To lower your blood cholesterol level, choose only the leanest
meats, poultry, fish and shellfish. Choose chicken and turkey
without skin or remove skin before eating. Some fish, like cod,
have less saturated fat than either chicken or meat. Since even the
leanest meat, chicken, fish, and shellfish have saturated fat and
cholesterol, limit the total amount you eat to six ounces or less
In general, chicken and turkey are low in saturated fat,
especially when the skin is removed. When shopping for poultry
remember that you can buy chicken and turkey pieces with the skin
already removed. Or buy pieces with the skin on and remove it
yourself before eating-it's easy to do. Remember, the white meat
itself always contains less saturated fat than the dark meat. Limit
goose and duck. They are high in saturated fat, even with the skin
removed. Try fresh ground turkey or chicken that is made from white
meat like the breast. Remember that some chicken and turkey hot
dogs are lower in saturated fat and total fat than pork and beef
hot dogs. There are also "lean" beef hot dogs and vegetarian (made
with tofu) franks that are low in fat and saturated fat.
- Fish and shellfish
When shopping for fish and shellfish remember that most fish is
lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than meat or poultry.
Shellfish varies in cholesterol content. Shellfish have little
saturated fat and total fat. Even shrimp can be enjoyed
occasionally provided you eat less than 300 milligrams of
cholesterol a day. For example, 3 ounces of steamed shrimp has 167
milligrams of cholesterol.
- Meat substitute
Dry peas and beans and tofu (bean curd) are great meat substitutes
that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Dry peas and beans
also have a lot of fiber, which can help to lower blood
cholesterol. Try adding a ½ cup beans to pasta, soups,
casseroles, and vegetable dishes. Tofu takes on the flavor of
marinades well. Try marinating tofu in a non-fat dressing or a
tangy sauce and grilling or baking for a heart healthy dish.
Egg yolks are high in dietary cholesterol-each contains about 213
milligrams. So, egg yolks are limited to no more than four yolks
per week. This includes the egg yolks in baked goods and processed
foods. Check the label to see how much cholesterol the food
contains or ask the bakery if the recipe uses whole eggs. Limit
these types of foods for occasional treats. Egg whites have no
cholesterol, and you can substitute them for whole eggs in
recipes-two egg whites are equal to one whole egg. You can also use
cholesterol-free egg substitute in place of whole eggs-in many
baked goods, you can't tell the difference. Try a cholesterol-free
egg substitute instead of whole eggs. Count the number of eggs you
eat a week and see if you meet the recommendations.
Like high fat meats, regular dairy foods that have fat-such as
whole and 2% milk, cheese, and ice cream-are also high in saturated
fat and cholesterol. However, dairy products are an important
source of nutrients. You should eat two to three servings per day
of low-fat or non-fat dairy products. Here is a guide to buying
low-fat and non-fat dairy foods:
Buy skim and 1% milk rather than whole or 2% milk. Skim and 1%
milk have just as much or more calcium and other nutrients as whole
milk-with much less saturated fat and cholesterol. If you now drink
whole milk, you will probably find it easier to change to skim milk
in steps so your taste buds can adjust. Drink 2% milk for a few
weeks, then 1% milk and finally skim. You'll get used to the new
taste gradually. And, with each step, you'll cut down on the
saturated fat and cholesterol.
When looking for hard cheeses, go for the versions that are "fat
free," "reduced fat," "low-fat," or "part skim." Choose varieties
that have 3 grams of fat or less per ounce. When looking for soft
cheeses, choose low-fat (1%) or non-fat cottage cheese, farmer
cheese, or part-skim or light ricotta. Some of these cheeses have 3
grams of fat or less per ounce. If you are watching your sodium
intake, choose lower sodium cheeses. Read the label to compare the
- Frozen dairy desserts
Buy frozen desserts that are lower in saturated fat, like ice
milk, low-fat frozen yogurt, low-fat frozen dairy desserts, fruit
ices, sorbets, and popsicles.
- Other dairy foods
Buy low or non-fat yogurt; like many other dairy foods, it is an
excellent source of protein and calcium. Eat low-fat or non-fat
yogurt alone or as a topping or in recipes. Try topping with fruit.
Try low-fat or non-fat sour cream or cream cheese blends. Many
taste as rich as the real thing, but have less fat and
You can help to lower your blood cholesterol when you replace
saturated fats with unsaturated fat. Just be sure to limit the
total amount of fats or oils to keep calories in check. Remember
- Choose liquid vegetable oils that are high in unsaturated
fats-like canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, sesame, soybean,
and sunflower oils.
- Buy margarine made with unsaturated liquid vegetable oils as
the first ingredient.
- Choose soft tub or liquid margarine or vegetable oil
- Limit butter, lard, fatback, and solid shortenings. They are
high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Buy light or non-fat mayonnaise and salad dressing instead of
the regular kind that are high in fat. For example, two tablespoons
of regular Italian dressing can add as many as 14 grams of
Instead of using butter to spread on your toast, switch to a
soft tub margarine. To cut back on fat and calories, try to use a
reduced fat or non-fat salad dressing or mayonnaise; or lemon
juice, vinegar, or herbs-all of which are naturally low in fat.
