A Healthy Low Cholesterol Diet Plan in 15 Easy Steps

The adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds especially true for managing cholesterol levels. Making the right food choices in your daily diet is far better than having to afford many visits to your doctor. Your cholesterol levels will increase when you follow a diet plan made of a lot of foods that contain sugar, saturated and trans fats. Over 95,000,000 adults in America have high levels of cholesterol at over 200 mg/dL, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (1). Among these people, over 47,000,000 of them do not have this condition under control, making them vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases as a result of cholesterol accumulation inside their arterial blood vessels (2). In case your cholesterol levels place you in danger of heart-related illnesses, implementing modifications in the meals you eat every day can certainly help. Your food intake has an effect on the 3 forms of lipids parts of your bloodstream: low-density lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol), high-density lipoproteins (HDL cholesterol) in addition to triglycerides. Following a food plan low in sugar and bad fats will let you reduce the triglycerides by 20 % and can as well produce positive changes to your LDL and HDL respectively the bad and the good cholesterol in accordance with the American Heart Association (AHA) (3). Finding out about the healthy food choices as well as food preparation techniques will be helpful in developing a personalized eating plan designed to please your own preferences.

The fundamentals of a cholesterol-lowering diet plan

Your goal is to try to maintain your total cholesterol (the number obtained by adding 20 % of the triglycerides to the sum of the levels of LDL and HDL) lower than 200 mg for each deciliter of blood. A total over that limit in addition to supplemental risk variables for example diabetes, hypertension, age, inherited genes and stress elevate your probability to get cardiovascular disorders.

Overview of the New 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans have always been a reference to consider when talking about nutrition worldwide. The new US Dietary Guidelines eliminate limits for dietary cholesterol (cholesterol in food) which was recommended not to exceed 300 mg daily in previous guidelines. The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee after analyzing recent worldwide scientific studies on nutrition has concluded that there is not enough evidence on a quantitative dose of cholesterol from food that has an impact on blood cholesterol levels. In other words, you should no longer worry about eating foods high in cholesterol like eggs. However, while certain nutrition experts argue that saturated fats do not promote high cholesterol, the Advisory Committee does not agree and still recommends it to be limited to 10% of the total calories per day. In other words, while you can eat high cholesterol foods, you need to pay attention because many of these foods are also high in saturated fats, for example, butter, hard margarine, dripping, lard, fatty meats like sausages, full-fat cheese, cakes, pastries…

Key recommendations for a healthy eating pattern

The new guidelines describe a healthy eating pattern as one that includes all food types of food and beverages within an adequate level of calories. Thus, a healthy eating pattern (for a 2000-calorie level) includes:

– 2½ cup daily of all types of vegetables: dark green, red or orange, starchy, legumes, and others.
– Fruits (2 cups daily), especially whole ones.
– Grains (6 oz daily), of which at least half should include whole grains.
– Dairy products such as fluid milk, cheese, yogurt or fortified products based on soy.
– A variety of protein-rich foods, including seafood at least 8 oz per week, eggs, lean meats and poultry to about 26 oz per week, legumes, and nuts, seeds and/or soy products.
– Oils (27 g daily).

Also, a healthy eating pattern limits:

– Saturated fats, which should provide less than 10% of the day’s calories.
– Added sugars, which should not exceed 10% of daily calories.
– Sodium, to be ingested in less than 2300 mg daily amounts.
– Trans fats to very minimal, trans fats intake should be kept as low as possible because it increases.
– Alcohol, which should be consumed in moderation being recommended a maximum of one drink per day for women and two drinks a day for men.

How to lower cholesterol with diet in 15 simple and easy steps

Step 1
Picture of cholesterol-free foods
Picture of foods to include in your diet

The initial step is to start controlling portions. The food portions are often too large, but there is a practical way to control portions: measuring with hands. To know if your serving of meat or fish is ideal, simply see it fits in a hand palm. As for a serving of fresh fruit, it should be approximately the size of a fist. Finally, a serving of cooked vegetables, rice or pasta, must fit into the cupped hand.

Step 2

A balanced diet should constitute of between 50 to 55% of carbohydrates. However, it is necessary to make a proper selection of them. Reduce the intake of refined carbohydrates. There are also known as simple carbohydrates or processed carbohydrates and are considered empty calories. There are two types:

  • Sugars: processed and refined sugars such as high fructose corn syrup.
  • Refined grains: grains that have been removed from the germ and bran (nutritive parts) and only maintain the endosperm.

