Medically Reviewed by Vincenta Faulkner, RD, CNSC, CCTD
Your body naturally has cholesterol and needs this lipid to carry out its daily functions; however, when too much LDL cholesterol builds up in your bloodstream, it can threaten your heart health by leading to buildup that can cause blockages.
Lifestyle changes, including leading a more active lifestyle and eating a more heart-healthy diet, are the leading ways to lower your cholesterol without medication.
Let’s look at some ways to include a low cholesterol diet plan as part of your heart-healthy diet with Zizi.
What Are the Key Components of a Heart-Healthy Diet?
Although there are many different varieties and types of foods you can incorporate into your diet to make it heart-healthy, there are some common themes to these options.
A heart-healthy diet to lower your cholesterol includes ample amounts of fruits and vegetables; whole grains; plant-based, lean-meat, or oily fish protein sources like salmon; nuts and legumes; and unsaturated fats.
When you go to the grocery store, check nutrition labels and read about fat content, cholesterol, sodium, and fiber levels to build a well-balanced diet for your heart health.
How Can I Change My Diet To Help Lower My Cholesterol?
A balanced diet comprises five food groups: fruits and vegetables, starchy food, dairy, protein, and fat.
Here, we discuss low cholesterol options in each of these food groups to help you build a low cholesterol diet that is both well-balanced and good for your heart.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables High in Fiber
Pectin is a soluble fiber that helps lower your bad cholesterol levels.
This fiber is abundant in apples, strawberries, bananas, pears, and citruses, so you should try to eat plenty of these fruits to benefit your heart health. The best vegetables rich in fiber are eggplant and okra; leafy green mixes and carrots are second best. General recommendations suggest that you try to eat five or more fruit and vegetable servings daily.
Eat Whole Grain Food Options
Starchy foods include pasta and rice. When you opt for whole grain alternatives, you provide your body with soluble fiber to help lower your cholesterol levels.
You also ensure that your body’s fuel lasts longer: whole grain foods take more time to digest, so you can feel full and more sustained for longer periods.
Recommendations suggest around five to ten grams of soluble fiber a day, which means that potatoes, bread, rice, and pasta should comprise about one-third of your meal ingredients each day. This is easy to do if you plan each meal with a starchy whole grain food as the base, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, oats, whole grain cereal, or whole grain bread.
Opt for Low or No-Fat Dairy
Dairy contributes to a well-balanced diet and supplies you with protein, vitamins, and calcium in particular.
However, dairy is also high in fat, so you may want to opt for a low or no-fat option, such as skim milk or one percent. You can also choose a non-dairy substitute, such as almond or oat milk.
When It Comes to Protein, Plant-Based or Leaner Meat Is Best
In general, vegetarian or mostly vegetarian diets are more heart-healthy because they offer protein options that can help lower your cholesterol levels. Try to eat plant-based protein options, including soybeans, tofu, vegetable sausage, or tempeh. In addition, you can consume nuts such as walnuts or almonds to make your diet more heart-healthy.
For non-meat protein options, beans are another plant-based alternative to meat. They are high in soluble fiber to help lower cholesterol and sustain you for longer because they have longer digestion times.
Fish is another excellent protein source, especially if it's oily. Oily fish has plenty of omega-3 fatty acids that can support heart health by protecting your wellness overall.
If you enjoy eating meat, you can try to opt for leaner choices, such as chicken or turkey. You can avoid the skin with these options to reduce your unhealthy fat intake.
Choose Unsaturated Fat Over Saturated Fat
Contrary to popular belief, not all fat is bad.
Just like cholesterol, your body requires fat for its daily processes. Fat supplies your body with energy and helps it absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
You’ll recall that we recommend incorporating about one-third of your meal ingredients as starchy foods. The same is true for fat: one-third of your body’s energy should come from fats. The caveat to this requirement is that not all fat is good, and you need to be careful not to consume too much “bad” fat.
Saturated fat is often synonymous with bad fat, so make sure that no more than 7% of your daily calories come from this type of fat.
Instead, choose foods rich in unsaturated fat as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet plan. Plant-derived oils, including vegetable or olive oil, typically have high unsaturated fat content, and may help lower your risk for heart disease.
What Foods Should I Avoid?
Saturated fat is the single most risky dietary source that contributes to high cholesterol levels. So you may want to avoid foods with high saturated fat levels such as butter, lard, margarine, cream cheese, full-fat milk, sausage, bacon, coconut oil, and palm oil.
You can also scale back on sugary foods in general; cookies, cakes, and pastries have a lot of sugar and thus many calories that can contribute to weight gain.
Finally, even though salt is not a direct contributor to high cholesterol levels, salt can still raise your blood pressure to put you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Working to avoid excess salt if you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure can help reduce your risk for heart disease.
What Meals Can I Make To Lower My Cholesterol?
You should aim to eat three to four smaller meals, coupled with one to two healthy snacks, as part of your low cholesterol diet plan. A few ideas for breakfast include a whole wheat bagel or toast with unsalted, low-fat nut butter, a Greek yogurt parfait with nuts and fresh or dried fruit, and oatmeal topped with cinnamon, dried fruit, peanut butter, and honey.
For lunch ideas, you can try a wrap with whole-wheat pita or tortilla, veggies, low-fat mayonnaise, and lean meat or a plant-based meat alternative. You could also have a salad with mixed greens, chickpeas, nuts, avocado, and apple pieces.
Baked or grilled fish seasoned with herbs and lemon juice is a great dinner option. Another idea is whole-grain pasta with red kidney beans and low-sodium red sauce, or stir fry with a plant-based protein like tofu, brown rice, and low-sodium soy sauce.
How Long Will It Take To Lower My Cholesterol With Diet Changes?
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as waking up after one day of diet changes and finding that your cholesterol levels are greatly lowered — you cannot lower your high cholesterol levels overnight.
However, as long as you consciously stick to your well-balanced dietary changes and pair them with an active, healthy lifestyle, you may start to see your levels lower within a few weeks to a couple of months.
If you are struggling to know where to start to make a low cholesterol diet plan, try keeping a food diary for a week. When you write down what you eat, it’s easy to pinpoint foods you consume larger amounts of that might not be the greatest for lowering your cholesterol.
Every little change, no matter how small, counts. Sometimes it’s better to start small, with one or two simple swaps in the foods you eat, rather than trying to drastically change your diet all at once. Implement your low cholesterol diet plan in gradual increments, and be proud of yourself and your body each step of the way!
Detect, Treat, and Prevent With Zizi
While there are so many different types of foods you can eat to lower your cholesterol levels, low cholesterol diet plans typically include lots of fruits and vegetables, soluble fiber, whole grains, plant-based proteins, lean meats, oily fish, and unsaturated fats.
You should implement your new cholesterol diet plan slowly, and stay positive because a low cholesterol diet plan is not a short-term or one-time fix. Rather, it is a series of lifestyle changes that you will need to consistently maintain to achieve the best results for your heart health.
Zizi is here to help you prevent your high cholesterol levels without ever leaving your house — it’s that easy.
You deserve accessible care to stay heart-healthy, and with Zizi, you can prevent or treat high cholesterol levels without ever setting foot outside your house. With a subscription to our Heart Health Reset, you get access to ongoing preventative care and monthly heart monitoring without the hoops.
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