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Nutrition Tips for managing high cholesterol from a dietitian

High cholesterol levels can pose a significant risk to heart health, increasing the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases. While medications play a role in managing cholesterol, adopting a heart-healthy diet is a key component of overall cholesterol management. In this blog post, we'll explore practical nutrition tips to help you make informed choices that support a healthy heart and manage high cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol levels are typically measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood and are categorized into different ranges. These levels can vary slightly based on individual health factors, and it's essential to interpret them in consultation with a healthcare professional. The following are general guidelines for cholesterol levels:

1. Total Cholesterol:

- Desirable: Less than 200 mg/dL

- Borderline High: 200-239 mg/dL

- High: 240 mg/dL and above

2. LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) Cholesterol:

- Optimal: Less than 100 mg/dL

- Near Optimal/Above Optimal: 100-129 mg/dL

- Borderline High: 130-159 mg/dL

- High: 160-189 mg/dL

- Very High: 190 mg/dL and above

3. HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) Cholesterol:

- Poor: Less than 40 mg/dL (for men), less than 50 mg/dL (for women)

- Better: 40-59 mg/dL

- Excellent: 60 mg/dL and above

4. Triglycerides:

- Normal: Less than 150 mg/dL

- Borderline High: 150-199 mg/dL

- High: 200-499 mg/dL

- Very High: 500 mg/dL and above

It's important to note that these cut-offs are general guidelines, and individual health profiles may warrant different targets. Additionally, the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol is considered in assessing cardiovascular risk. The American Heart Association and other health organizations emphasize the importance of personalized risk assessments, considering factors such as age, family history, smoking status, and existing health conditions.

Nutrition Tips to lower your cholesterol

Book a 1-1 nutrition consultation with a specialist dietitian at Nutrition and Co to create a personalised plan to lower cholesterol levels

1. Choose Heart-Healthy Fats

Not all fats are created equal, and making wise choices can positively impact cholesterol levels. Opt for unsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts. These fats can help lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or "bad" cholesterol levels while maintaining or even increasing HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or "good" cholesterol.

Saturated Fats:


- Animal-based fats: Fatty cuts of meat, poultry with skin, full-fat dairy products (butter, cheese, whole milk).

- Processed foods: Baked goods, fried foods, processed snacks, and certain margarines.

Physical State:

- Usually solid at room temperature.

Health Impact:

- Consuming high amounts of saturated fats is associated with an increased risk of elevated LDL cholesterol levels and cardiovascular diseases.


- Butter

- Lard

- Coconut oil

- Palm oil

Unsaturated Fats:


- Plant-based oils: Olive oil, canola oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil.

- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds.

- Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, trout.

- Avocados

Physical State:

- Usually liquid at room temperature.

Health Impact:

- Unsaturated fats, especially monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are considered heart-healthy. They can help lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.


- Olive oil

- Avocado

- Nuts (almonds, walnuts)

- Fatty fish (salmon, trout)

- Flaxseeds

Monounsaturated Fats:


- Olive oil

- Avocado

- Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts)

- Seeds (sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds)

Health Impact:

- Monounsaturated fats can help improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease when used to replace saturated and trans fats in the diet.

Polyunsaturated Fats:


- Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)

- Walnuts

- Flaxseeds

- Sunflower seeds

- Corn oil

- Soybean oil

Health impact:

- Polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are essential for overall health. They play a role in brain function and can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

2. Incorporate Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their heart-protective properties. Include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout in your diet, or consider plant-based sources such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Omega-3s help reduce triglyceride levels and promote overall heart health.

Certainly! Omega-3 fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fats that play a crucial role in various physiological functions, particularly supporting heart and brain health. There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids:

Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA):

- Sources:

- Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil

- Chia seeds

- Hemp seeds and hempseed oil

- Walnuts and walnut oil

- Canola oil

- Soybean oil

- Health Benefits:

- ALA is a precursor to other omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) and has cardiovascular benefits. However, the conversion rate to EPA and DHA in the body is limited.

Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA):

- Sources:

- Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines

- Algal oil (derived from algae, suitable for vegetarians and vegans)

- Health Benefits:

- EPA is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and plays a role in supporting heart health. It is also important for mental health and mood regulation.

