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Diet to Lower Cholesterol - What to Include and Exclude in a Heart-Healthy Diet

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Following a well-planned dietary regimen helps to lower the bad cholesterol levels in the blood, thereby eliminating the risk of heart attack, stroke, and more.

Written by

Dr. Jayasree S

Medically reviewed by

Debasish Dutta

Published At June 24, 2022
Reviewed AtApril 25, 2023

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by our liver and stored in the body. A healthy level of cholesterol is much needed in the body to function normally and produce certain essential hormones and vitamins. But high and unhealthy cholesterol levels affect the general health of the individual badly. However, it affects the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) the most. To protect our heart, we need to have the ‘bad cholesterol’ (low-density lipoprotein - LDL) levels below a hundred and thirty milligrams per deciliter or below hundred milligrams per deciliter if one has diabetes. And maintain about forty to fifty milligrams per deciliter of ‘good cholesterol’ (high-density lipoproteins - HDL) in the blood.

How Do High Cholesterol Levels in the Body Affect One’s Heart?

One of the main reasons why people get heart failure is atherosclerosis, which means clogging up of arteries. Arteries are the type of blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients from the heart to different body parts. When the arteries are nice, clean, and healthy, the blood flows very easily through them. When the arteries closer to the heart get blocked, structures on the other side are deprived of sufficient oxygen and nutrients. That is how one gets a heart attack. And cholesterol is the substance that clogs up the arteries.

In another scenario, the plaques of cholesterol deposits inside the arteries may flake off and enter the bloodstream. On reaching important organs like the brain, it may obstruct the blood supply by blocking the smaller vessels and cause a fatal stroke. This is why regulating blood cholesterol levels is crucial.

How Can One Lower Cholesterol Levels Effectively?

Doctors recommend a combination of different strategies to lower cholesterol levels to avoid health risks. They are:

  • Taking cholesterol-lowering medication.

  • Following a diet plan to lower cholesterol levels.

  • Increase physical activity.

  • Maintain healthy body weight.

  • Avoid smoking and alcohol abuse.

What Are the Best Dietary Components That Help Lower Bad Cholesterol (LDL) Levels?

A healthy diet is very important for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. For someone with high cholesterol, adopting a low cholesterol diet plan is the best way to lower, regulate, and maintain cholesterol levels. Doctors recommend including the following food groups in the diet:

  1. Whole Grains and Foods With a High Soluble Fiber - Are proven to help lower cholesterol. These foods include whole-grain cereals such as oatmeal, oat bran, barley, and psyllium husk fibers. Fruits like bananas, prunes, apples, and pears, pulses like kidney beans, Lima beans, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, etc., and vegetables like brinjal and okra are also rich sources of soluble fibers.
  2. Vegetables and Fruits - Contain a substance called stanol, which helps reduce the absorption of bad cholesterol into the body and prevents the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  3. Lean Meats - Especially fish, chicken, and turkey.
  4. Herbs and Spices- Such as turmeric, garlic, ginger, etc., add flavor to the food and help lower bad cholesterol levels.

What Are the Types of Food One Should Avoid for Lowering Bad Cholesterol Levels?

There are several foods that one should avoid to keep cholesterol levels low, as most of them contain too many saturated fats. Saturated fat is the type of fat that raises cholesterol levels in the body. Ideally, it is recommended to limit the dietary cholesterol (cholesterol obtained from food and not produced by one’s liver) supply to three hundred milligrams per day.

One can find saturated fats in many types of foods, including:

  1. Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. One should prefer the low-fat or no-fat version of these dairy products instead.
  2. Meats like beef and pork and chicken skin. It is better to consume lean meats like skinless chicken, turkey, or fish. Dietary cholesterol levels are higher in animal products such as seafood, beef, chicken, dairy products, and eggs.
  3. Avoid highly processed fatty meats like ground beef, hot dogs, sausages, and cold cuts.
  4. Minimize the consumption of fried and processed food as these often contain a lot of saturated fats.
  5. Avoid trans fats; it is the artificial fat found in processed foods like doughnuts, frozen pizzas, stick margarine, and many other products and is harmful to the body. In recent years people have been trying to reduce the number of trans fats in the food supply. One can refer to the nutrition fact label on the food packet to avoid foods with trans fats.
  6. Limit the consumption of added sugars, which means limiting sweets like cakes, cookies, ice creams, jellies, and sugary drinks.
  7. Limit alcohol - The extra calories in alcohol may cause weight gain and raise cholesterol levels.

