One of the major factors that affects cholesterol levels is dietary intake of 1) cholesterol and 2) saturated fats (as well as trans fats). (See EMG’s Cholesterol Introduction for an in depth review of cholesterol and non-nutritional factors). Excessive cholesterol in the diet (found in foods from animal sources) can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels. Therefore, it is prudent to follow the general cholesterol recommendations from the American Heart Association and Dietary Guideline for Americans. The following guidelines show you how to lower your cholesterol.
3 Nutritional Guidelines on How to Lower Cholesterol
1. Avoid trans-fats! Trans-fats are unnatural fats that are associated with increased production of cholesterol by the body and consequently with significantly increased total blood cholesterol levels. In fact, trans-fats are even more damaging to the body than other naturally occurring fats consumed in the diet. The body actually produces far greater quantities of cholesterol than are typically consumed in the diet. Therefore, changes to the body’s production of cholesterol can have a major impact on blood cholesterol levels. Trans fats have been shown to reduce “good” HDL cholesterol levels and increase “bad’ LDL cholesterol levels.1
Common Foods Containing Trans-Fats:
- Fried Foods, especially from fast food restaurants (French fries, fried chicken, fried fish)
- Processed Foods (cookies, cakes, chips, doughnuts)
2. Limit saturated fat intake. (See Fats & Intake Recommendations for saturated fat intake guidelines). Saturated fats come almost entirely from animal products. Like trans-fats, saturated fats raise the body’s production of cholesterol and thus can significantly increase cholesterol levels.
Common Foods Containing Saturated Fats [Best Alternatives]:
- Meats (beef, duck, chicken, pork, lamb, processed meats) – [Choose lean meats trimmed of fat. Avoid heavily processed meats, such as non-whole beef hot dogs.]
- Dairy sources (milk, cheese, butter) – [Choose low-fat alternative such as skim milk. Use olive oil or canola oil as a substitute for butter.]
- Coconut and palm oil + lard – [Cook with olive or canola oil.]
- Eggs – [Moderate egg consumption has not been shown to increase cholesterol levels.]
3. Limit dietary cholesterol. While it is important to maintain dietary cholesterol intake below recommended levels, daily cholesterol consumed in the diet has not been shown to significantly raise blood cholesterol levels, especially when compared to foods with high levels of saturated and trans fats. The link below shows common foods and their cholesterol levels. (High Cholesterol Foods)
EMG’s Nutrition Homepage: How to Eat Healthy
1.Ascherio A, Willett WC. Health effects of trans fatty acids. Am J Clin Nutr. Oct 1997; 66 (4 Suppl): 1006S-1010S.