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA):

- Sources:

- Fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, and herring)

- Algal oil (derived from algae, suitable for vegetarians and vegans)

- Health Benefits:

- DHA is a critical component of cell membranes, particularly in the brain and eyes. It is essential for cognitive function, vision, and overall brain health.

Tips for Incorporating Omega-3 Fatty Acids into Your Diet:

- Include fatty fish in your diet at least twice a week.

- Snack on walnuts, almonds, or chia seeds for a boost of ALA.

- Use flaxseed oil or chia seeds in smoothies, salads, or yogurt.

- Consider incorporating canola oil or soybean oil into your cooking.

- For those who do not consume fish, consider algal oil supplements for a plant-based source of EPA and DHA.

3. Increase Soluble Fiber Intake

Foods rich in soluble fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol. Include oats, barley, beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables in your meals. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive system, which binds to cholesterol and helps eliminate it from the body.

Soluble fiber is a type of dietary fiber that dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. It's known for its ability to help lower cholesterol levels, regulate blood sugar, and promote a healthy digestive system. Here's a list of food sources rich in soluble fiber:

1. Oats:

- Oatmeal

- Rolled oats

- Steel-cut oats

2. Legumes:

- Lentils

- Chickpeas

- Black beans

- Kidney beans

3. Fruits:

- Apples (especially with the skin)

- Pears

- Oranges

- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)

4. Vegetables:

- Brussels sprouts

- Carrots

- Broccoli

- Sweet potatoes

5. Nuts and Seeds:

- Chia seeds

- Flaxseeds

- Sunflower seeds

- Almonds

6. Whole Grains:

- Barley

- Quinoa

- Brown rice

- Whole wheat

7. Psyllium Husk:

- Psyllium husk is a soluble fiber supplement commonly used to promote regular bowel movements and support digestive health.

8. Root Vegetables:

- Potatoes (especially with the skin)

- Turnips

- Rutabagas

9. Seaweed:

- Certain types of seaweed, such as kelp and spirulina, contain soluble fiber.

10. Okra:

- Okra is a vegetable rich in soluble fiber and is commonly used in various cuisines.

11. Brussels Sprouts:

- Brussels sprouts are not only a good source of soluble fiber but also provide other essential nutrients.

12. Prunes and Prune Juice:

- Prunes and prune juice are known for their high soluble fiber content, aiding in digestive regularity.

13. Guar Gum:

- Guar gum is a soluble fiber derived from guar beans and is often used as a food thickener or in gluten-free baking.

4. Limit Saturated and Trans Fats

Foods high in saturated and trans fats can raise LDL cholesterol levels. Reduce intake of red meat, full-fat dairy products, and processed foods containing trans fats. Opt for lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and choose cooking oils high in unsaturated fats.

5. Embrace a Plant-Based Diet

Consider incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet. A plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds can positively impact cholesterol levels. These foods are naturally low in saturated fats and high in fiber, promoting heart health.

6. Watch Your Salt Intake

High sodium levels can contribute to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease. Be mindful of your salt intake by choosing fresh, whole foods and minimizing the use of processed and packaged foods. Herbs and spices can be excellent alternatives for flavoring dishes.

7. Enjoy Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Antioxidants help protect your blood vessels and maintain heart health. Include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet, as they are rich in antioxidants. Berries, tomatoes, spinach, and kale are excellent choices.

8. Stay Hydrated with Green Tea

Green tea contains antioxidants and has been linked to lower cholesterol levels. Make it a regular part of your beverage choices, either hot or cold. Aim for unsweetened varieties to maximize health benefits.

9. Moderate Alcohol Consumption

If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. Small amounts of alcohol, particularly red wine, may have cardiovascular benefits. However, excessive alcohol intake can lead to negative health effects, including elevated cholesterol levels.

10. Maintain a Healthy Weight and Exercise Regularly

Regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight contribute to overall heart health. Engage in activities you enjoy, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling. Exercise helps raise HDL cholesterol and improve overall cardiovascular fitness.

Taking control of your cholesterol levels through nutrition is a powerful step towards a healthier heart. By making mindful food choices, incorporating heart-healthy fats, and focusing on a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, you can positively impact your cholesterol profile and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for personalized advice tailored to your individual health needs. Remember, small changes over time can lead to significant improvements in your heart health.

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