Eating to reduce cholesterol

November 12, 2012

Eating to reduce cholesterol

High cholesterol can cause many other health problems and is something you need to control with careful dietary measures.

For anyone with a high cholesterol level, whether it is the result of a diet high in saturated fats or is a heredity condition, the first thing a doctor will advise is a change in diet. Dietary changes are the first step of any treatment intended to reduce cholesterol. If, after a period of six months, there is no significant reduction in cholesterol levels despite careful adherence to the prescribed diet then the medical practitioner may add medication to the dietary regime. Medications intended to reduce cholesterol levels should be considered as a supplement not a replacement for a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Eat less saturated fat

Saturated fat is the major cause of elevated cholesterol levels, it therefore follows that eating less saturated fat is an essential step in reducing cholesterol. For most people animal products are the main source of saturated fat – butter, cheese, whole milk and the fat found in and around red meat all contain high levels of saturated fat.

Avoid Trans-Fats

Trans-fats, or hydrogenated fats, are frequently found in processed foods. These products are a known risk factor for narrowing of the arteries and are extremely harmful to heart health. Ingredient labels should be thoroughly checked in order to eliminate, as far as possible, trans-fats from the diet.

Vegetable fats

Many people assume that vegetable fats and oils are sources of ‘good’ unsaturated fats and can be used to replace harmful animal fats in a healthy diet. However some vegetable fats are also high in saturated fats, these products are often used in commercial baked products and non dairy substitutes. Vegetable oils and fats to be avoided for those seeking to reduce cholesterol include -

  • Coconut oil

  • Cocoa butter

  • Palm kernel oil and palm oil

Read labels – choose unsaturated fat

Many food products contain saturated fat, trans-fats or unhealthy vegetable fats which are simply not visible, it is essential therefore to choose food wisely and read the labels on packaging before purchase.

Unsaturated fats – sometimes referred to as poly-unsaturated or mono-unsaturated – are considered to be ‘healthy’ fats – thought to help in reducing cholesterol levels. When choosing products which contain fat it is important to choose those which contain these unsaturated fats as a substitute for those containing saturated fats.

Polyunsaturated and mono-saturated fats are found in -

  • Fish oils (Omega 3)

  • Cooking oils made from corn, cottonseed, sesame, sunflower or safflower

  • Olive

  • Canola

Commercially prepared salad dressings may appear to contain polyunsaturated fats, however, this is not always the case – some of those polyunsaturated fats may have been converted to saturated fats by hydrogenation. Avoid any products whose labelling includes the word ‘hydrogenated’.

Eat more fish

Whilst there is little evidence that omega-3 fatty acids are effective in reducing cholesterol the fact remains that increase dietary intake of oily fish in particular is beneficial to anyone with high cholesterol since it is extremely low in saturated fat.

Avoid foods which are high in cholesterol

In order to reduce cholesterol it is important to avoid those food products which have high levels of dietary cholesterol as well as those containing saturated fats. Foods containing dietary cholesterol include -

  • Eggs and dairy products

  • Offal

  • Meat and poultry

  • Fish and shellfish

It is important to note that dietary cholesterol is not the same as fat – a food product may be low in fat but high in cholesterol (liver, for example). The best food choices are always based around the low fat options and should include avoiding those foods known to have high cholesterol levels.

Weight loss

Weight loss should be an automatic benefit of following a low fat diet intended to lower cholesterol levels – gram for gram fat contains more calories than protein or carbohydrate, following a low fat diet should mean that less calories are being ingested which should then result in significant healthy weight loss


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