Neal Shanblatt, MD

Cholesterol Diet

Dr. Shanblatt
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Lower your cholesterol with diet and exercise.
A proper diet and regular exercise can help you lower your cholesterol.   Maintaining a healthy weight is important to keep your cholesterol under control.

Exercise regularly - start slowly, but aim for 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise 5-7 days of the week.  The best exercise is one that you enjoy doing and can fit into your schedule.

Limit fat intake to less than 25% of total calories (less than 50 grams of fat for an 1800 calorie diet).   Especially important is to minimize trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and saturated fats.   These are most commonly found in meat and dairy products, fried foods, and baked goods like cakes, cookies, and pies. Go "meatless" (vegetarian) most days of the week.  Avoid solid fats like butter, lard, margarine and vegetable shortening, and avoid tropical oils like coconut and palm.   When cooking with oils, choose healthier alternatives like canola, corn, safflower, or olive.

Limit cholesterol intake to less than 200mg daily.   Cholesterol is found in all animal products like meat, chicken, fish, dairy products, and eggs.

Educate yourself.  Read food nutrition labels and know what you are eating.  

Increase fiber intake.  Look for a high fiber breakfast cereal and other whole grain products.  Kellogg's All Bran - Bran Buds Cereal is an excellent choice.  Vegetables, beans, and short-grain brown rice are good sources of fiber.  Oatmeal and oat bran are especially helpful for lowering cholesterol.

Add fish or fish oil to your diet.  Adding fish (like salmon, mackerel, lake trout, or albacore tuna) to your diet twice a week is a good way to get the heart and cholesterol benefits of omega-3 oils.  Too much fish can expose you to mercury, so don't overdo it.  Also consider a fish oil supplement.  Look for about 1g of fish oil daily that contains both EPA and DHA oils. Ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil is also a good source of omega-3.

Walnuts, almonds, and olive oil also help lower cholesterol. However, these are high calorie foods, so their intake should be limited.  Eating a handful of nuts (about 1.5oz or 42.5g) and 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (to sauté vegetables, or as a marinade or dressing)  every day is a good way to get the benefits of these foods.

Adding soy products to the diet helps lower cholesterol.  Soybeans, tofu, soy meat substitures, and soy milk are good choices. 

Certain plant derivatives called stanol esters help to reduce your cholesterol.  These can be found in certain margarine-like spreads or supplements like "Benecol" or "Cholest-off", available in supermarkets and health-food stores.   Consider trying these if other diet changes have not helped.

Sometimes even a very strict diet is not enough to lower cholesterol levels.  Genetic and metabolic factors are also important.  In theses cases, prescription medications may be necessary.

Eat less of these foods:

Butter, margarine

Animal fats

Fried and greasy foods, French fries, "fast foods"

Whole milk and dairy products


Cakes, cookies, ice cream



Try some of these alternatives:

High fiber cereal

Oatmeal, oat bran, ground flaxseeds or flaxseed oil

Baked or grilled fish, twice a week

Non-fat milk

Vegetarian meat substitutes like "Morningstar Farms Low Fat Veggie Patties"

Egg whites or "Egg Beaters" instead of whole eggs

Nuts and soy products 

Olive oil (1-2 tbs daily)

"Butter Buds",  or "Smart Squeeze" butter substitutes

Ketchup, mustard, or salsa instead of mayonnaise