Low Cholesterol Diet Plan for Beginners
May 9, 2023
May 9, 2023
Cholesterol is one of the most well-known compounds in our body. It is a waxy lipid synthesis in the liver that plays a vital role in keeping your cells and organs healthy.
In addition, your body needs cholesterol to perform various functions, such as building cell membranes, hormone production, bile and vitamin D production.
Still, there are so many persistent myths that cholesterol is bad for you, while the truth is that some types of cholesterol are essential for you. However, another fact is that cholesterol is healthy for you only when it is regulated. So, it is essential for you to ensure that your cholesterol levels are well-balanced.
Like several other conditions, cholesterol levels also primarily depend on our dietary habits.
This article explains everything you should know about healthy cholesterol levels and an ideal low-cholesterol diet plan.
There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also commonly known as “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or the “good” cholesterol.
A research analysis demonstrates the effect of cholesterol levels and their effect on our heart health. High LDL cholesterol levels in your blood may put you at risk of getting heart diseases.
Excess LDL leads to plaque build-up in the inner walls of the arteries’, thus blocking the blood flow to the heart causing a heart attack. In addition, an interrupted blood flow to the brain can lead to stroke and peripheral artery disease.
On the other hand, HDL cholesterol helps eliminate “bad” LDL cholesterol by absorbing and carrying it back to the liver, which then flushes it from the body.
The combined amount of LDL and HDL cholesterol in your blood is called Total Cholesterol. Total and LDL cholesterol levels should be lower in the body. On the other hand, since HDL cholesterol reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke, it is considered good. Healthy cholesterol levels in the blood should be:
Ideally, everyone of age 20 and above should have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years. In addition, it is best to have a blood test called a “lipoprotein profile” to determine your cholesterol numbers.
Research suggests that HDL levels below 40 mg/dL are a significant risk factor for heart disease. Therefore, doctors recommend keeping HDL levels higher. However, high LDL levels lead to maximum heart issues. Hence, it is essential to eat a low yet balanced cholesterol diet.
Although our body produces cholesterol, foods play a significant role in enhancing its production and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
For example, eating foods high in saturated fats and trans-fats cause bad (LDL) cholesterol levels to go up. Hence, observing and regulating your cholesterol intake is extremely important to avoid various health conditions. However, there is no single food that will help to lower your cholesterol levels.
So it’s necessary to focus on the quality of your overall meal and have a balanced diet regularly. Below is a list of foods you can incorporate into your low cholesterol diet.
Whole grains are a complete package of nutrients because of their fibre-rich bran, starchy endosperm, and germ, packed with macro and micro nutrients. In addition, according to research, the consumption of whole-grain foods lowers LDL cholesterol. A few options are:
Rice is one of the staple foods in India. However, white rice primarily contains starchy endosperm. Hence, it can be unhealthy. On the other hand, since brown rice is a whole grain, it is healthier than regular white rice. In addition, it has complex carbohydrates that help you manage your cholesterol and lose weight.
A study established that rice bran oil (RBO) found in brown rice induces cholesterol-reducing activity by absorption-reabsorption of cholesterol and downregulation of cholesterol synthesis. Moreover, it helps to nourish blood vessels, regulate insulin secretion, enhance kidney and liver function and prevent chronic alcohol disease.
One hundred grams of brown rice has 0 cholesterol.
Quinoa is an ancient, gluten-free grain that has recently gained popularity for its high fibre and protein content. As a result, quinoa is a valuable dietary choice for vegans and vegetarians. In addition, it offers iron, copper, thiamin, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and folate. It also acts as a prebiotic that promotes beneficial gut bacteria, thriving and improving gut health.
One hundred grams of quinoa has 0 cholesterol.
Whole grain oats are the most effective whole grain for lowering cholesterol. It is because they have a combination of nutrients and phytochemicals that aid in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. For example, a type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan in oats facilitates the excretion of cholesterol-rich bile acids from the body, lowering LDL.
Moreover, whole grain oats have an anti-inflammatory effect that helps protect the blood vessels from the damage of LDL cholesterol. In addition, whole grain oats contain high antioxidants that improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. It is also a prebiotic food that increases gut bacteria’s growth rate and can contribute to a healthy gut.
One hundred grams of whole grain oats has 0 cholesterol.
