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A Healthy Plate: Foods That Can Lower Cholesterol

Natural-women-eating-healthy-foods1If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, one of the best things you can do for your health is to make some adjustments to your diet. If high cholesterol runs in your family, getting control of the condition before an official diagnosis can make you feel better as well.

According to, about half of all African-American have cholesterol levels that are too high. A gene called MTP also causes high cholesterol in African-American men under the age of 40. Eating lots of high-fat foods and being inactive are also factors that contribute to raised cholesterol levels in the Black community overall.

In general, a healthy, balanced diet filled with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit can contribute to your overall well-being and help your body fight off disease. However, there are some specific foods that are especially helpful when it comes to maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Here are a few foods you can start incorporating into your diet today.

Olive Oil (and olive products)

Olive oil is a great source of vitamin E and monounsaturated fat. According to research, foods that are high in monounsaturated fat can lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol and increase HDL, which is the “good” cholesterol. Raising HDL and decreasing the amount of LDL cholesterol in your body is essential if you suffer from high cholesterol, and most products made from olive will help with this. To add olive products to your diet, use a teaspoon or two of olive oil (mixed with a little lemon juice and black pepper) as a salad dressing, or prepare your foods in olive oil each day. Eating olives in salads or as a snack, or using margarine made with olive oil can also help you to get or maintain healthy cholesterol levels.


Legumes include foods like beans, lentils peas and soy products. These ingredients can be dry, cooked or canned and are good for your heart and cholesterol levels due to their high fiber content. Legumes also have nutrients that protect the heart, along with B vitamins and phytonutrients. The high fiber in these foods can also lower your energy intake, so your body won’t have to work as hard to burn off the fat. Legumes also have a low glycemic index to keep your blood sugar intact. According to the South African Food-based Dietary Guidelines, we should eat legumes on a regular basis—about four times a week.

Fat Free Dairy Products

Full-fat dairy, as well as most cheeses, have a high amount of saturated fat, so you should avoid them if you have high cholesterol or want to keep your levels down. However, you can still incorporate some dairy into your diet. If you eliminate dairy altogether, you could be depriving your body of calcium, which is essential for the heart to function. When you take the fat out of milk products, virtually all the cholesterol is removed. Fat free milk and yogurt are healthy additions to a low cholesterol diet. These fat-free foods are also high in protein and probiotics, which is ideal for digestive health. If you’re dairy-free, yogurts made from coconut or almond milk provides calcium and probiotics as well.

Polyunsaturated and Flora “pro-activ” Margarine

Instead of butter, try using soft margarine that comes in a tub. This ingredient has a high polyunsaturated fat content to help lower your LDL cholesterol. These margarines are considered ‘lite’ and have less fat and salt than traditional margarines, which is also important for heart health.

Fruits and Vegetables

Finally, it’s important to eat lots of fresh produce, since vegetables and fruits are high in antioxidants. In particular, fresh foods that are rich in vitamin C and beta carotene. Fruits that are high in vitamin C like berries, mango and guava are ideal for a low-cholesterol diet. All the vegetables in the cabbage family, which includes cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are high in vitamin C as well. These foods also help to strengthen your immune system and improve blood circulation.

Foods with beta carotene like pumpkin, carrots and sweet potatoes are essential for heart health and the increase of “good” cholesterol in the body. All leafy green vegetables are also high in beta carotene, so including collard greens, spinach and cabbage into your diet can lower your cholesterol significantly as well.

To ensure that these foods are in your diet on a regular basis, planning your meals ahead of time and using a variety of spices and herbs to flavor your food can make your diet more interesting. This, along with a healthy exercise program, can help you keep high cholesterol at bay.

What people are saying

3 thoughts on “A Healthy Plate: Foods That Can Lower Cholesterol

  1. Lala Green says:

    Fruit and veggies it's part of my daily diet plan. I've been following diet program that recommended by this article for 2 months. I've manage to lost 15 ponds in just 3 weeks on my first month.

