3 Diet Plans for Better Cholesterol

What should you eat to lower your cholesterol? Choose an overall heart-smart diet and you should see those numbers improve.

Medically reviewed in April 2021

Updated on January 21, 2022

If you've been diagnosed with high cholesterol, your healthcare provider (HCP) has probably recommended a change in your diet to help get your numbers down. Fortunately, you have several options when it comes to a cholesterol-smart diet. Which foods belong in your kitchen?

Go Mediterranean
Many experts agree that the traditional Mediterranean diet is one of the most effective for improving unhealthy cholesterol levels. Why?

This diet replaces saturated fats with heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts, and seeds. This can help lower your LDL ("bad" cholesterol) and may even raise your beneficial HDL levels. The Mediterranean diet also includes a wide variety of other cholesterol-improving foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fish.

Try a little TLC
The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Program, created by the National Institutes of Health, has three parts: physical activity, weight management, and diet. The TLC diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet in many ways. For example, it, too, emphasizes produce, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy, and fish. In addition, it also advocates keeping saturated fat to less than 7 percent of your daily calories, eating less than 200 milligrams of cholesterol a day, and limiting your total fat consumption to less than 35 percent of your daily calories.

The TLC program advises eating only enough calories to reach or maintain a healthy weight, as well as getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, on most days and preferably every day.

Make a DASH for it
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan not only lowers high blood pressure but also improves cholesterol levels, reducing heart disease risk. DASH includes the following recommendations:

  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Enjoy fat-free or low-fat dairy products, as well as fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils.
  • Limit your intake of saturated fat. This type of fat is found in fatty meats, full-fat dairy, and tropical oils, including coconut and palm oils.
  • Cut way back on drinks sweetened with sugar as well as sweets.

Ask your HCP for more advice on the best dietary strategy to improve your cholesterol.

Article sources open article sources

National Library of Medicine Medline Plus. DASH Eating Plan. Reviewed Apr. 25, 2018.
US Department of Health and Human Services. Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC. Dec. 2005.

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