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Cholesterol: Foods to Avoid and Foods to Choose

by Maia Appleby

Are you trying to lose weight to lower your LDL cholesterol? If so, it will probably work. Even losing as much as ten pounds can make a life-saving difference. You have a lot to learn, though.

If your doctor has told you to lose a few pounds because your cholesterol is high, you may be frustrated with the new restrictions on your diet. Here's a run-down of a cholesterol-lowering diet, letting you know not only what's bad, but also what you may have.

First, beginning a regular exercise program is one of the smartest things you can do. Do at least thirty minutes of some aerobic activity every day, if you can.

As for food, you might feel like you'll never have the list of do's and don'ts memorized. That's okay. Just remember the basics. Avoid a lot of saturated fat and sugar, and gradually increase your fiber intake (I say 'gradually' because an abrupt increase in fiber could make you sick). Here's a run-down of how someone with high cholesterol should handle the different types of food:

  • Eggs: Eat all the egg whites or egg substitutes you want, but have no more than two yolks per week.
  • Fruits: Eat three half-cup servings of fresh fruit every day. Citrus fruits are especially good. Avoid coconuts, which are full of saturated fat.
  • Meats: Lean meats only. Use shellfish (which is high in cholesterol) sparingly, and avoid fatty red meat, pork, duck and goose. Do not eat any skin, organ meats or anything packed in oil (tuna packed in water is fine). No processed lunch meats, frankfurters or fast food burgers. All meats should be baked or broiled.
  • Vegetables: Most veggies are fine. Since fiber helps to reduce cholesterol, concentrate on broccoli, celery, cauliflower and potato skins. Eat a colorful (dark green or dark yellow) vegetable every day.
  • Dairy Products: Use skim or one percent milk only and low-fat or fat free cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.
  • Breads: For the fiber, stick with whole-grain breads like whole wheat or oat. If you bake it yourself, use margarine instead of butter, and use an egg substitute. Avoid pastries and rolls that are high in sugar.
  • Nuts: All nuts should be used sparingly or not at all. Instead, you can substitute seeds such as sesame, sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
  • Beans: Avoid baked beans, especially if pork and/or sugar are added. Most other beans are okay, as well as dried peas.
  • Cereals: Avoid sugary cereals and opt for whole grain. As we all know, oatmeal is a wonderful cholesterol-lowering tool. Fats and oils: No butter; use soft margarine (not sticks) if necessary. Vegetable oils should be high in polyunsaturated fats (some good ones are sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, soybean and corn oil). No animal fats, meat drippings, gravies, palm oils or coconut oils.
  • Sweets: Nothing fried, chocolate or sugary. Yikes! Sherbet, Jell-O, pudding made with skim milk and egg white souffles are okay, but no more than two servings a day.
  • Drinks: Fresh fruit juices (not sugary ones), black coffee or tea and sugarless soft drinks are fine. No whole milk or fatty coffee creamer.
  • Herbs, spices, vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and mustard can be used freely.

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