High Cholesterol Levels: What Foods Should I Eat?

by Melanie Thomassian Health Professional

If you've been diagnosed with high cholesterol, you may be worried about reducing your intake of high cholesterol foods. Studies suggest, however, that the cholesterol in our food has little effect on blood cholesterol levels.

The cholesterol in your blood comes mostly from the liver, and is effected by your saturated and trans fat
intake, rather than your intake of cholesterol containing foods.

Government guidelines do, however, state that you should limit your average cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams per day. But, if you have been diagnosed with heart disease, this should be reduced further to an intake of less than 200 milligrams per day.

And, although this is the care, you should be most concerned about replacing the saturated and trans fat sources in your diet, with healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, to help protect
your heart health,
rather than worry too much about the cholesterol sources in your diet.

Cholesterol-containing foods

There are only a few foods which contain a high amount cholesterol.
In fact, all foods from animal sources contain some level of cholesterol, including beef, pork, lamb, chicken, fish,
organ meats like liver, and
shellfish like prawns and lobster.
Cholesterol is also found in dairy products, like milk and cheese, and egg yolks contain cholesterol, too.

However, although these foods contain some cholesterol, it is not necessary to avoid them completely. As long as the balance of your diet is good overall, these foods can be enjoyed.

In fact, eating foods that are high in cholesterol won't usually raise your blood cholesterol level much as I've said already, cholesterol levels are mainly influenced by the other fats in your diet.

If you have high cholesterol you don't need to stop eating meat, or any other food, for that matter.

Just make sure your portions are controlled. A serving of meat is about the size of one deck of playing cards, for example. Keeping this in mind can help you to avoid overdoing things.

So, what type of diet is effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels?

Research indicates that a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, soy based products, nuts, seeds, and plant stanols and sterols is very effective in helping to lower cholesterol levels.

Here are some of the best foods for helping to keep your cholesterol levels under control:

  • Almonds

  • Avocado

  • Beans

  • Canola oil

  • Cashews

  • Fresh tuna

  • Fruit

  • Herring

  • Lentils

  • Mackerel

  • Olive oil

  • Peanuts

  • Pilchard

  • Pistachios

  • Porridge

  • Salmon

  • Sardines

  • Vegetables

Here are some of the foods you should avoid most of the time:

  • Butter

  • Cakes

  • Coconut oil

  • Cookies

  • Cream

  • Fatty meat

  • Ghee

  • Hard cheese

  • Lard

  • Meat products such as sausages and the meat in pies

  • Palm oil

  • Suet

5 quick tips to help reduce your cholesterol level:

1. Cut down on trans fats and saturated fats and replace them with small amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

2. Cut fatty foods from your diets, such as pastries, potato chips, cakes, cookies and other high sugar foods.

3. Eat oily fish at least once per week, such as herring, sardines and salmon.

4. Eat lots of foods high in soluble fiber, such as beans, peas, lentils, fruits and vegetables.

5. Don't forget that an active lifestyle can also help to improve your cholesterol levels. Aim to be active five or six days each week.

Melanie Thomassian
Meet Our Writer
Melanie Thomassian

Melanie is a dietitian and writer. She wrote for HeatlhCentral as a health professional for Food & Nutrition and Heart Health.