Eating for lower cholesterol

What you eat can make a huge difference to your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and your heart health.

Whether your cholesterol has crept up over the years or you have a genetic condition such as familial hypercholesterolaemia, eating well will help. Plus, it will help to lower your blood pressure, prevent diabetes and keep to a healthy weight. It can help you feel good too.

What is a heart-healthy diet?

These guidelines will help you choose foods that are good for your cholesterol levels and your heart. 

  • Eat lots of vegetables and plant-based foods

Vegetables, pulses (such as peas, beans and lentils), fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains are full of nutrients and good for your cholesterol and your heart. 

  • Eat a variety of healthy sources of protein such as peas, beans, lentils, fish, nuts, chicken and lean red meat. 

These foods are high in protein and nutrients but low in saturated fat. If red meat is eaten, make sure it's lean, and watch the quantity. Swap some meals with meat for vegetarian meals to eat less meat and more plant foods.  

  • Eat some low-fat dairy products or fortified dairy alternatives  

Dairy foods contain calcium which is essential for good health. Choose low fat options to avoid the saturated fat that’s in the full-fat versions. When choosing dairy alternatives, go for unsweetened, calcium fortified varieties.

  • Swap saturated fats for heart-healthy fats

Choose vegetable-based spreads and oils instead of butter, lard, ghee, coconut and palm oil to cut down on saturated fat. 

  • Include starchy foods which are high in fibre

Choose wholemeal and whole grain options such as wholemeal bread and chapatti, brown rice, wholemeal pasta or wholegrain breakfast cereals. They contain lots of nutrients, help keep you feeling full so you don’t snack, and help with digestion. Choose these instead of white rice, white bread and white pasta.

  • Cut down on foods and drinks that are high in sugar

Biscuits, cakes, chocolates and fizzy drinks all contain lots of calories which can lead to weight gain, but without containing many nutrients or filling you up. 

  • Eat three small meals a day with one or two healthy snacks in between

Keeping an eye on your portion sizes will help you keep your weight and your waist line under control, and eating regularly will help stop you from snacking on unhealthy foods. 

  • Make healthy choices when you eat out

Food from cafes, restaurants and takeaways can be high in fat, calories and salt. See our guide to eating out, the healthiest meal options when you’re eating out and our healthy lunch box ideas and guide to eating on the go to keep your diet healthy even when you’re out and about. 

  •  Fill up on fruit and vegetables

They are low in fat and packed with nutrients. Go for at least five portions a day – a portion is about a handful – to keep your body healthy and help you eat less high-calorie foods. Fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits and vegetables all count. 

 

 

Quick tips for getting started

Keep a food diary. Write down what you eat for a few days to get to know what your diet really looks like and where you can make changes.

Start small. Start with some simple swaps rather than trying to change everything all at once. 

Try a diet plan. If you're looking for a more detailed plan, try the Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan

Looking after your weight

Keeping to a healthy weight and losing weight if you need to will help to look after your cholesterol, your blood pressure and your heart.

If you carry your weight around your middle, it’s more important for you to lose weight to stay healthy.

Looking after your weight

If you need extra help to make changes, ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian. They can give you personalised advice on what to eat to improve your health. You can also email our Cholesterol Helpline ask@heartuk.org.uk

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