What Are the Best Dietary Components That Help Improve Good Cholesterol (HDL) Levels?

It is important to include good sources of healthy fats that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They protect the heart from forming blood clots and inflammation. One may take:

  • Nuts and Seeds - Including walnuts, peanuts, and almonds, which are high in calories and good cholesterol.

  • Olives and Canola Oils - They can be used to replace butter or other saturated oils while cooking.

  • Avocados - They are a good source of nutrients and are very heart-healthy.

  • Fish - Salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, herring, and other fatty fishes are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

What Are the Ideal Methods of Food Preparation to Lower Cholesterol Levels?

The preparation method also affects cholesterol levels. To lower cholesterol, one should avoid fried and greasy foods. And use other methods of cooking such as; boiling, baking, roasting, grilling, or steaming. One may consume fruits and vegetables raw in the form of salads instead of cooking them. And limit excessive use of salt, as it may increase blood pressure levels and strain the heart.


Adopting a low cholesterol diet plan requires careful planning and implementation. One should periodically monitor the blood cholesterol levels to evaluate the changes as well. Changing food habits is the most natural way of lowering cholesterol, and it is definitely not about undereating or starving. One should make sure that the food is balanced with all the essential components like carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and adequate amounts of healthy fats. Additionally, one should drink plenty of water to stay healthy. A qualified dietician or doctor can help prepare a comprehensive diet plan to lower cholesterol levels.

Frequently Asked Questions


How to Reduce Cholesterol Levels in the Body?

Following are a few ways to reduce the levels of cholesterol in the body,
Get moving: Make sure to stay active throughout the day. Join a sports program or buy a gym membership to get consistent with exercising.
- Reduce the amount of red meats.
- Replace animal-based proteins with more wholesome plant-based proteins.
- Include more whole greens, fruits, and lentils in your diet.
- Be conscious of your eating habits and fat intake.


What Foods Can Help With Lowering the Cholesterol Rate?

Adding the following to your everyday diet can help with reducing the cholesterol rate,
- Add citrusy fruits like oranges.
- Leafy vegetables like spinach.
- Lentils.
- Okra.
- Eggplant.
- Plant sources of protein.
- Nuts.
- Vegetable oils.


Can Egg Increase Cholesterol Levels?

Research shows that an egg has about 186 mg of cholesterol in it. Where all the cholesterol is known to be in the yolk. Having an egg a day is not known to be bad for health. However, if you are trying to reduce your levels of fat intake, then eating just egg whites is a wise choice.


What Are the Healthier Breakfast Options to Reduce Cholesterol Levels?

Any of the following breakfast options can be considered to reduce the cholesterol levels,
- Salmon.
- Avocado toast.
- Orange juice.
- Fruits.
- Egg white scrambled.
- Apple bran muffins.
- Oatmeal.


What Is the Most Common Medication Prescribed for Lowering Cholesterol Levels?

Statins are the most commonly prescribed medication for reducing high cholesterol levels.


How Long Does it Take to See Reduced Cholesterol Levels in the Body?

Studies show that it takes about three to six months to reduce levels of LDL (low-density lipids) after following a healthy lifestyle like regular exercise and a low-fat diet.


Does Walking Reduce the Levels of Bad Cholesterol?

Brisk walking for at least 30 minutes daily reduces harmful cholesterol levels (LDL-low-density lipoprotein) and increases good cholesterol levels (HDL- high-density lipoprotein).


What Vitamins Can Reduce the Levels of Bad Cholesterol?

Vitamin B, also known as Niacin, can reduce the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides and is also known to increase good cholesterol levels (HDL). However, adding these supplements without your doctor’s prescription is not advisable.


What Are the Effects of Low Cholesterol Levels?

Effects of having high cholesterol levels are known to cause many health risks. However, significantly lower levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) can cause the following issues,
- Depression.
- Hemorrhagic stroke.
- Cancer.


Can Low Levels of Cholesterol Cause Mental Problems?

Lower cholesterol levels below 160 mg per dL cause mental problems such as anxiety and depression.
Debasish Dutta
Debasish Dutta



diet to lower cholesterol
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