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Lifestyle Cholesterol Management (cont.)

Is There a Diet to Lower Cholesterol?

Patient Comments

Diet and other lifestyle changes affect your blood cholesterol levels. Changing daily habits may prevent the need to take medication to control cholesterol levels, if no other risk factors for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) are present. Cholesterol-lowering medications are available, but they should be used in addition to and not as a substitute for exercise, dietary changes, avoiding smoking, and controlling blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Lifestyle changes should be employed first and continued for a lifetime to manage cholesterol levels.

Diets high in saturated fat are linked to high total blood cholesterol levels and pose an increased risk for heart disease and other vascular diseases. Simply put, reduce all fats in your diet, paying particular attention to saturated fats.

The American Heart Association suggests that fats should represent no more than 30% of total calories you consume in a day, but 25% or 20% is even better. Most of the fats in the diet should be unsaturated.

  • Decide how many total calories you need a day to maintain your desired weight. As a rule of thumb, you multiply your desired weight in pounds by 11, if your life is sedentary; 13 if moderately active; and 15 if active. The total gives you your recommended daily calorie count.
  • Determine how many grams of fat you should eat in a day (see chart). Don't get distracted by trying to measure the grams of saturated and unsaturated fat (this information is on food labels). Simply focus on total grams of fat.
Grams of Fat Allowed Per Day
Daily Calorie IntakeGrams of Fat Using Guide of 20% of Calories from Fat Per day

Certain foods really do have health benefits for controlling cholesterol and overall heart health beyond providing basic nutrition. The Department of Health and Human Services identifies these food choices.

  • Broccoli: benefits heart health, blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer
  • Fish or fish oil benefits heart health, blood pressure, cholesterol
  • Green leafy vegetables benefit heart health, blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer
  • Oranges or orange juice benefit heart health, blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer
  • Carrots benefit heart health, blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer
  • Garlic benefits heart health
  • Fiber benefits heart health
  • Oats/oat bran/oatmeal benefits heart health

What Foods Lower High Cholesterol Levels?

Lower cholesterol levels should start at the grocery store. Read food labels and buy foods low in saturated fat and low in cholesterol (cholesterol itself is found in some foods, and this type of cholesterol is different from blood cholesterol). If possible, try to include fresh fruits and vegetables in every grocery shopping trip.

To help you know what to look for when grocery shopping, use this shopping list from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:

  • Breads such as whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel, or white
  • Soft tortillas, corn or whole wheat
  • Hot and cold cereals except granola or muesli
  • Rice (white, brown, wild, basmati, or jasmine)
  • Grains (bulgur, couscous, quinoa, barley, hominy, millet)
  • Fruits: Any fresh, canned, dried, or frozen without added sugar
  • Vegetables: Any fresh, frozen, or (low salt) canned without cream or cheese sauce
  • Fresh or frozen juices, without added sugar
  • Fat-free or 1% milk
  • Cheese (with 3 grams of fat or less per serving)
  • Low fat or nonfat yogurt
  • Lean cuts of meat (eye of round beef, top round, sirloin, pork tenderloin)
  • Lean or extra lean ground beef
  • Chicken or turkey, white or light meat (remove skin)
  • Fish (most white meat fish is very low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol)
  • Tuna, light meat canned in water
  • Peanut butter, reduced fat
  • Eggs, egg whites, egg substitutes
  • Low-fat cookies or angel food cake
  • Low fat frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet
  • Popcorn without butter or oil, pretzels, baked tortilla chips
  • Nuts such as walnuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts
  • Margarine (soft, diet, tub, or liquid)
  • Vegetable oil (canola, olive, corn, peanut, sunflower)
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Sparkling water, tea, lemonade


American Heart Association. "What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean." Updated: Aug 17, 2016.
<> "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020; Eigth Edition."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/16/2016

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