It is one of the most beneficial whole grains for its high protein and mineral value compared to other cereals and millets. In addition, Ragi helps bring down cholesterol levels because of the various essential amino acids. For example, lecithin and methionine eliminate excess fat from the liver, while threonine inhibits fat formation and helps bring down cholesterol levels.
Ragi is also an excellent source of protein, making it perfect for vegetarian diets. Furthermore, the high polyphenols and dietary fibre content give ragi anti-diabetic, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Therefore, ragi essentially helps manage cholesterol and diabetes.
Fruits are a perfect choice for cholesterol patients because they help reduce the total and LDL cholesterol levels. Several fruits have cholesterol-reducing properties.
For example, the bioactive polyphenols and fibre found in apples have beneficial effects on lipid metabolism and other risk factors of cardiovascular disease.
Other fruits like blueberries, pomegranate and strawberries are high in soluble fibre and low in sugar. Studies suggest that dietary fibre helps lower LDL cholesterol. You can add fruits to oatmeal, a salad or snacks for health and taste.
Some of the highly beneficial fruits in lowering and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels are apples, grapes, pears, etc.
Non-starchy vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts are low in calories and high in fibre.
Other vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, celery, carrots, leafy greens and onions also offer the same nutrients. The role of dietary fibre in lowering cholesterol is well-known.
According to a study, stress can lead to high cholesterol by initiating chronic inflammation and plaque formation. Vegetables like eggplant can help decrease oxidative stress. Furthermore, okra or lady’s fingers have a gel called mucilage, which helps lower cholesterol by binding it during digestion. That helps excrete the cholesterol from the body through the stool.
Garlic is another vegetable that offers tons of health benefits. It contains a bioactive compound called Allicin that has cholesterol lowering effects. Though this evidence is not conclusive, it still needs additional research to prove its effectiveness, there are numerous studies that backs this claim like the 2013 study by the University of Adelaide in Australia.
Increasing the consumption of non-starchy vegetables and decreasing the starches like rice, potatoes, pasta, and bread helps lower triglycerides and cholesterol. Hence, you should ensure that you add vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, asparagus etc., to your diet.
Studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids in fish can positively impact your cholesterol levels. It is because fatty acids positively impact Reverse Cholesterol Transport (RCT). RCT describes a mechanism by which excess cholesterol from peripheral tissues is transported to the liver for hepatobiliary excretion, thereby inhibiting foam cell formation and the development of atherosclerosis.
Omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve blood vessel function, and ease inflammation. In addition, consuming fatty fish can reduce the risk of dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular diseases. Examples include anchovies, salmon, tuna, halibut, herring, and sardines.
Legumes like beans, lentils, split peas and chickpeas are a rich source of fibre and protein but are free of cholesterol. They contain soluble and insoluble fibres, which aid in lowering cholesterol absorption in the gut. In addition, it promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
Studies show that consuming 130 grams of pulses per day can reduce LDL cholesterol by 5%. These are also high in protein and keep you satiated for a long time.
Legumes are also a great alternative to animal protein, that also offers unwanted saturated fats. Legumes are heart healthy and a single serving can also keep you satiated for long.
In addition, a diet high in legumes lowers the risk of developing obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, or strokes.
Milk is a crucial nutrient-dense constituent of a healthy diet as it offers essential vitamins, minerals, macronutrients and micronutrients important for growth, development and tissue maintenance.
Studies suggest that milk increases HDL cholesterol, and fermented dairy products reduce LDL cholesterol and lower the risk of hypertension.
You can include low-fat milk and fermented dairy products like buttermilk, sour cream etc. A short term controlled study on the consumption of fermented yoghurt products shows that it decreases total cholesterol by 4% and LDL cholesterol by 5%.
However, it is necessary to consume them in moderation as dairy naturally contains cholesterol, and excess can increase total cholesterol levels in the body.
Nuts contain heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids, dietary fibre, and antioxidants. Therefore, consuming nuts can lower the risk of coronary heart disease and various other heart conditions linked to cholesterol. As per a review, people eating approximately 67g of nuts a day experienced a 5.1% reduction in total cholesterol and 7.4% in LDL.
The nutritional composition of nuts is also associated with reducing diabetes risk, promoting weight loss and fighting inflammation.
