Heart Healthy Eating Guidelines for High Blood Cholesterol
Cholesterol has many important functions in your body. It is used to make hormones and to build cell walls. However, too much cholesterol in your blood can increase your risk of developing heart disease.
Your liver makes cholesterol from the foods you eat. The type and amount of fat in your diet can cause high blood cholesterol.
You can lower your risk of heart disease when you choose foods that can help improve your blood cholesterol levels.
Follow these steps to help improve your blood cholesterol levels.
Steps You Can Take
1. Body Weight
If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your blood cholesterol level. A good starting point is to:
- Follow the recommended number of servings and serving sizes outlined in Canada's Food Guide.
- Limit sugary drinks such as pop, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened tea or coffee drinks.
- Be physically active every day. Aim for 150 minutes of activity per week. See Canada's Physical Activity Guide for more information.
2. Choose fat sources wisely.
Prepare meals using lower fat cooking methods such as baking, steaming, roasting, broiling, or poaching.
Replace saturated fat with unsaturated fat.
- Replace butter, ghee, and lard with healthier fats and oils like canola, olive and peanut oils and non-hydrogenated margarine.
- Choose yogurt with less than 2% milk fat.
- Choose 1% or skim milk.
- Choose cheese with less than 20% milk fat (M.F.).
- Use skim or 1% milk to make kheer or saviaan.
- Use lower fat plain yogurt instead of sour cream to make raita or khatta.
- Use low or non-fat evaporated canned milk in place of cream, half and half cream, or sour cream.
- Choose light coconut milk.
- Choose lean cuts of meat such as:
- eye of round;
- top or bottom round roasts or steaks; or
- lean or extra lean ground meats.
- Choose skinless poultry.
- Enjoy dahl, cholay, raj maahn, tofu, soybeans and other beans in place of meat.
- Limit processed meats such as bacon, bologna, salami, pepperoni, and sausages.
Avoid foods made with trans, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated trans fat.
- Use non-hydrogenated margarine instead of hard margarine or shortening.
- Limit fast foods that are fried or deep fried.
- Limit store bought baked goods and snack foods made with partially hydrogenated oils or shortening such as muffins, cakes, cookies, donuts and crackers.
- Always read labels to make sure foods are trans fat free. Read the list of ingredients and the nutrient fact table.
Choose unsaturated fats more often.
- Use oils such as canola, olive, safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean and peanuts oils and non-hydrogenated margarine.
- Eat fish at least 2-times a week in place of meat. Oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines or trout are great sources of omega-3 fat, a type of unsaturated fat. See the Additional Resources section below for information on choosing low mercury fish.
- Eat a small handful of nuts or seeds (60 mL or ¼ cup) such as unsalted almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts, or add them to salads or yogurt.
- Try to eat nuts or seeds five or more times per week.
- Use non-hydrogenated nut and seed butters on whole grain roti or bread.
3. Limit sweetened foods and sugary drinks.
Choose water, soda water or tea instead of drinks like pop, fruit drinks, cocktails or punches, and specialty sweetened teas and coffees.
Limit candies, chocolate, cookies, cakes, pastries, donuts, pies and squares.
- Healthier dessert and snack choices include:
- Kheer or savian made with lower fat milk.
- Milkshakes made with lower fat milk, fruit, and light ice cream or sherbet.
- Unbuttered popcorn, plain biscuits, or unsalted whole grain crackers.
- Limit or avoid deep-fried or high fat snacks and desserts such as pakoras, samosas, kulfi, jalebi, ladoo, barfi, gulab jaman.
4. Choose higher fibre foods more often.
- Aim for 10 to 25 g/day of soluble fibre. Sources include lentils, dried beans and peas, barley, psyllium, vegetables and fruit.
- Choose whole fruit or vegetables rather than juice. Include dark green and orange vegetables every day.
- Eat the skins of vegetables and fruits.
- Choose 100% whole grain flours more often.
- Use 100% whole wheat flour and besan to make roti.
- Limit white rice and roti or breads made with white flour.
- Use brown or wild rice more often.
- Use steamed or boiled rice instead of pilau or biryani.
- Choose cereals with at least 4 grams or more of fibre per serving.
- Limit parontaas, bhaturay, and puriaan.
5. Include soy protein in your meals.
Sources of soy protein include soy beverages and yogurts, tofu and tempeh. Replace meat choices in some meals with soy protein. Cube or crumble tofu into casseroles, salads, soups and roasted vegetables and legumes.
6. Include plant sterols in your diet.
It is recommended you eat 2 grams of plant sterols per day.
- Choose foods with added sterols such as soft margarines, juices and yogurt.
- Read the label to find one of these words: physosterol, plant sterol or sterol ester.
- Foods that naturally includes sterols in low amounts include whole grains, nuts, vegetables and fruit.
- It is hard to get enough sterols from foods that naturally have them.
7. Dietary Cholesterol
If your blood cholesterol level is normal, you do not need to limit your intake of foods high in dietary cholesterol.
If your blood cholesterol is high, limit dietary cholesterol to 200 to 300 mg/day (or up to 2 servings of high cholesterol foods per week).
- Food sources of cholesterol include egg yolks, shellfish and organ meats.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation:
- 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days.
- 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than 3 drinks a day most days.
One drink is:
- 341 ml (12 oz.) bottle of 5% beer, cider or cooler; or
- 142 ml (5 oz.) glass of 12% wine; or
- 43 ml (1.5 oz.) serving of 40% spirits like gin, vodka, rye or rum.
If your triglyceride levels are high, avoid drinking alcohol.
For information about mercury levels in fish, see HealthLinkBC File #68m Healthy Eating: Guidelines for Eating Fish with Higher Mercury Levels
Dietitian Services Fact Sheets available by mail (call 8-1-1) or at online:
- Eating for a Healthy Weight - Adapted for Punjabi Diet
- Eating for a Healthy Weight Extra Tips - Adapted for Punjabi Diet
Last updated: November 2013