Anyone can have high cholesterol. And high cholesterol levels can increase your risk for heart disease. Fortunately, having a low cholesterol diet plan can keep you from going down this road.
There are two types of cholesterol your diet affects. Low-density lipoprotein aka LDL is the bad cholesterol. It's bad because it becomes part of plaque that clogs arteries and increases your risk for heart attacks and stroke. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is the good cholesterol. That’s because it travels through your bloodstream removing bad cholesterol and reducing your risk for heart disease.
So, your low-cholesterol diet plan should be made up of foods that increase your HDL level and decrease your LDL level. Here are a list of foods that do just that and should be part of any low cholesterol diet plan.
Many tree nuts contain proteins, unsaturated fats, fiber and antioxidants. Certain nuts, like almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios and macadamia nuts, can reduce LDL cholesterol. Nuts do contain a lot of calories, so eat them in moderation.
Soy may also serve as a good part of a low cholesterol diet plan. Soy comes from soybeans and is a source of dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and protein. Studies show a positive link between soy and heart health, including lowering total and LDL cholesterol levels by as much as 5 to 10 percent each.
Phytosterols can be found in seeds, nuts, whole grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables and certain oils. Research shows eating phytosterols can reduce LDL cholesterol levels, but it’s unclear how much benefit phytosterols provide in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Fiber is a good addition to any low cholesterol diet plan. Fiber reduces the absorption of dietary cholesterol, effectively reducing the blood cholesterol level. An analysis that combined results from 67 studies that examined the benefit of dietary fiber intake on cholesterol levels found that consuming approximately 2 to 10 grams of soluble fiber (fiber that absorbs water) per day was effective in reducing total and LDL cholesterol, although the change was relatively modest.
Low Cholesterol Diet Plan Examples
You can piece together your own low cholesterol diet plan, or try one that has been clinically proven to reduce cholesterol and decrease your risk for developing heart disease.
- Mediterranean Diet—It consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil.
- DASH Diet—DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is rich in grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. The DASH Diet limits total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, and provides plenty of fiber, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Your body needs a small amount of cholesterol to do things like:
- Build the structure of cell membranes
- Make hormones like testosterone
- Help your body produce vitamin D
But high levels of bad cholesterol in your blood is a concern. It causes plaque to develop, which slows blood flow, and causes your heart to work harder. A low cholesterol diet plan will help you to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Talk to your doctor or dietitian about what you can do to make healthier choices. You can also download our guide “Eating Healthy in Five Steps.” In it, you’ll learn things like what to look for on a nutrition label and proper portion sizes. Download it today.