A List of Foods for People with High Cholesterol: The Good, the Bad and the Somewhere in Between
What to Eat and Not Eat if Your LDL and Triglycerides are Too High
So, I was searching the internet for a bare bones list of yes and no, good and bad foods for my husband's "new" diet. He just found out his LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are WAY too high, so I'm practicing tough love and making ... well, encouraging ... him to make some lifestyle changes and give up some of the foods he loves--foods that I told him could kill him. And I won't have that.
In order to help him (not just nag him) I wanted to give him a list of what he can and should eat--and those foods he shouldn't--to help lower his cholesterol. Seeing it on paper would make it easier for him, since he keeps asking me (sometimes texting me if he's out) if he can eat this or that. So, I wanted to give him a nice long list. (And, yes, I'll be eating what he eats ... and not eating what he shouldn't.)
But with all the searching I did online, I kept coming up with sites that would list maybe five GOOD foods and/or a few BAD foods, along with a lot of blah-blah. (Like I'm doing now.) I just want a LIST! So, fine, I'll make one myself. And you can certainly use it, too.
This will be an ongoing, growing list, as nitty-gritty as can be, so please help me out by adding what I've missed in either category--good or bad--as well as dessert/sweet foods that are okay for someone with high cholesterol. And I'll add an "in moderation" list too, since some foods aren't quite right for "good" or "bad."
If you disagree with something on either list, please let me know (and why) in the comments section below. Thank you!
Note: I'm not a nutritionist or a doctor. I've just compiled this list from a variety of sources and double-checked as much as possible to be sure that more than one source agrees. Of course, you should check with your own doctor to find out the "diet" that's right for you.
First Things First for High Cholesterol
Lose some weight
Drink plenty of water
List of Foods BAD for Cholesterol Levels
Try to avoid these items as much as possible.
Please help me out by adding any that I've missed. If you want, you can add some explanation in the box below the list item, including a better alternative if you have one.
- Red meat (If you're going to eat red meat, choose the leanest cuts possible and trim as much visible fat as you can)
- Organ meat (liver, for example)
- Veal, lamb and pork (but, as far as I've read and heard, these are better choices than red meat, but keep portions to no more than 4 ounces and trim all visible fat)
- Processed lunch meats, especially bologna, ham, salami, roast beef
- Bacon (make it turkey bacon if you're going to eat it)
- Sausage (although lean turkey sausage is a much better choice, such as the Jennie-O brand, which comes in Sweet Italian and Spicy too)
- Hot dogs
- Duck and goose
- Butter (Choose vegetable oil spread or margarine without trans fats or saturated fats instead)
- Full fat dairy products (Choose lowfat or, best of all, skim cheeses)
**See "Are There Really Any Substitutes for Cheese?" for a bunch of healthier ideas (not just vegetarian substitutes) and suggestions.
- Coconut oil, Palm kernel oil, Palm oil, and Cocoa butter
**These are saturated fats
- Shellfish (such as mussels and clams)
- Ice cream and heavy cream
- Candy bars and sugary candy
- Cakes, pies and cookies
- French fries
- Chicken wings, fried with skin
- White bread
- Full fat salad dressings (Ranch, Blue Cheese, Thousand Island, French, etc.)
- Egg noodles and pasta made with white flour (Whole wheat pasta and rice noodles are much better choices.)
Foods You SHOULD Eat or CAN eat if You Have High Cholesterol - And drinks too
I'm being very specific when it comes to things like fruits and veggies, to give my husband ideas rather than just listing "fruits" and "vegetables." I want to make this "yes food" list a long one, so he doesn't feel so much like there's so much he can't have and not much that he can.
Please help me out by adding any good foods or foods that are okay in moderation that I've missed in the comments section below.
- Oranges, grapefruits and other citrus
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.)
- Melon (watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, etc.)
- Peaches, plums, nectarines
- Avocado (a healthy fat)
- Salad greens (but iceberg lettuce isn't so great because it has few nutrients; better to choose other leafy greens)
- Onions, leeks, shallots
- Mushrooms (incl. Portobellos, which are excellent grilled as "burgers")
- Squash (zucchini, spaghetti squash, butternut, winter squash, etc.)
- Cabbage and sauerkraut
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Green beans
- Potatoes and yams
- Raisins and cranberries (which add great sweetness to so many things, including salads, casseroles, rice, oatmeal, etc.)
- Oatmeal and oat bran
**The Mayo Clinic says this is one of the top 5 foods for lowering cholesterol.
- Beans (pinto, black beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans, etc.)
- Rice (especially brown rice)
This is a very versatile, healthy food, which is a great base for many recipes. See "A Recipe for Quinoa Salad" with alternatives and other ideas for cooking with quinoa.