  2. Thomas Baird says:

    Eat butter (natural healthful product) rather than plastic margarine which is an emulsion of chemicals and is GREY in colour before it's dyed yellow. The following findings, published in a respected journal, debunk the cholesterol/ saturated fat con:

    Open Heart
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    An open access, peer reviewed, online-only journal dedicated to publishing research in all areas of cardiovascular medicine
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    Home > Volume 1, Issue 1 > Articlerss
    Open Heart 2014;1: doi:10.1136/openhrt-2013-000032
    The cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates or Ω-6 polyunsaturated fats: Do the dietary guidelines have it wrong?
    James J DiNicolantonio
    +Author Affiliations

    Cardiovascular research scientist and doctor of pharmacy, Ithaca, New York, USA
    Correspondence to
    Dr James J DiNicolantonio; [email protected]
    A recent publication by Malhotra1 was refreshing, inspiring and hit on an important topic that has been heavily debated for over 50 years, that is, are saturated fats as bad as we have been led to believe?

    History of the low-fat ‘diet-heart’ hypothesis
    The vilification of saturated fat by Keys2 began two decades before the seven countries study, where Keys showed a curvilinear association between fat calories as a percentage of total calories and death from degenerative heart disease from six countries. However, he excluded data from 16 countries that did not fit his hypothesis. Indeed, data were available at the time from 22 countries, and when all countries were looked at the association was greatly diminished.3 Furthermore, no association existed between dietary fat and mortality from all causes of death.3 Thus, past data promoted by Keys showing that an increased percentage of fat calories consumed increases the risk of death are not valid (and certainly could never have proved causation). These data seemingly lead us down the wrong “dietary-road” for decades to follow, as pointed out by others.4 ,5

    The consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates
    The initial Dietary Goals for Americans, published in 1977, proposed increasing carbohydrates and decreasing saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet.6 ,7 This stemmed from the belief that since saturated fats increase total cholesterol (a flawed theory to begin with) they must increase the risk of heart disease. Moreover, it was believed that since fat is the most “calorie-dense” of the macronutrients, a reduction in its consumption would lead to a reduction in calories and a subsequent decrease in the incidence of obesity, as well as diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. However, the advice to increase carbohydrate intake seemingly made things worse, with an increase in its consumption (mainly corn syrup) paralleling the increased incidence of diabetes and obesity in the USA.8 In this analysis, fat was not associated with type 2 diabetes when total energy intake was accounted for,8 and the intake of saturated fat in the USA during this time was also not on the rise.9 These data provide a strong argument that the increase in the consumption of refined carbohydrates was the causative dietary factor for the diabetes and obesity epidemic in the USA.

    These data are further strengthened by a randomised, controlled, dietary intervention trial comparing a low-fat (<10% saturated fat) versus a low-carbohydrate (12% of total calories from carbohydrates) diet.10 ,11 While both diets were low in calories (1500 kcal/day), the low-carbohydrate diet showed greater improvements on numerous endpoints such as (1) body fatness (abdominal fat, body mass), (2) lipids (triglycerides, apolipoprotein B (ApoB)), (3)glucose tolerance (glucose, insulin and insulin resistance—measured via homoeostasis model assessment), (4) inflammation (tumour necrosis factor α, interleukin (IL) 6, IL-8, monocyte chemotactic protein 1, E-selectin, intercellular adhesion molecule 1) and (5)thrombogenic markers (plasminogen activator inhibitor 1).10 ,11 Additionally, the low-carbohydrate diet provided (1) an increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), (2) a reduction in the ApoB/ApoA-1 ratio and (3) a reduction in small, dense low-density lipoprotein (sdLDL), whereas all of these parameters were worsened on a low-fat diet.10 ,11 Thus, overall cardiometabolic health seems to improve to a greater extent when carbohydrate is restricted rather than fat.

    The assumption that a low-fat diet reduces the ‘bad’ cholesterol (ie, LDL) is an imprecise notion. While total LDL may be lowered with a reduced intake of dietary fat, if replaced with carbohydrate, this may increase sdLDL particles (ie, pattern B),10 ,11 which are more atherogenic than large buoyant LDL particles (ie, pattern A).12 Additionally, data indicate that a high saturated fat intake lowers sdLDL particles and raises large buoyant LDL particles.13Thus, replacing carbohydrate with fat may improve the LDL particle size distribution (eg, pattern B shifted to pattern A). Lastly, if fat is replaced with carbohydrate, this may worsen the overall lipid profile (decrease in HDL-C, increase in triglycerides and increase in sdLDL particles).10,11

  3. Daniel Lance says:

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