High cholesterol foods are usually foods high in saturated fats. These foods should be limited in a healthy diet

Healthy eating can reduce cholesterol. Diet should be low in saturated fats in particular, and low in fat overall. Biscuits, cakes, pastries, red meat, hard cheese, butter and foods containing coconut or palm oil all tend to be high in saturated fats.It's also important to eat plenty of fibre, especially soluble fibre, which is thought to lower cholesterol. It's found in fruits and vegetables, beans and oats. Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

Foods that contain cholesterol

The cholesterol in your diet comes mainly from the saturated fats found in animal products. All foods from animals contain some cholesterol. Foods from plants do not contain cholesterol. Other sources of dietary cholesterol are full fat dairy foods, eggs and some seafood.

How to avoid saturated fats

The best way to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol in your diet is to limit foods high in saturated fats. Try to avoid:

  • Fatty meats
  • Full fat dairy products
  • Processed meats like salami and sausages
  • Snack foods like chips
  • Most takeaway foods, especially deep fried foods
  • Cakes, biscuits and pastries.

Diet tips to help reduce your cholesterol

The most important thing you can do to reduce your cholesterol level is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You should try to:

  • Limit the amount of cholesterol-rich foods you eat.
  • Increase the amount and variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods you have each day.
  • Choose low or reduced fat milk, yoghurt and other dairy products or have 'added calcium' soy drinks.
  • Choose lean meat (meat trimmed of fat or labelled as 'heart smart').
  • Limit fatty meats, including sausages and salami, and choose leaner sandwich meats like turkey breast or cooked lean chicken.
  • Have fish (fresh or canned) at least twice a week.
  • Replace butter and dairy blends with polyunsaturated margarines.
  • Include foods in your diet that are rich in soluble fibre and healthy fats, such as nuts, legumes and seeds.
  • Limit cheese and icecream to twice a week.

Don't cut out all dairy foods

Some people believe that cutting out dairy foods altogether is the safest option, but this isn't true. Dairy foods are an important part of the daily diet and contribute many essential nutrients, especially calcium. You should switch to low fat types, which will reduce the risk from saturated fats.

Foods that may lower cholesterol levels

Some studies have suggested that eating oats and legumes may lower LDL cholesterol. Food components like saponins (found in chickpeas, alfalfa sprouts and other foods) and sulphur compounds (like allicin, found in garlic and onions) may also have a positive effect on cholesterol levels.

Plant sterols can lower cholesterol levels

Plant sterols are found naturally in plant foods including sunflower and canola seeds, vegetable oils and in smaller amounts in nuts, legumes, cereals, fruit and vegetables. Some margarine has concentrated plant sterols added to it. Plant sterol enriched margarines may help to lower LDL cholesterol.

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