A word about margarine
You may have heard that margarine has a type of unsaturated fat
called "trans" fat. "Trans" fats appear to raise blood cholesterol
more than other unsaturated fats, but not as much as saturated
fats. "Trans" fats are formed when vegetable oil is hardened to
become margarine or shortening , through a process called
hydrogenation. The harder the margarine or shortening, the more
likely it is to contain more "trans" fat. Read the ingredient label
to choose margarine containing liquid vegetable oil as the first
ingredient rather than hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil.
Use the food label to choose margarine with the least amount of
You should be eating at least three to five servings of fruits
and vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables are very low in
saturated fat and total fat, and have no cholesterol. A diet high
in fruit and vegetables may also help to improve cholesterol levels
for those with heart disease. So, fruits and vegetables are great
substitutes for foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Buy fruits and vegetables to eat as snacks, desserts, salads,
side dishes, and main dishes.
- Add a variety of vegetables to meat stews or casseroles or make
a vegetarian (meatless) main dish.
- Wash and cut up raw vegetables (carrot, broccoli, cauliflower,
lettuce, etc.) and store in the refrigerator for quick and easy use
in cooking or snacking.
- Serve fresh fruit for dessert or freeze (banana, berries,
melon, grapes) for a delicious frozen treat.
- Display fresh fruit in a bowl in the kitchen to make fruit
easier to grab as a snack.
- To keep vegetables low in fat and saturated fat, season with
herbs, spices, lemon juice, vinegar, fat free or lowfat mayonnaise
or salad dressing.
Make an entree with more vegetables and less meat or make a
vegetarian (meatless) meal at least once a week. If you have a
small amount of leftover meat, make a stew that has lots of
vegetables. Keep more fruit out in a bowl or in the refrigerator so
it will be handy for a snack or dessert.
Breads, cereals, rice, pasta, and other grains, and dry beans
and peas are generally high in starch and fiber and low in
saturated fat and calories. They also have no dietary cholesterol,
except for some bakery breads and sweet bread products made with
high fat, high cholesterol milk, butter and eggs. Like fruits and
vegetables, breads and other foods in this group are usually also
good choices. You should be eating six to 11 servings of foods from
this group each day. Remember to:
- Choose whole grain breads and rolls often. They have more fiber
than white breads.
- Buy dry cereals, most are low in fat. Limit granola, muesli,
and oat bran types that are made with coconut or coconut oil and
nuts, which increases the saturated fat content.
- Add fat-free skim milk or 1% milk instead of whole or low-fat
(2% milk) to save saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Buy pasta and rice to use as entrees.
- Hold the sauces high in fat (butter, cheese, cream,
- Limit sweet baked goods that are made with lots of saturated
fat, mostly from butter, eggs, and whole milk such as croissants,
pastries, muffins, biscuits, butter rolls, and doughnuts. These are
also high in cholesterol.
For breakfast, instead of doughnuts and muffins, try a hot or
cold cereal with skim milk or toast and jelly. Top your spaghetti
with lightly stir-fried vegetables instead of meat or a creamy
Some sweets and snacks-like baked goods (cakes and cookies)
cheese crackers, and some chips-often are high in saturated fat and
cholesterol. Here are some sweets and snacks that are low in fat,
which you should eat only now-and-then:
- Angel food cake topped with fruit puree or fresh fruit
- Fat-free or low-fat brownies, cakes, cheesecake, cupcakes, and
- Fat-free or low-fat cookies like animal crackers, devil's food
cookies, fig and other fruit bars, ginger snaps, and vanilla or
- Frozen low-fat or non-fat yogurt, fruit ices, ice milk,
sherbet, and sorbet
- Gelatin desserts-watch the whip cream!
- Graham crackers
- Puddings made with 1% or skim milk
These treats may be may be low in fat, but most are not low in
calories. So choose them only every now-and-then, especially if you
are trying to control your weight to improve your blood cholesterol
The next time you crave a cookie, try a new fat-free type (But
not too many-remember the calories!) Instead of buying ice cream,
try ice milk or non-fat frozen yogurt. Instead of snacking on
regular chips, try pretzels or butter-free air popped popcorn. Not
all snack foods are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Buy some
of these low fat ones and keep them on hand for snack attacks:
- Bread sticks
- Ready-to-eat cereals without added sugar
- Frozen grapes or banana slices; or other fresh fruit
- Fruit leather or other dried fruit
- Crackers that are low in fat like melba toast, rice cakes, rye
crisp, and soda crackers
- No-oil baked tortilla chips
- Popcorn (air popped or "light")
- Raw vegetables with non-fat or low-fat dip
If you are watching your sodium intake, be sure to look for
low-sodium or unsalted varieties.