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Reducing cholesterol

Healthy Eating Tips to lower your Cholesterol

It has long been known that making changes to your diet can help to lower your cholesterol levels. A healthy lifestyle may mean you can avoid, or at least reduce your reliance on, medication to control cholesterol levels.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in animal-based foods such as meat, eggs, and dairy. 

Our body needs some cholesterol to function normally. It is found in every one of our cell membranes and is used to make essential nutrients (like vitamin D) and hormones (like oestrogen and testosterone). In fact, cholesterol is so important, our body is able to make its own supply. However, too much cholesterol can lead to health problems. 

There are two main types of cholesterol in the body: 

  • HDL Cholesterol known as ‘good’ cholesterol because it removes excess cholesterol from the blood and protects against heart disease.
  • LDL Cholesterol known as ‘bad’ cholesterol because it can build up in our blood vessels and increases heart disease risk.

In general, the lower your LDL cholesterol and the higher your HDL cholesterol, the better your chances of preventing heart disease and other chronic diseases. 

Luckily, there are some simple dietary modifications that can improve your cholesterol profile. 

How to Reduce Cholesterol Through Diet

1. Choose healthy fats

There are two main types of fats found in food: saturated and unsaturated. 

Saturated fats are ‘unhealthy’ because they increase LDL cholesterol, while unsaturated fats are ‘healthy’ because they decrease LDL cholesterol. Trans fats, although unsaturated, are the exception to the rule – they increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol. 

Research shows that replacing unhealthy fats with healthy fats can improve your cholesterol profile and reduce your risk of heart disease. 

Foods with unhealthy fats include Deep fried foods, Biscuits, Cakes, Pastries, Coconut oil, Fatty meats, Takeaway foods, Butter, Processed meats. Replace these with food with healthy fats such as Oily fish, Olive oil, Nuts, Seeds, Avocado and Margarine.

2. Eat foods high in soluble fibre

Soluble fibre is a type of fibre found in plant food. Because it is not absorbed in the intestine, soluble fibre can bind cholesterol in the intestine and remove it from the body. It’s found in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. 

As you eat more fibrous foods, be sure to also drink plenty of water to prevent constipation. 

Foods with soluble fibre include Oats, Legumes, Avocado, Nuts and Seeds, Barley, Psyllium, Sweet potato, Broccoli and Pear.

3. Try plant sterol-enriched foods

Plant sterols actively compete with cholesterol for absorption from the gut and can lower LDL cholesterol by up to 10%. They are found naturally in plant-based foods but only in small amounts, making it very difficult to achieve the recommended two to three grams per day without enriched foods. 

2 – 3g of plant sterols is equivalent to:

  • Two cholesterol-lowering Weet-Bix or;
  • One tablespoon of enriched margarine (eg. Flora ProActiv) or;
  • 500 mL Dairy Farmers Heart Active 

Plant sterols may also reduce the level of carotenoids (beneficial antioxidants) in your blood, so it’s important to eat at least two fruit and five veggies every day, especially yellow and orange ones to ensure you are getting plenty of antioxidants in your diet. 

Is diet the only way to improve my cholesterol levels?

While diet is one of the best ways to improve cholesterol levels, there are other lifestyle modifications that can also help!

  • Weight loss: If you are above a healthy weight, losing 5-10% of your body weight can reduce total and LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol.
  • Exercise: Aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity on most days can improve your cholesterol levels. Try starting off with improving your daily step count
  • Quitting smoking: Smoking lowers HDL (good) cholesterol. Quitting smoking is important to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, especially if you have high cholesterol.

Where can I get help with a cholesterol-lowering diet?

Luckily, we have plenty of scientific evidence for the ideal diet when it comes to improving cholesterol levels – healthy fats in moderation and an abundance of plant-based foods. If you are looking for more advice, we recommend seeing an Accredited Practising Dietitian for a tailored eating plan. 

Dietary advice prepared by accredited dieticians Anna Debenham & Alex Parker, The Biting Truth.


Learn about High CholesterolSupport of Heart Research