Some of the healthy nuts that you can consume in a low cholesterol diet are walnuts, pistachios, peanuts and almonds. But remember that nuts are also high in calories, so it is important to consult your nutritionist before you add nuts to your diet.
Soybeans are a type of legume. Soy products have gained a reputation over the years for their capacity of lowering cholesterol levels. Vegetarians and vegans who suffer from protein deficiency can incorporate soya chunks into their diet.
The two potential components in soy that could reduce cholesterol are soy protein and isoflavones. The combination of both components exhibits cholesterol-lowering ability.
An online study published by The Journal of Nutrition in 2019, evaluates the effects of consuming soy and its impact on the LDL levels. It is observed that eating 25 grams of soy every day can bring about a 3-4% reduction in the LDL cholesterol of people. It is considered that though this is not a large amount but a significant amount that would benefit health.
In addition, soy products are high in protein and fibre and low in saturated fat, making them heart-healthy food.
The best soy products that you can consume are soy milk and tofu.
Research shows that consumption of green tea lowers LDL and total cholesterol levels. The active ingredient in green tea, known as catechin extract, plays a role in increasing the function of LDL receptors in the liver and preventing the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines.
In addition, green tea has zero calories. It is a powerhouse of antioxidants, which gives it additional benefits such as managing weight, enhancing the immune system and balancing blood sugar.
There is tons of evidence that supports that including a small quantity of dark chocolate in your diet can have multiple benefits.
Research suggests that consuming dark chocolate that has 70-90% cacao derivatives have high amounts of polyphenols and flavonoids. These components help in managing cholesterol levels in the body and even lower blood pressure.
According to a meta-analysis by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating small quantities of dark chocolate can benefit people by reducing their LDL and total cholesterol levels. However, make sure to have it in moderation or talk to the HealthifyMe nutritionist to know how you can include it in your diet.
Extra virgin olive oil contains an adequate amount of polyphenol and monounsaturated fatty acids that increase HDL in the body and are heart healthy in nature.
A systematic review conducted in 2019, studies the effects of olive oil on cholesterol levels. This study concluded that the consumption of olive oil can decrease total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides levels in the body.
Interestingly, further analysis of the same study reflected that the participants on the Mediterranean Diet had a significant lowering effect of LDL cholesterol than the others. Since the diet is primarily olive oil based, it backs up the research.
A vegetarian diet can be heart-healthy and nutritious because some vegetarian foods are low in total fat and saturated fat and high in fibre.
These nutrients play a significant role in lowering your cholesterol. Moreover, a vegetarian diet can help reduce your risk for chronic health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Therefore, a carefully planned vegetarian diet lowers cholesterol levels and improves overall health. Here are some food preparations to choose from:
You can drink one glass of buttermilk with 1 tsp of flaxseed powder after your lunch.
For a non-vegetarian diet, it is essential to note that the meat you consume during a low cholesterol diet should ideally be grilled, barbecued, boiled, baked or roasted in a minimal amount of healthy oil.
Add fibre-rich vegetables to your non-vegetarian meal to reduce the acidic effects of meat on blood. The enzymes present in the vegetables help digest the meat better. Moreover, consume more fish and white meat like chicken or turkey.
Avoid red meat, especially if you have diabetes, blood pressure, and obesity. Here are some food preparations to choose from:
Red meat like beef, pork, veal and lamb tends to have high saturated fat and cholesterol content. The high saturated fatty acids can cause an increase in LDL cholesterol. Saturated fats occur naturally in fatty beef and poultry with skin.
Consumption of red meat is also associated with bowel cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, lean meat and skinless poultry are better choices as they are low in saturated fat.
In addition, there is evidence of the health risks of eating high amounts of red meat, such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.
French fries, fried chicken with skin, and other deep-fried foods have excess saturated fat and cholesterol from the oil they’re cooked in.
In addition, deep-frying can cause foods to lose water and take in fat, making them more calorie-dense and high in trans fats. You can choose grilled or baked chicken without the skin or baked sweet potato fries tossed with a bit of olive oil as a healthier option.
Processed foods such as mayonnaise, crackers, microwave popcorn, and potato chips are made in hydrogenated oil with high trans fats content.