This type of food is characterized by having a high glycemic index, which causes peaks in blood glucose levels and causes an increase in insulin, a very negative effect in diabetics.

Also, several studies have shown that foods with a high glycemic index reduce the levels of HDL cholesterol and raise LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

Another interesting fact is that the low-carbohydrate diets increase the size of small, dense LDL particles, making them large and fluffy particles (these may be protective), and descend LDL cholesterol levels.

Replace these simple carbs those that are slowly absorbed (seeds, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes).

Step 3

Avoid any food with trans fats. Artificial or industrial trans fats are hydrogenated fats that are made by introducing hydrogen molecules into a vegetable oil.

Since the 1970s, a multitude of clinical trials and epidemiological studies have confirmed a strong relationship between trans fat intake and increased risk of heart disease. By replacing trans fats with other fats (saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), the results of clinical trials are clear:

– Decrease the total cholesterol / HDL cholesterol ratio (a low ratio is desirable).
– Positively affects the ApoB/ApoA1 ratio (an important heart disease risk factor).

What foods contain trans fats and, therefore, should be avoided?

– Hydrogenated or refined vegetable oils,
– Salty and sweet snacks,
– Industrial bakery and confectionery,
– Commercial sauces and condiments,

If reading the list of ingredients you see “hydrogenated” or “partially-hydrogenated”, this means that the food contains trans fats.

It is better to make desserts by yourself at home to ensure the use of only healthy ingredients.

Step 4

Increase the number of foods that are rich in fiber in your daily meal plan. Among the recommended nutrients to reduce cholesterol in the body is fiber. The body does not digest it, so it expels it whole, but along the way, the fiber carries waste and toxins that are in the body. Its habitual consumption is important for the metabolism of fats and with this in the elimination of cholesterol. Taking in 5-10 g of fiber daily cuts down on the intake of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. Begin the day with one and a half cup of oatmeal, that gives you about 6 g of fiber. Another way to get plenty fiber is by eating raw fruits, beans, brown rice and also whole-grain bread.

Step 5

Cook eggs in healthy ways. While the cholesterol content in eggs is not considered harmful anymore, frying eggs with lard or butter will increase the saturated fat content. Prefer boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, and poached eggs. Want it fried? Use extra virgin olive oil. Do not add creamy sauces or toppings.

Step 6

Drinking milk is important at any age. Many people reduce their milk consumption significantly as they get older, yet this can cause other health problems. The lower the percentage of fat in the milk, the better it is for your cholesterol. Skim milk may not appeal to everyone. So choosing 1 or 2 percent milk is still a very healthy alternative. You can also opt for low-fat dairy foods such as fat-free or 1% buttermilk and plain yogurt, Provolone, Mozzarella, part skim Ricotta and Cheddar.

Step 7
Vegetables are good for your daily eating plan
Vegetables and fruits are highly recommended.

Increase the number of veggies in your daily dishes because they feature less fat even zero fat or calories by nature. Consider preparing recipes made up of veggies or adding vegetables as sides to the dishes. Heat your veggies in a little volume of water or stir-frying them in a single canola oil tablespoon. For further health advantages, season the veggies with natural herbs rather than salt. Fruits and veggies, whole grain bakery, and staying away from salt in what you eat are a well-known common sense nutrition to keeping your heart healthy.

Step 8

Eat more fresh fruits. Everyone knows fruits and vegetables are essential for a heart-healthy diet. The added ingredient is the amount of fiber a particular fruit or veggie has since fiber works to further reduce a person’s cholesterol level. But which ones are the best? Two fruits that lead the list of high fiber foods are apples and pears. With a dietary fiber count of 4.4 and 5.5 g respectively for a medium-size fruit, choosing these over salty or sugary snacks positively contributes to your overall health. So, always have some fresh and cleaned fruits inside a kitchen counter bowl to enable you to quickly take one to have a healthy and safe snack not high in calories and free of cholesterol. But do not skin these fruits! Compared to meats, with skin is healthier than without skin.

Step 9

Eating fish a couple of times or more per week is highly recommended. Fish has less saturated fat while being a very good supply of healthy proteins. A number of fish species such as halibut, tuna fish, and cod contain significantly less LDL when compared with steak or chicken. By simply substituting your red meat with a single fish every week in your food plan, you may reduce your overall cholesterol score. Other fishes such as herring, salmon, and mackerel are an excellent source of N-3 (Omega-3) fatty acids which enable you to get shielded from cardiovascular issues. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our health (brain function, blood pressure, heart health) but unfortunately, our body cannot produce them. A minimum of three servings of Omega-3 rich fish on a weekly basis is recommended. You can broil, grill or bake your fish rather than fry it or prepare it in oily sauces.

