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High Cholesterol: Healthy Food Choices - Topic Overview

Eating healthy foods might help you lower high cholesterol. Many people whose cholesterol is high because they eat too many fatty foods are able to lower their cholesterol with diet changes.

Try these healthy food choices to help lower your cholesterol.

Recommended Related to Cholesterol Management

Cholesterol Testing and the Lipid Panel

Why get a cholesterol test? For decades, doctors have known that people with high total cholesterol levels are at higher risk for heart disease. More recently, they've found the different forms of cholesterol ("good" and "bad") also affect risk. Knowing your cholesterol levels is an essential part of understanding your own risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone over age 20 get a cholesterol test.

Read the Cholesterol Testing and the Lipid Panel article > >

Meats, poultry, fish, and protein from vegetables

  • White-meat chicken and turkey (remove the skin before eating)
  • Lean cuts of meat, like round, sirloin, and extra-lean ground beef
  • Fresh fish and shellfish (don't batter or fry)
  • Pork leg, shoulder, and tenderloin
  • Dry beans and peas

Breads, grains, rice, pasta

  • Whole wheat bread and bagels
  • Soft corn tortillas, low-fat flour tortillas, and whole wheat tortillas
  • Whole-grain crackers and soda crackers
  • Oatmeal and other high-fiber, low-sugar cereals
  • Brown rice and whole wheat pasta

Milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs

  • Fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Fat-free or low-fat yogurt with little added sugar
  • Cheese that is low-fat or nonfat
  • Egg substitutes and egg whites
  • Margarine or spread with no trans fat (usually soft or liquid margarine)
  • Low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt

Fruits and vegetables

  • Fresh fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, and pears
  • Fresh vegetables like carrots, greens, peppers, and broccoli
  • Frozen vegetables, or canned vegetables with no added salt
  • Frozen or canned fruits with no added sugar or in light syrup or juice

Avoid serving fresh vegetables with butter or cheese.

Fats, sweets, oils

  • Low-fat or nonfat salad dressings
  • Reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • Canola, peanut, or olive oil
  • Natural peanut butter (with no hydrogenated oil)

Avoid packaged desserts, especially those with palm or coconut oil.

Cholesterol-lowering margarines

Some margarine spreads can help to lower cholesterol levels . These margarines contain plant stanol or sterol esters from wood pulp or soybean oil.

These margarines can help lower cholesterol levels, particularly in people who have high cholesterol levels or who consume too much fat in their diets. They work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines and may work best in combination with other therapies, including medicine, to lower cholesterol.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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    What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

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    or
    Answer:
    Desirable
    0-199
    Borderline
    200-239
    High
    240+

    Your level is currently

    Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

    Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

    Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

    Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

    Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

    Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

    Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

    Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

    Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

    Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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