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Foods that may improve your cholesterol level

  • You can lower your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raise your HDL cholesterol by taking cholesterol-lowering medicine, getting regular exercise and/or making changes to your eating.

    The following are ways to make changes to your eating.

    • Read the nutrition facts label to find out how much saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol is in your food.
      • Eat less saturated fat (found in animal products and some vegetable oils). Saturated fat raises your LDL. If you are eating 2000 calories a day, limit saturated fat to less than 22 grams a day.
      • Look for foods with unsaturated ("good") fats. Good fats include heart-healthful monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
      • Choose foods with 0 grams of trans fats. Trans fats raise your LDL ("bad" cholesterol) and lower your HDL ("good" cholesterol). Also read the ingredients list to see if the food contains partially hydrogenated oils.
      • Limit cholesterol to less than 200 milligrams a day.
    • Lose weight if you need to. Decrease your daily calories and increase exercise to lose weight, lower your cholesterol and lower your LDL.


    Eat no more than four to seven ounces of fish, poultry or lean meat a day. Try to include some meat-free meals in your weekly eating plan.

    • Choose tuna, salmon, lake trout, halibut, sardines, chicken or turkey (no skin), shellfish, lamb, lean cuts of beef and pork (labeled "round," "chuck," "loin," "tenderloin," "sirloin," "chop," "choice," "select")
    • Avoid or limit bacon, luncheon or processed meats (hot dogs, sausage), organ meats (liver), marbled cuts of meat (T-bone steak, roasts)


    At least 25 grams of soy in place of animal protein a day can help lower your cholesterol.

    • Choose tofu, soy milk, soy nuts, edamame, miso, tempeh

    Dairy products

    Eat two to three servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products every day.

    • Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products such as milk or yogurt, cheese with less than six grams of fat per ounce
    • Avoid or limit 2 percent or whole milk, cheese with more than six grams of fat per ounce, ice cream, half-and-half, whipped cream

    Fats and oils

    Eat no more than three to six teaspoons of fats and oils a day (one serving is equal to five grams of fat or one teaspoon). Saturated fats and trans fats promote plaque formation.

    • Choose olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, flaxseed oil, low-fat condiments, soft tub margarines (0 grams trans fat), non-hydrogenated peanut butter, avocados, nuts, seeds
    • Avoid or limit butter, lard, bacon fat, coconut, coconut oil, palm kernel oil
    • Eliminate trans fats (partially hydrogenated oil) or products made with hydrogenated oils.


    One egg yolk a day may not be of concern. Use cholesterol-free egg products when making eggs often.

    • Choose egg substitutes, egg whites
    • Limit egg yolks to three each week

    Fruits and vegetables

    Eat one and one-half to two cups of fruit and two to three cups of vegetables every day.

    • Choose fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables and dried fruits
    • Limit fried vegetables or vegetables made in butter, cream or other sauces

    Starches, grains (breads) and legumes

    Eat four to 10 ounces a day. Choose whole-grain products. One ounce is generally one-half cup cooked product. Try to eat 25 grams or more of fiber each day.

    • Choose low-fat baked goods (such as angel food cake), brown rice, whole-grain pasta, corn, baked potatoes, dried peas and beans, whole-grain breads and cereals
    • Limit pies, cakes, pastries, muffins, doughnuts, croissants, quick breads, cookies, crackers, granola, chips, fried foods
  • Can you eat your way to lower cholesterol? - teaser

    What is cholesterol?

    Cholesterol is a fat-like substance suspended in your blood. It is made by your liver and is also found in some foods you eat.

    Your total cholesterol blood test value includes three parts:

    LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol is "bad" cholesterol. When too much LDL builds up on your artery walls, plaque forms and blocks blood flow. This can cause heart disease, peripheral artery disease and stroke.

    HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the "good" cholesterol. HDL helps to get rid of extra cholesterol from your blood and tissue. This may prevent or reverse blood vessel problems by taking the cholesterol from the plaque.

    Triglycerides is a fat digested from food that is released into your bloodstream. It either gives your body energy or it is stored as fat. Triglycerides come from dietary fat, high sugar foods, too much alcohol or too many calories.