Step 10
Yummy heart-healthy chicken breast recipe
Make heart-healthy meat choices in your meals like this tasty low cholesterol chicken breast recipe

Your body needs protein to maintain muscle health. For most people, their protein supply will come from meat. So, want to eat meat? There are considerably less saturated fats in chicken than most red meats unless the red meat is very lean. Look at a skin free poultry to get a nutritious meal loaded with proteins. Skinless chicken is preferred because the skin is the fattiest part. So, chicken is the simple and very flexible meat option. But, you do not need to eat only chicken. You can make low-fat choices like beef sirloin, round roasts or pork tenderloin and restrict your day-to-day meat consumption to 6 oz. Broil, grill or bake your lean meat and steer clear of adding greasy sauces.

Step 11

Eat nuts! Instead of potato chips, opt for a handful of nuts when you get hungry. Almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, pine nuts, peanuts, and pistachios are rich in protein, fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats that help lower cholesterol levels, according to the American Dietetic Association.

Step 12

Eat healthier desserts. Not everyone is content with a piece of fruit for a dessert option, so there are cholesterol-friendly alternatives that will satisfy a sweet tooth. Doctors put angel food cake on the list of foods for a diabetic diet. It has enough sugar to sweeten the sweet tooth while not overdoing it, plus is a very low-fat food. It can be topped with a fruit such as strawberries to make the body both healthy and happy.

Step 13

Drink more water to maintain your body cells well hydrated, which in turn prevents blood from thickening due to excessive amounts of cholesterol. Drink also sodium bicarbonate mineral water regularly during main meals because according to studies published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry in 2010, regular sodium-bicarbonate water consumption reduces total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol significantly. The researchers explained that bicarbonate water increases the pH of the stomach, thus decreasing the release of the hormone cholecystokinin, which causes gallbladder pour less bile in the intestine and thus produces a lower lipid absorption.

Step 14

Limit alcohol intake. It is known that when there is excessive consumption of alcohol, the liver has to metabolize that excess of alcohol. In turn, it metabolizes less fat. This results in an increase of fat in the liver (known as fatty liver), but it also causes an increase in LDL cholesterol in the blood.

Want to drink alcohol? Drink red wine but moderately. Red wine in composition presents a series of compounds containing aromatic rings with high antioxidant properties, called polyphenols. The most important are tannins, found mainly in grape skins and seeds. According to studies published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007, polyphenols inhibit LDL oxidation, which influences the delay in the onset of atherosclerosis, since it is the oxidized LDL that forms a plaque in the artery. Red wine also increases levels of HDL. These two features can produce improved cardiovascular health. A glass of red wine a day is enough to get these benefits. More than that (like with any other alcoholic beverages) can cause much damage to health and interpersonal relationships.

Step 15

If you eat a healthy way at home, you do not have to leave that far away when you go to the restaurant. You must choose the menu well and reduce portions. Choose foods that are grilled, baked or steamed, avoid fried foods and sausages. In addition, practice portion control, for example by requesting middle portion of a plate.

Important lifestyle changes

  • Stop smoking completely

Tobacco is not only harmful to your lungs. It increases the concentration of fats in the blood (increasing LDL cholesterol and lowering HDL cholesterol), mainly due to the presence of carbon monoxide. In fact, nicotine increases platelet aggregation, triglycerides, and cholesterol, and makes arteries to become less flexible.

  • Get up and move

Regular physical activity (such as brisk walking, jogging or running, swimming, cycling, and dancing) for about 30 minutes each day helps maintain or decrease body weight, but can also increase “good” cholesterol (HDL) and decrease triglycerides.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), it is appropriate to perform 300 minutes of physical activity per week (in sessions that are never less than 10 minutes). It also advises doing a minimum of twice a week strengthening activities for large muscle groups.


The guidelines above are not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, although based on the recommendations from the AHA, USDA, and conclusions of recent researches on cholesterol and nutrition. You are recommended to work with your doctor or a registered dietitian to design a customized food plan that will work best for you. It is also highly advisable to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.

Medical Disclaimer

Although we base our articles on recent scientific researches, the content on CholesterolMenu.com should not be considered as medical advice or a recommendation for medical treatment, but as educational and informational articles that are strictly the personal opinion of CholesterolMenu.com's authors. As the reader, you are recommended to consult your doctor to discuss any health issues and treatments. We shall not be held responsible or liable for possible health consequences from following the information in our articles.