The primary goal of this diet is to lower your levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. This diet may also raise your levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol. Having too much bad cholesterol—and/or not enough of the good kind—can cause plaque to build up in your arteries. Over time, this build-up narrows your arteries, increasing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
A cholesterol test should be done after a 9- to12-hour fast. The results that you want to focus on are the total, LDL, and HDL levels.
Diet is one of several factors that affect cholesterol levels. Other factors include heredity, age, sex, physical inactivity, and being overweight. The main dietary components that impact cholesterol levels are fat, cholesterol, and fiber.
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:
Found in margarine and vegetable shortening, shelf stable snack foods, and fried foods; increases total blood cholesterol, especially LDL levels
Hydrogenated or “trans” fat
Found in margarine and vegetable shortening; increases total blood cholesterol, including LDL levels
Fats that improve cholesterol profile and should be eaten in moderation:
Found in oils such as olive and canola; can decrease total cholesterol level while keeping levels of HDL high
Found in oils such as safflower, sunflower, soybean, corn, and sesame; can decrease total cholesterol (both HDL and LDL)
Saturated fat raises your blood cholesterol more than any of the other types of fat or cholesterol. For this reason, less than 7% of calories should come from saturated fat on a cholesterol-lowering diet.
On an 1,800 calorie diet, this translates into less than 14 grams of saturated fat per day, leaving 46 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 as much as saturated fat. 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 two 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 (eg, dried beans and peas), 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 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%.
|Food Category||Foods Recommended||Foods to Avoid|
|Meat and beans|
|Fats and oil|
|Snacks, sweets, and condiments|
American Dietetic Association
National Cholesterol Education Program
Dietitians of Canada
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Cholesterol. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1516 . Accessed December 29, 2009.
Cholesterol: the best foods to lower your cholesterol and protect your heart. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/CL00002 . Accessed December 29, 2009.
Hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Accessed March 25, 2007.
Lowering your cholesterol with TLC. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/chol_tlc.pdf . Accessed December 29, 2009.
Nutrition care manual. American Dietetic Association website. Available at: http://nutritioncaremanual.org/auth.cfm?p=%2Findex.cfm%3F. Accessed January 3, 2009.
Last reviewed January 2010 by Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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