9 ways to lower your cholesterol with a healthy diet

Diet plays a vital role in lowering our cholesterol. In this article, Dr Unnati Desai explores 9 ways you can adjust your food intake to help get your reading down.

Cholesterol is produced in the liver, but we also get it from food. In the modern world, our diet is the number one cause of high cholesterol.

Healthy eating can make a real difference if you’re actively trying to lower your cholesterol. Making small adjustments to your diet can have a big impact on your overall heart health and the number on your cholesterol reading.

Eating more fruit and vegetables, lowering the amount of saturated fat we eat, and avoiding processed foods where possible are all great places to start.

1. Limit your saturated fat intake

Saturated fats are fats that contain high levels of fatty acid molecules. They usually come from animal products like meat and cheese. These fats shouldn’t make up more than 7% of your total calorie intake every day.

We should limit foods with a high saturated fat content because they are high in low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Over time, this causes plaque to build up on the artery walls, restricting blood flow and raising blood pressure.

Foods containing high levels of saturated fat are also linked with an increased risk of heart disease, and stroke.

2. Eat more fibre

Eating more soluble fibre is proven to have a positive impact on our cholesterol levels. By packing out your plate with fibrous foods, you leave less space for unhealthy options.

You can get more fibre into your diet by eating oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and peas. is a good way to boost those fibre levels.

3. Review your current diet

A good place to start is taking stock of what you eat currently. Seeing what you eat written down can make it easier to spot the things you need to change.

Once you’ve made a list of what you eat, start with the big things. If you eat a lot of takeaways or ready meals, this is a good place to start. Home cooking is far healthier than eating out regularly because you can control the amount of oil, butter, grease, and fat that goes into your food.

If you snack a lot, shop around for healthier alternatives to your favourites. Swapping milk chocolate for dark chocolate or sugary cereals for a bowl of oats can make a big difference over the course of the month. Making more conscious food choices isn’t always easy, but your body and your wallet will thank you.

If you’re struggling to maintain a healthier diet, remember why you started and focus on the bigger picture. Stay accountable and remind yourself of how these changes will help lower your cholesterol level.

4. Eat more fruit and vegetables

Getting more fruit and vegetables into our diet isn’t always easy. What helps is making small changes that add up over time.

  • Replace sugary breakfast cereals with muesli or fruit and oats
  • Swap your lunchtime chocolate for a banana
  • Commit to trying a new fruit or vegetable with a meal once a week
  • If you struggle to eat enough fruit, pack your favourites into a smoothie
  • If it’s not there, you can’t eat it. Stock your fridge up with fruit and vegetables
  • Swap the side of fries or bread for a salad
  • Pack pasta and curry sauces out with diced carrot, onion, lentils, and beans

5. Try the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is based around foods that are popular and traditional in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

It includes lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil. The diet also includes moderate consumption of fish, poultry, red meat, and dairy.

To move towards a Mediterranean diet, focus on eating less meat and cooking at home more. Replace meat with fish and consume more leafy greens and grilled vegetables.

Eat with your family if you can and use natural ingredients and produce wherever possible. Replace vegetable oil with olive oil and grill your food instead of frying it.

6. Experiment with low cholesterol recipes

At Nuffield Health, we’ve got a selection of great low calorie and low cholesterol recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We’ve even thrown some sweet treats in for you to snack on, too.





7. Eat these superfoods

You may have heard certain things be described as a “superfood”. Whilst the term is more than a little bit of a marketing tool, there are certain foods that have specific benefits for lowering our cholesterol.

It can be difficult to get enough nitrates in our diet as you need around 3.7mg per kg of body weight to make an impact. As well as getting these in our diet, concentrated juices can help you make up the difference.

Root and leafy vegetables are packed full of nitrates. The best sources to get nitric oxide from include beetroot, as well as arugula lettuce, spinach, celery and other lettuces.

Studies show 250ml of concentrated beetroot juice per day over four weeks can help reduce blood pressure levels in those with high blood pressure. For maximum results, increase your nitrate intake whilst raising your activity levels and cutting saturated fat from your diet.

8. Try something new

Making healthier choices doesn’t mean abandoning your favourite foods. Sometimes, we just aren’t aware of ways we can make the meals we love a bit healthier.

For example, replace pasta sheets in lasagne with aubergine strips to boost your soluble fibre intake. Instead of reaching for a handful of salted peanuts, try roasted edamame beans.

If you have full or half-fat milk in your tea and coffee, try soya or oat milk alternatives. Give Tofu a try in your stir fry one night.

You really can’t go wrong with swapping carbohydrate and saturated fat dense foods for healthier alternatives. If you’re looking to lower your cholesterol over time, experiment, adjust, and try things out. We’re sure you’ll find some new favourites along the way.

9. Stay accountable

Writing your goals down or telling someone about each change you make can help you remain accountable. Accountability from others helps us stay on track and reminds us why we’re making changes to our diet.

This might mean making positive changes that include your family. Exercising more to reduce your cholesterol is a great way to get the whole family moving and having fun in the process. Cooking a healthier version of your favourite takeaway is a great way to get everyone interested.

If you need to lower your cholesterol immediately, letting others know can help. A lot of the time, our behaviour around others dictates our diet. If others know you’re committed to making healthier choices, they’ll be more likely to adjust their behaviour to accommodate your new lifestyle.

Last updated Wednesday 6 March 2024

First published on Wednesday 30 March 2016