How Dietary Changes Lower Cholesterol

Registered Dietitian Melanie Douglass lets us know which foods will drop your levels and make you healthier.


One of the most common questions I am asked these days is “how can I lower my cholesterol”. The shocking part is that it’s not older people asking me, it’s usually young 25 – 40 year olds! It is possible to lower your cholesterol by up to 30%–just by making sensible changes to your diet! Here’s how:

Two Things That RAISE Your Cholesterol and Triglycerides (which is hard on your heart – so CUT BACK):

1) Saturated fat & Trans fat are the #1 offenders to your heart; surprising as it may seem, they will raise your blood cholesterol more than dietary cholesterol from food.

• Saturated fat is found in animal products like meats, whole milk, cheese and ice cream, plus fried foods, fast food & desserts

• Trans fat is found in many boxed, packaged or processed snack foods (look at labels), restaurant foods, anything fried, and most desserts

2) “Simple” carbohydrates: these raise your blood triglycerides (which is also bad for your heart)

• Simple carbs are found in sugary cereals, white bread, crackers, cookies, chips, soda pop, muffins, etc

Five Things that LOWER Your Cholesterol and Triglycerides (which is good for you, so EAT MORE)

1) Fruits & veggies: You should eat fruit and/or veggie with every meal and at least one snack at day. They are:

• high in fiber which helps remove bad cholesterol from your body

• high in antioxidants, which reduce the inflammation and damage to arteries due to high cholesterol

• Low in calories, which reduces obesity and risk for heart problems

2) Soluble Fiber: this is found in oatmeal, bran muffins, bran cereal, apples, bananas, oranges, beans, broccoli and carrots. Soluble fiber removes bad cholesterol from your blood stream.

3) Healthy Fats: these are fats that come from plants like nuts, seeds, and canola or olive oil. You should have one small handful of nuts everyday (like almonds or walnuts). Healthy fats make your blood less sticky, which is good for your heart. Flax seed is good for your heart. You can buy ground flax seed and sprinkle 1 – 2 Tbsp on hot or cold cereal every morning.

4) Plant Sterols and Stanols: these are plant forms of cholesterol that 1) have the opposite effect in the body as the commonly consumed animal forms of cholesterol and 2) are not found in significant amounts in the foods we eat. The best source of plant sterols and stanols is from fortified butter-type spreads, salad dressing and supplements (like “Cholest-off”). The plant forms – sterols and stenols – actually work in the body to block the absorption of “bad” LDL cholesterol; they basically compete with each other for absorption and the end result is less harmful cholesterol is absorbed in the body.

5) Exercise: you should get at least 30 minutes of activity everyday. It can be through a sport, riding your bike, running, or bodyweight strength training like push-ups, squats, crunches, dips, etc.

OVERALL, here’s what you should be eating to protect your heart (you only get one heart, so take care of it!)

– Fruits

o eat with breakfast and for evening snack… at least

– Veggies

o eat with lunch and dinner…. at least

– Whole grains

o eat oatmeal for breakfast, use whole-wheat bread and pasta, and brown rice

– Healthy fats

o eat a small handful of almonds or walnuts everyday; skip fried foods and foods with “trans” fat

– Canola Harvest (soft-tub margarine spread) instead of butter or margarine

o use Canola Harvest in baking, spreading, everything! It’s cheap and very tasty) Don’t use butter any more, except once in a while. Make all cookies and homemade treats with canola harvest, it is the best “butter”-type product that is low in bad fats (saturated + trans) and high in healthy monounsaturated fats.

– Lean meats (skinless chicken, lean hamburger, fish, sliced deli meats

– Skip fried foods: fries, chicken, shrimp etc.

– Skip juice or beverages with sugar (instead drink milk, water, calcium-fortified orange juice, or diet soda).

– Use low-fat cheese or use regular cheese sparingly.

– Drink skim or 1% milk.

– Use low-fat salad dressing or try the delicious new Wishbone Salad Spritzers (they are very low calorie, but taste great!).

– When you eat out at a restaurant, order vegetable soup, salad and eat one piece of bread; or try 1 piece meat (baked not fried), 1 serving cooked vegetable or salad, and ½ of a serving of rice or potato; or, always eat ½ of what you are served and save the rest for later or share with a friend.

– Make sure all food portions are smaller than you usually eat (we all eat way too much! We are adapted to oversized portions). Every portion should fit in the palm of your hand.

– If you need snacks for school, try these:

o Fresh fruit

o Baby carrots or sugar snap peas

o 1 handful of almonds

o 1 cup light yogurt

o 1 handful of dry high-fiber cereal

o Fiber 1 granola bar


Have a health question for Melanie? Click here to submit your question and Melanie will answer your question on an upcoming Studio 5 segment!


By Melanie Douglass, R.D., NASM

Author: Tip-a-Day Guide to Healthy Living

(Deseret Book, 2007)

© 2007 Melanie Douglass, Deseret Book

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