In addition, they have unhealthy levels of added sugar, sodium and fat, which strips the nutrients from the food. Excess processed foods increase the risk of various health issues such as obesity, high blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes.
Dairy products full of fat such as butter, cheese, heavy cream, and dairy desserts are high in saturated fatty acids and contribute to the development of coronary heart disease.
But fermented dairy products positively affect cardiovascular health and show more beneficial effects than non-fermented and full-fat dairy products.
Processed meats are smoked, salted, canned, dried, or preserved to increase their shelf life and have minimal nutritional values. Bacon, hot dogs and sausages are usually made using fatty cuts of beef or pork.
The high-fat content in processed meats is terrible for your heart as it increases LDL cholesterol in the body. Consumption of processed meat also causes colorectal and stomach cancer. Hence, you should limit the intake of processed meats.
Baked foods such as cookies, cakes and doughnuts have butter, and they are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. They also have high sugar content, leading to high blood triglycerides.
It can be a risk factor for coronary heart disease. However, you can sparingly enjoy baked items by substituting all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour, sugar with maple syrup and limiting fats. In addition, you may add fruits to enhance the taste and increase fibre content.
Getting enough exercise is the key to reducing cholesterol levels naturally.
Cardio exercises such as jogging, cycling, swimming, brisk walking burn calories and reduce body fat percentage, lowering cholesterol. It also improves joint health, decreases blood pressure, and increases overall fitness.
Insulin resistance in diabetic patients causes more synthesis of cholesterol.
It leads to high levels of blood glucose which contribute to an increase in LDL cholesterol in the liver. Managing diabetes can help regulate your blood cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure.
Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to obesity and high fats such as triglycerides.
In addition, being obese can raise your LDL level and lower your HDL level. So, limit your alcohol intake to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Smoking decreases HDL cholesterol levels and increases the risk of coronary heart disease.
However, smokers can lower their LDL cholesterol and increase their HDL cholesterol levels by quitting. It can also help protect their arteries and decrease the chances of cardiovascular and lung disorders.
High cholesterol levels cause high blood pressure due to the narrowing of the arteries by the deposition of plaques.
In that case, your heart has to pump blood with an increased force to overcome the difficulty of transporting blood to all the body’s organs. That extra force leads to high blood pressure.
High cholesterol levels lead to plaque formation on the walls of arteries that supply blood to the heart. It can interrupt the blood flow and result in heart attacks and strokes.
High cholesterol levels lead to plaque build-up in the blood vessels connected to the kidneys, obstructing the blood supply. It can also cause kidney failure.
The plaque buildup on the arteries that supply blood to the brain causes a blockage. This restricted blood flow to the part of the brain causes a stroke.
Cholesterol from food ends up in the liver, whose accumulation results in the enlargement of the liver. Therefore, high cholesterol levels are directly proportional to a higher risk for fatty liver disease, leading to abdominal pain.
Your diet has the most significant influence on your cholesterol levels. While some amount of cholesterol is essential for good health, high levels of bad cholesterol can be detrimental.
Your body produces most of the blood cholesterol it needs. Therefore, it remains crucial to limit the amount of dietary cholesterol, especially if you have diabetes or blood pressure.
Dietary cholesterol is found naturally in animal-based foods, including meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products but lacks in plant food sources.
The most significant way to maintain healthy cholesterol levels is to include more foods rich in soluble fibre, protein-rich plant foods over processed and red meat. In addition, doing regular physical activity, having a healthy weight and quitting habits such as smoking and drinking can lower cholesterol levels.
A. Bananas are fibre rich fruits and have no cholesterol. A gel-like substance in bananas can bind to cholesterol in the digestive system and excrete it out of the body. Bananas are also rich in potassium which promotes heart health and decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
A. No, coffee doesn’t affect cholesterol if consumed in adequate amounts. The relationship between drinking coffee and elevated cholesterol levels is associated with the amount consumed and the preparation method. Intake of more than 4-5 cups of coffee per day can raise the cholesterol levels in your blood.
A. There are no specific symptoms of high cholesterol, and it varies from person to person. However, some generic warning signs include fatigue, obesity, chest pain, nausea, high blood pressure, and shortness of breath. If you experience these signs, get your cholesterol tested to reduce the risk of cholesterol-related disorders.
