Our bodies’ cholesterol levels are only controlled to a small degree by the amount of
cholesterol found in our food. Our heart health and cholesterol is still controlled by our
diet, just in a different way. Higher levels of unhealthy (LDL) cholesterol and lower HDL
cholesterol levels can occur as a result of a consistently poor diet combined with unhealthy
weight gain and a lack of exercise.
A range of very serious health issues can come into play if you have high cholesterol for
any length of time. In order to prevent these from occurring, it’s vital that you maintain low
cholesterol levels. Lower cholesterol can be achieved if you follow these top tips.
Striving for 81
Your goal when lowering cholesterol should be to hit LDL levels of 100 and below, but
some studies have suggested that 81 is the real magic number. Nearly 9,000 European
patients were studied in a ground-breaking trial published in the Journal of the American
Medical Association (JAMA) 1 . Every individual included in the study had suffered a heart
attack in the past.
Compared to patients who reduced their LDL to 104 on usual-dose statin therapy, this trial
found that patients who used high-dose statins to reduce their LDL levels to an average of
81 experienced significantly lower risks of major coronary events like strokes and heart
attacks at their 4.8 year follow-up.
Unsaturated and Saturated Fats
Saturated and unsaturated fats are the two main fat types you’re likely to encounter. The
majority of people in the UK consume diets high in saturated fat. The level of cholesterol in
your blood can become increased if you eat too many foods high in saturated fats. These
fats are found in high concentrations in foods like…
❏ Pasties, sausage rolls and pork pies;
❏ Full-fat milk, lard and butter;
❏ Cheddar, gouda and edam;
❏ Coconut oil, milk and cream;
❏ Cakes and biscuits;
❏ Sausages and fatty cuts of meat.
Cholesterol levels can actually be reduced somewhat if you eat foods that contain
unsaturated fat instead of saturated fats. Small amounts of foods high in unsaturated fats
can be used to replace sat-fat-saturated foods. Try eating things like…
❏ Nuts: Almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and macadamia nuts;
❏ Seeds: Sunflower and pumpkin seeds;
❏ Vegetable oils and spreads: Rapeseed, vegetable, sunflower, olive, corn and walnut
❏ Peanut butter;
Cut Out Trans Fats
Yup, another fat to strike off the menu! In the US, the FDA are currently working on
removing them from the food supply altogether. The UK government are being urged to do
the same. According to Dr Suzanne Steinbaum, attending cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital
in New York City, trans fats “raise your LDL, lower your HDL, and increase your risk of
developing heart disease and stroke.”
Sadly they can be pretty difficult to avoid. You’ll find them in all of your favourite baked
snacks, stick margarines and fried foods. While we’re waiting for the government to take
action, there are some steps we can take to make our own diets better. Make a point of
reading food labels when you go shopping. If you see trans fats (or their official title,
“partially hydrogenated oil”) in the ingredients, leave them out of the trolley.
Discover Soluble Fibre
Humans can’t digest soluble fibre, a collection of compounds that dissolve in water and are
found in plants. Soluble fibre can, however, be digested by the good bacteria that live in
your intestines. Their own nutrition depends on it, in fact. VLDL, LDL and harmful types of
lipoproteins can all be reduced by these good bacteria, also known as probiotics. LDL was
decreased by 18% in one study 2 , which followed 30 adults who took 3 grammes of soluble
fibre supplements every day for 12 weeks.
LDL was reduced by 6% in another study 3 where breakfast cereal was fortified with fibre
from psyllium. Cereals fortified with soluble fibre from pectin were found to reduce LDL by
4%. The cholesterol benefits of taking a statin medication can also be improved through
the consumption of soluble fibre.
The lipid-lowering medication “simvastatin” was combined with 15 grammes of psyllium
product “Metamucil” per 10-mg dose in another study 4 , which followed 68 adults over 12
weeks. This time, the combination was found to work just as well as taking twice the dose
of statin without added fibre.
Great natural sources of soluble fibre include pulses, oats, whole grains, fruit and beans.
Lose the Cigarettes
Your HDL cholesterol level can be improved if you quit smoking. You’ll start experiencing
the benefits surprisingly quickly.
★ The cigarette-induced spike in blood pressure and heart rate will be reduced within
20 minutes of quitting.
★ You’ll feel improvements in blood circulation and lung function within 3 months of
★ Your risk of heart disease will be halved within 1 year of quitting.
Eye-appealing pigments, fibre, sterols and stanols are all found in fruits and vegetables,
and all work towards lowering cholesterol. Between blueberries, leafy greens, carrots,
strawberries, plums, tomatoes and squashes, the list of foods for you to eat covers the
entire rainbow. Fruits and vegetables are generally better for you the more colourful they
Okra and Aubergine
Start eating your rainbow! Okra and aubergine are both great sources of soluble fibre, and
are very low in calories.
The cholesterol blacklist is no longer headed by eggs. One egg contains about 213
milligrammes of cholesterol, while the daily recommended limit is 300. That means that
you’re allowed to eat eggs – you’ll just have to limit your other cholesterol sources for the
rest of the day. If you want an egg, leave the cream out of your coffee and cut down the
meat from your meals.
For more information about cholesterol, check out Need2Know’s Essential Guide to
Cholesterol. Learn how changing your carbohydrate intake may have more impact than
adapting your fat intake, add phytosterols to your diet to reduce cholesterol, or simply
follow the therapeutic eating plan for maximum results.