Cholesterol-lowering diet

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Teen girl in grocery store

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty material in the body’s cells. The body needs some cholesterol because it helps to make cell membranes, some hormones, and other body tissues. Too much cholesterol, however, is bad for your health.

Cholesterol is found in fat, particularly the fat in processed foods and animal products.

If your blood cholesterol is high, you can help reduce it by changing your eating habits and lifestyle. It is important to reduce your levels because high cholesterol can affect your heart health as an adult.

To keep your cholesterol levels low, choose:

  • foods that are low in saturated fats and trans or hydrogenated fats
  • whole grain products
  • high-fibre foods
  • lots of fruits and vegetables.

Reading and understanding the nutrition label will help you figure out how much cholesterol is in a serving size of food.

Reducing your cholesterol

Here are some other great tips on how to reduce your cholesterol.

  • Eat regular meals and snacks.
  • Never skip breakfast!
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables - keep it colourful!
  • Choose homemade foods over convenient and fast foods.
  • Choose wholegrain breads and high-fibre cereals with more than 4 g of fibre per serving.
  • Limit juice to 1 cup a day.
  • Avoid soft drinks and pop.
  • Keep sweets as an occasional treat.
  • Choose lean meats.
  • Limit processed meats such as cold cuts, burgers and sausages.
  • Eat at least two servings of fish a week.
  • Choose low-fat snacks with less than 3 g of fat per serving.
  • Choose low-fat milk products (skim milk and fat-free yogurt).
  • Choose low-sugar snacks with less than 10 g of sugar per serving.
  • Increase your physical activity (ask your physiotherapist for advice).
  • Ask your dietitian if you can take a fish oil supplement.

Low-cholesterol food choices

Fats

​Best choices​Foods to have less often or avoid
Non-hydrogenated margarineButter, lard, ghee
​Sunflower, corn, olive, canola or safflower oilPalm, coconut or peanut oil; bacon fat
Light mayonnaise; low-fat dressings​Regular mayonnaise; creamy dressings (such as Caesar or ranch dressing); gravy; cream or cheese sauces​
​Low-fat sour cream or light cream cheese (5% fat or less)​Full-fat cream cheese
Nuts or seeds​Cakes, cookies, muffins, potato chips, doughnuts, croissants​

Vegetables and fruit

​Best choices​Foods to have less often or avoid
Fresh or frozen vegetables, steamed, boiled or bakedFried vegetables
​Fresh or frozen fruitCanned fruit in syrup
Fruit juice* with no added sugar (limit to 250 mL or 1 cup a day)Fruit drinks; fruit cocktails; fruit pop​
​Dried fruit​Grapefruit, if you are taking medications; coconut

*Avoid grapefruit juice.

Breads and cereals

​Best choices​Foods to have less often or avoid
Wholegrain bread, English muffins or pitaWhite bread; bread with shortening, lard or hydrogenated oil
​Brown ricePackaged seasoned rice
Whole wheat pastaCanned or boxed pasta​
Cereals with fibre (more than 2% DV)Packaged cereal sweetened with sugar or honey; granola

Milk and milk alternatives

​Best choices​Foods to have less often or avoid
1% or skim milk2% or homogenized (whole) milk; evaporated or condensed milk
Low-fat cheese (less than 20% m.f.); 1% cottage cheeseRegular cheese; processed cheese such as cheese strings
Low-fat sour cream (less than 5% m.f.)Cream, sour cream, whipping cream
​1% or fat-free yogurt or pudding; low-fat frozen yogurt; low-fat ice cream (less than 8% m.f.)Regular yogurt or pudding; ice cream
Sherbet or water icesSpecialty coffee (such as cappuccino with cream)

Meat and meat alternatives

​Best choices​Foods to have less often or avoid
Extra lean ground beef or other meat cuts with little fat Fatty meats with lots of white areas (called marbling)
Lean goat or pork meatBacon; ham; mutton; organ meats such as kidney, liver, heart
Chicken or turkey breast, skin removedFried chicken; chicken fingers or nuggets; duck or goose
Low-fat cold cuts such as black forest ham, roast beef, turkey or chicken breastSausages, hot dogs, salami, pepperoni
​Fish, steamed, poached or bakedFried fish, fish canned in oil
​Egg whitesWhole egg (can have up to 2 eggs a week)
​Tofu; beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas (canned or dry)Canned pork and beans; refried beans
Nuts or seeds (up to 2 tablespoons a day)Nut butter (such as peanut or almond) or seed butter (such as tahini (sesame seed paste) or sunflowe seed)

Snacks

​Best choices​Foods to have less often or avoid
Plain, unsalted popcornPopcorn with butter or other toppings
Low-fat crackers and cookies (such as animal crackers, social tee, digestive, arrowroot, oatmeal, graham crackers or Saltines)Cheese crackers; butter or chocolate cookies; store-bought pastries
​Homemade muffins and cookies (from scratch); angel food cakeMuffins, cookies or cakes made from a mix

Last updated: November 30th 2017