A. Peanut butter is made from roasted ground peanuts. Peanut butter has unsaturated fats, which help reduce LDL cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease. That makes it a heart-healthy food and well-suited for people with high cholesterol when consumed in recommended servings.
A.No, drinking water does not directly affect cholesterol levels in your body. However, if you drink recommended quantities of water along with regular exercise and eat right, your metabolism will improve. As a result, it can reduce bad cholesterol levels and improve cardiovascular health.
There is no conclusive evidence that herbs help in lowering cholesterol levels. However, there is some research that suggests herbs like artichoke leaf, ginseng and fenugreek can aid the process of managing cholesterol.
Diet plays a major role in managing cholesterol levels in our body. Though there are a number of foods that claim to expedite the process, oats, whole wheat products, green leafy vegetables, olive oil, dark chocolate and legumes are some foods that are backed by science. Remember to consult your nutritionist and medical professional before incorporating any new food group into your diet.
Some research suggests that consuming white rice in excessive quantities can be responsible for spiked cholesterol levels. However whole grain varieties of rice offer adequate amounts of fiber and other nutrients that can be beneficial for lowering cholesterol levels.
If you have high cholesterol, red meat is an absolute no no. Red meat like pork, beef or lamb contains high saturated fats that increases LDL cholesterol in the body. They can also be responsible for CVD and other terminal conditions. If you wish to include animal based protein in your diet, you may choose lean meat like chicken, turkey or even eggs. Though it is not recommended to consume them on a daily basis.
Yes, regular exercise can aid in lowering cholesterol levels. Research shows that exercising at least 3 times a week significantly makes a difference in your cholesterol levels. It can also keep your heart healthy and help you lead a wholesome lifestyle. Yoga, brisk walking, cycling and swimming are some of the exercises that you can choose.
Adapting to specific lifestyle changes such as consuming monounsaturated fats and omega3 rich diets, losing excess weight, and regularly exercising helps reduce cholesterol fast. A monounsaturated fat-rich diet may even lower bad cholesterol levels by 6%-10%. If you’re a smoker with high cholesterol, you should quit smoking to see faster changes in cholesterol levels. Furthermore, limiting alcohol consumption is also helpful to reduce cholesterol levels in the body.
If you have high cholesterol, you should highly restrict the consumption of foods high in saturated fat, trans-fat, and hydrogenated fat. Some unhealthy food choices for cholesterol are deep-fried snacks, butter, cheese, chips, doughnuts, crackers, and margarine. In general, foods high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats are the worst foods for cholesterol.
Drinking water does not directly impact or reduce your cholesterol levels. However, drinking plenty of water along with regular exercises stimulates your metabolism. A healthy metabolism supports your body to fight off the extra cholesterol. In addition, you will also have to make specific dietary changes to see significant results. Drinking water alone will not reduce cholesterol.
Dietary and lifestyle changes hold prime importance in reducing cholesterol. However, they do not yield overnight results. To see a quick reduction in cholesterol levels, you should start by eating right. For example, you should reduce the saturated fat in your diet and eliminate trans-fat, add more omega3 fatty acids, fruits, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables to your diet. These dietary changes will help you experience significant improvement in your cholesterol levels.
Although coffee does not contain any cholesterol, drinking too much could potentially cause a rise in blood cholesterol levels. That is because, Diterpenes, a type of chemical compound in coffee, suppresses the breakdown of cholesterol. As a result, it increases total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. However, moderate consumption of coffee does not negatively affect cholesterol levels.
Egg yolks naturally contain cholesterol, but it has a negligible effect on blood cholesterol. Compared to foods high in saturated and trans-fats, eating eggs is not particularly detrimental because they do not raise your cholesterol. However, you should consume them in moderation.
Indian foods can also allow you to lower your cholesterol levels. Methi seeds are rich in a compound called saponins that help reduce its absorption from food. Garlic contains allicin which helps lower LDL and triglycerides. Furthermore, onions are rich in antioxidants. These help increase HDL while lowering LDL levels in the body. You can also include flax seeds in your diet. They’re packed with omega 3 fatty acids and fiber which binds to cholesterol and decreases their absorption from foods. They also contribute to increasing HDL levels.
According to the NIH, the cholesterol level chart below shows healthy cholesterol levels by age.
You can do the following things to manage your cholesterol level: