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High Cholesterol: Healthy Food Choices

Topic Overview

Eating healthy foods might help you lower high cholesterol. Many people whose cholesterol is high because they eat too many fatty foods are able to lower their cholesterol with diet changes.

Try these healthy food choices to help lower your cholesterol.

Meats, poultry, fish, and protein from vegetables

  • White-meat chicken and turkey (remove the skin before eating)
  • Lean cuts of meat, like round, sirloin, and extra-lean ground beef
  • Fresh fish and shellfish (don't batter or fry)
  • Pork leg, shoulder, and tenderloin
  • Dry beans and peas

Breads, grains, rice, pasta

  • Whole wheat bread and bagels
  • Soft corn tortillas, low-fat flour tortillas, and whole wheat tortillas
  • Whole-grain crackers and soda crackers
  • Oatmeal and other high-fiber, low-sugar cereals
  • Brown rice and whole wheat pasta

Milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs

  • Fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Fat-free or low-fat yogurt with little added sugar
  • Cheese that is low-fat or nonfat
  • Egg substitutes and egg whites
  • Margarine or spread with no trans fat (usually soft or liquid margarine)
  • Low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt

Fruits and vegetables

  • Fresh fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, and pears
  • Fresh vegetables like carrots, greens, peppers, and broccoli
  • Frozen vegetables, or canned vegetables with no added salt
  • Frozen or canned fruits with no added sugar or in light syrup or juice

Avoid serving fresh vegetables with butter or cheese.

Fats, sweets, oils

  • Low-fat or nonfat salad dressings
  • Reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • Canola, peanut, or olive oil
  • Natural peanut butter (with no hydrogenated oil)

Avoid packaged desserts, especially those with palm or coconut oil.

Cholesterol-lowering margarines

Some margarine spreads can help to lower cholesterol levels . These margarines contain plant stanol or sterol esters from wood pulp or soybean oil.

These margarines can help lower cholesterol levels, particularly in people who have high cholesterol levels or who consume too much fat in their diets. They work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines and may work best in combination with other therapies, including medicine, to lower cholesterol.

More information

For more information about a diet that is designed to lower cholesterol, see the topic Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet for High Cholesterol.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Krummel DA (2008). Medical nutrition therapy for cardiovascular disease. In LK Mahan, S Escott-Stump, eds., Krause's Food and Nutrition Therapy, 12th ed., pp. 833–864. St. Louis: Saunders Elsevier.
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2005). Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC (NIH Publication No. 06-5235). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/chol_tlc.pdf.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last Revised June 18, 2012

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