, LDL cholesterol also solidifies, making it dangerous to your health.

Trans fats are produced by a process called hydrogenating. During the manufacture of some types of cooking oils and margarines, trans fat is produced. We now know that trans fats are probably the worst type of fats to eat, yet they are frequently present in fried foods, shortening and baked goods.

Unsaturated fats are the saving grace in the fats family. By eating more unsaturated fats and restricting saturated and trans fats, you’ll reduce your LDL cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats, are either monosaturated (the best kind) and found in olive, canola and peanut oils, or. Polyunsatured fats are in corn, soybean, safflower and sunflower oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsatured fats (found in fish oils) and are very heart-healthy.

Reducing Cholesterol Through Diet

Turn first to food labels. Food manufactures must specify what type of fats are in their products and how much. If the label says “cholesterol free” it must have no more than 2mg of cholesterol and no more than 2g of saturated fat in a single serving. “Low cholesterol” means it has less than 20mg of cholesterol and less than 2g of saturate fat.

Opt for leaner cut of meat. On USDA-grade meat, purchase Select or Choice. Not only are these cuts lower in cholesterol – they’re less expensive than Prime cuts of meat.

Toss the deep fryer out. For those of us who love deep southern fried foods, this is a tough one. Fortunately, there are great recipes for breading cuts of poultry, shrimp or steak fingers that you can bake in the oven. They taste a LOT better than you would expect and they’re much lower in LDL cholesterol.

Use the broiling pan that came with your oven. You know, that pan that you’ve never taken out of the bottom of the oven – yeah, that one. Broil meats in the oven on that broiling pan, which allows fats to drip down as the meat cooks.

Make soups, stews and chili a day ahead and refrigerate. Before reheating – skim the solid fat off the top, because this is all saturated fat. It doesn’t add anything to the flavor of the dish but it piles on the calories and raises bad cholesterol. You can do the same thing with canned soups by keeping them in the fridge and skimming of the fat when you open the can.

Add baked and grilled fish, especially salmon to your diet. The Omega-3 acids will work to scrub away artery-clogging plaque. Other healthy fish choices include mackerel, herring, sardines, trout and tuna.

Switch from butter to margarine, but make sure the label says “no trans fats.”

Use canola or olive oil instead of corn oil in food preparation.

Get used to drinking skim or non-fat milk. All you’re losing is the fat and cholesterol. Compare the nutrition labels on non-fat and whole milk. The non-fat milk has lots more vitamins and nutrients because the fat’s been taken out – leaving just the good stuff.

Add Oatmeal to Your Diet

Yes, oatmeal really IS that good!
Yes, oatmeal really IS that good! | Source

How Much Oatmeal to Lower Cholesterol?

Everyone talks about eating oatmeal to lower cholesterol and, along with oat bran, it tops the list in lowering cholesterol. Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which figures prominently in the war to lower cholesterol. Eat oatmeal as often – every day if you like. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon, a spoon of honey to sweeten and non-fat milk to round it off. Dice apples or stir all-fruit spread into the bowl for taste.

Other good sources of soluble fiber include kidney bean, apples, pears, prunes and Brussels sprouts.

Lower Cholesterol by Baking Instead of Frying

Making a Low Cholesterol Diet a Way of Life

Until the age of two, babies should receive a full fat diet, but after that, all children and adults can benefit from cutting bad cholesterol out of their meals.

Talk to your doctor about starting a regular exercise routine – it doesn’t have to be hard – just a brisk daily walk or lap swim will be beneficial. You don’t have to change everything overnight –but you do have to change. Start by eliminating the worst LDL cholesterol offenders and go from there, making additional small changes weekly. Keep a food journal to chart your progress. After six months of following a low cholesterol diet, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll probably weigh a few pounds less and you will have reduced your risk of heart disease.


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    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 5 years ago

      Wonderful information on the subject ^_^ I was actually wondering about a lot of this recently and was so pleased to see a hub on it, thank you... Voted up and shared!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      For those not aware about cholesterol this is an excellent hub. Your suggestions and explanations very good. Voted UP.