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by Scheinberg D

Cholesterol-lowering Diet

(Low-Density Lipoprotein [LDL] Lowering Diet)

This way of eating lowers your levels of bad and raises your levels of good cholesterol. Having too much bad and not enough good can lead to atherosclerosis. This is when plaque builds up in your arteries. This thins and hardens them. It also raises your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

The Risk

Cholesterol is one cause that plays into your risk of having a heart attack, heart disease, or stroke. Others are:
  • Age
  • Whether you are male or female
  • Race
  • Other health problems, such as diabetes or obesity
Eating this way may help if you are at high risk. The goal is to lower bad and raise good cholesterol.


Making changes to how you eat may help to lower your cholesterol.


Fat has many jobs. It carries fat soluble vitamins , protects organs, and makes you feel full. Fat can be broken down into four types:
Fats that should be not eaten or eaten in small amounts:
Saturated fat
Found in margarine and shortening, snack foods, and fried foods, it raises total blood cholesterol, chiefly bad the bad type.
  • Animal fats are butter, lard, whole-milk dairy products, meat fat, and poultry skin
  • Vegetable fats are shortening, palm oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter
Hydrogenated or trans fat
Found in margarine and shortening, it raises total blood cholesterol, chiefly the bad type. It also lowers the good type.
Fats that help and should be eaten in moderation:
Monounsaturated fat
Found in oils such as olive and canola, it can lower total cholesterol level while keeping levels of the good type high.
Polyunsaturated fat
Found in oils such as safflower, sunflower, soybean, corn, and sesame, it can lower total cholesterol.
Less than 5-6% of calories should come from saturated fat. Trans fat intake should be kept very low with a goal to remove them.
If you eat 2,000 calories a day, this is less than 13 grams of saturated fat per day. Most of the fats you eat should be mono- and polyunsaturated.


This is found only in animal products. It can raise bad levels, but saturated or trans fats are worse. You should eat as little as you can.


Eating foods that are high in soluble fiber can help lower your bad levels. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both are vital, but only soluble changes cholesterol levels. It breaks down into a gel that helps block fat and cholesterol in the blood.
It is found in foods such as oatmeal, oat bran, barley, soy products, apples, and strawberries. You should eat at least 5-10 grams per day. It's even better if you can eat 10-25 grams.

Stanols and Sterols

Stanols and sterols are found in certain plants. Plant stanols and sterols can lower bad levels by blocking them. They are now being added to foods like margarines and orange juice.

Eating Chart

Food Foods to Eat Foods to Not Eat
  • Whole grain breads and cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes, low-fat crackers
  • High-fat baked goods like muffins, donuts, and pastries
  • Crackers made with trans fat
  • All; choose whole fruit over juice for added fiber
  • None
  • All
  • Veggies with added fat or sauce
  • Nonfat or low-fat (1%) milk
  • Nonfat or low-fat yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk
  • Cottage cheese, low-fat cheeses
  • Whole milk
  • Reduced-fat (2%) milk
  • Malted and chocolate milk
  • Most cheeses
Meat and beans
  • Lean cuts of beef, pork, veal, or lamb; trim fat before cooking
  • Poultry without the skin
  • Fish and most shellfish; limit your intake of shrimp
  • Egg whites and egg substitutes; limit whole eggs to two per week
  • Tofu
  • Seeds, nuts; peanut butter should be eaten in moderation due to high calories
  • Dried peas, beans, and lentils
  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Organ meats like brain, liver, and kidneys
  • Poultry skin
  • Breaded fish or meats
  • More than two egg yolks per week, such as those found in baked goods, cooked foods, or processed foods
Fats and oil
  • Vegetable oils like olive, canola, corn, safflower, or soybean
  • Trans fat-free soft or liquid margarines; the first item should be unsaturated liquid vegetable oil
  • Margarine with stanol/sterol
  • Low-fat salad dressings and mayonnaise
  • Butter, stick margarine, coconut and palm oils, bacon fat
  • Salad dressings made with egg yolk
Snacks, sweets, and condiments
  • In moderation: fat-free or low-fat cookies, ice cream, frozen yogurt; sherbet; angel food cake; baked goods made with unsaturated oil or trans-free margarine, egg whites or egg substitutes, and nonfat milk; jello; candy made with little or no fat like hard candy or jelly beans
  • High-fat desserts; baked goods made with butter, lard, shortening, egg yolks, or whole milk


Choosing Foods

  • Make whole grains, fruits, and veggies the base of the foods you eat.
  • Look for products that are labeled as fat free, low-fat, cholesterol free, saturated fat-free and trans fat-free. A product can say it doesn't have trans fat, even on the label, but still have a small amount. Be sure to look for partially hydrogenated oil. If it has this, do not eat it.
  • Learn how to read a food label. It lists things like the amount of calories, fat, and cholesterol per serving.
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These are fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna; flaxseed, walnuts, and canola oil. Eating fish at least two times a week is more helpful than taking pills.
Try all kinds foods and make changes based on what you like to eat. It may take some time to get used to new changes.

Making Meals

  • Make foods using low-fat methods, such as steaming, boiling, grilling, poaching, baking, broiling, or roasting. If you are sautéing or stir frying, use a cooking spray or small amount of vegetable oil.
  • Trim any fat off meat or poultry before cooking. Drain the fat after browning.
  • Limit high-fat sauces. Add flavor to foods with fresh herbs, salsas, or chutneys.
  • Raise your fiber by adding fruit to your cereal or yogurt, beans to your salad, and choosing whole-grain breads.
  • Cook at home more often. When you eat out, the food tends to be high in fat and calories.


  • Workout at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • If you need to, talk with your doctor about the best ways to lose weight.
  • Talk to a dietitian for help with meal plans.


Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Dietitians of Canada
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: Updated January 7, 2016. Accessed October 1, 2018.
About cholesterol. American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated April 30, 2017. Accessed October 1, 2018.
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: Accessed October 1, 2018.
Dietary interventions for cardiovascular disease prevention. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated September 11, 2017. Accessed October 1, 2018.
Eckel RH, Jakicic JM, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2014;129(25 Suppl 2):S76-S99.
Goff DC Jr. Lloyd-Jones DM, et al. 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the assessment of cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2014;63(25 pt B):2935-2959.
Harland JI. Food combinations for cholesterol lowering. Nutr Res Rev. 2012;25(2):249-266.
Hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated September 20, 2018. Accessed October 1, 2018.
The skinny on fats. American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated April 30, 2017. Accessed October 1, 2018.
Lowering your cholesterol with TLC. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Published December 2005. Accessed October 1, 2018.
What your cholesterol levels mean. American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated April 30, 2017. Accessed October 1, 2018.

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