- Whole wheat / whole grain breads, including whole wheat tortillas and pita pockets
- Corn tortillas
- Soy products (soy milk, tofu, edamame, etc.)
- Salmon (Fish in general, but I'll list some types separately)
**Best to grill or bake fish
- Albacore tuna (packed in water if canned)
- Lake trout
- Chicken, skinless, especially white meat (baked, broiled, grilled ... not fried)
- Turkey, skinless, especially white meat (baked, roasted, grilled, etc.)
- Whole wheat pasta ...and Soba noodles, rice noodles
- Nuts, unsweetened (almonds, pistachios, walnuts, etc.) and seeds (such as sunflower seeds)
**Since nuts high in calories, just grab a handful now and then. Nuts are great, healthy fat substitutes for croutons, meats and cheese in salad. AVOID Brazil nuts, however.
- Veggie burgers / Black bean burgers
- Lentils and barley
- Oil & Vinegar (made with olive oil) and Balsamic Vinagrette dressings
- White wine vinegar (great for cooking with instead of oil, because it doesn't change the taste of food and doesn't add fat)
- Olive oil, Canola oil, Peanut oil
**These are monounsaturated fats.
- Low fat soups (especially vegetable and broth-based soups, including lentil soup, minestrone, chicken and rice, etc.)
- Cream of wheat
- Low sugar cereals (Corn Flakes, Rice Crispies, Cheerios, etc.)
- Air-popped popcorn
- Skim milk (or at least low fat if you really don't like skim)
- Nonfat yogurt
- Egg whites or egg substitute
- Low fat or nonfat cottage cheese
- Green tea (or any other tea is good, too)
- Coffee (but no cream ... choose skim milk instead)
- Herbs and spices (to add flavor instead of fatty additives)
**Examples include oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, coriander, black pepper, and cumin. But stay away from a lot of salt, which can raise blood pressure and contribute towards water retention.
- Low fat condiments (mustard, catsup, relish, low-sodium soy sauce, lowfat mayonnaise)
- Pita chips (at least, the brand I saw in the store today had no trans fats, no saturated fat, and just a small amount of monounsaturated fat, so check the container for this information)
Foods to Eat in MODERATION
I guess you could say "everything in moderation," especially the good desserty/sweet foods listed above. But there are some foods that aren't dessert and don't really quite fit in the BAD or GOOD lists as much as others. So that's what this category is for. For example, people with high cholesterol don't really have to give up eggs altogether, but they should try to most often use egg whites or egg substitute when possible. And while olive oil, for one, is a good oil, it's better to use just a light, sprayed on coating instead of dousing the food.
- Eggs, no more than 4 yolks per week. (Best to use egg whites only or egg substitute as much as possible.)
- Margarine, soft tub or liquid (Look for little to no trans fat)
- Red wine (All alcohol in moderation, but red wine is best. It's said to actually help lower cholesterol.)
**See "New Cholesterol Fighter Found in Red Wine" from Science Daily.
- Fruit juices (100%, unsweetened juice is best.)
**EverydayHealth.com says that grape juice is especially beneficial.
- Peanut butter
**This is one source of information I used to decide is peanut butter was "okay" or not: "Is Peanut Butter Bad if You Have High Cholesterol?"
- Safflower, Sunflower, Corn, and Soybean oil
**These are polyunsaturated fats
Desserts & Other Sweet Foods You Can Eat
I'm separating this out, since this is one area where my husband is feeling especially deprived right now
- Dark chocolate (The darker the better, but it depends how bitter you like it.)
**Definitely in moderation on this one. Dark chocolate shouldn't be mistaken for a "health food," but studies have shown that the antioxidants it contains helps lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and increase the good (HDL). See one of many sources at EverydayHealth.com.
- Fat-free, sugar-free pudding
- Jell-O, especially sugar-free
- Angel food cake
- Fat-free sorbet
- Nonfat frozen yogurt
- Fig bars or other types of "newtons"
**The Nabisco 100% Whole Grain, Triple Berry Newtons we just bought have no trans fat and no saturated fat. Just .5mg of polyunsaturated fat per two newtons.
- Low-fat vanilla wafers (which are good with the fat-free, sugar-free pudding)
Low Cholesterol Recipes
A Cookbook from the American Heart Association
Sometimes we need a little help putting the good ingredients together.
It's one thing to pick up a piece of fruit or grill a piece of chicken (no skin, of course), but if you're like me, you might have a bit of trouble combining the healthy stuff into tasty recipes, without adding ingredients that defeat the purpose. This cookbook will help you do that.
There are Lots of Low-Cholesterol Recipes Online
© 2012 Deb Kingsbury