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The Basics of a Low-Cholesterol Diet

Following a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet Can Help Your Heart Health


Updated May 16, 2014

Healthy Diet
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A cholesterol-lowering diet isn't too hard stick to, given the variety of healthy foods available. Although it is important to include healthy grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, there are also a multitude of low-fat alternatives of foods available, courtesy of many food manufacturers that have caught on to the "heart-healthy" craze. So, whether you enjoy experimenting with healthy foods in your cooking, or need a quick meal to fix, a diet to lower cholesterol can fit easily into your lifestyle -- and your plan to keep your heart healthy.

When you are shopping for such foods, be sure to look at the labels and keep the following in mind:

Fruits and Vegetables

Always eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Not only are these foods low in calories and fat, they will also not raise your cholesterol levels. Many fruits and veggies also contain heart-healthy chemicals, such as phytosterols and polyphenols, which can help keep your cholesterol levels in check.

Fats and Oils

Try to lower your intake of saturated fats, since consuming foods with these fats could raise your cholesterol levels and place you at a higher risk of acquiring heart disease.

You should avoid any foods that state they contain “partially hydrogenated" vegetable oils, such as those used in many margarines and shortenings, contain a particular form of saturated fat known as trans fats. These can raise blood cholesterol levels (including LDL, the bad cholesterol), just like saturated fat, and can also promote the formation of waxy, cholesterol plaques on your arteries.

When cooking with oils, you should use olive and canola oils, which are particularly high in monounsaturated fats or vegetable oil, which is high in polyunsaturated fats. Unlike saturated and trans fats, unsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol and keep your heart healthy.

Breads and Grains

Switch out grains containing white flour for whole grain foods. Recent studies have indicated that ingesting high amounts of carbohydrates can also raise cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease - especially if you have diabetes. Whole grain foods contain more fiber than other types of grains, which can help lower your cholesterol.


Use low fat or skim dairy products instead of regular, full-fat ones. You'll find that not only does this decrease your risk for heart disease -- it is also friendly to your waistline!


Use lean meats -- such as chicken, fish or turkey -- instead of red meat. Leaner meats will not raise your cholesterol levels as much as red meat. For instance, using ground turkey meat instead of ground beef is a delicious alternative for hamburgers. If you find that you have a fatty piece of meat on your plate, you can trim the fat away, reducing the amount of fat you consume at your meal.

However, if you are dying for that steak, you can eat that, too – in moderation.


Rolfes SR, Whitney E. Understanding Nutrition, 3rd ed 2005.

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