One of the key ways you can lower cholesterol to a desirable level is to eat healthily, and there are a number of changes you can make to your diet to help. However, a low cholesterol foods list – sharing foods low in cholesterol itself – would not be that useful in a cholesterol lowering diet. It’s actually the quality of the fat in your diet that could make a difference.
As part of a healthy diet overall, replacing saturated fat (found in meat and dairy products, and many processed foods) with unsaturated fat has been shown to lower blood cholesterol*.
That’s why we’ve created this list of foods that are good for cholesterol-conscious diets: five options to help you switch foods containing “bad” saturated fat for those with plenty of “good” unsaturated fat. We’ve also suggested a recipe or two for each option, and a twist to help you to keep things interesting.
5 foods good for cholesterol-conscious diets
- Salmon (and other oily fish)Oily fish like salmon are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to the normal function of the heart. Fish is a great alternative to meat high in saturated fat, and while it’s important to choose a sustainable source (the marine conservation society have a very useful guide), there are many different types to try. Of two weekly fish portions, try to include one that’s oily – trout, mackerel, herring, and sardines are all good examples of oily fish.The switch: When it comes to finding a food good for cholesterol-lowering diets, salmon is a great option as it can replace meat products high in saturated fat*. It’s also very versatile – you can switch bacon in your breakfast for smoked salmon, and baked salmon is a satisfying replacement for meaty mains like burgers or sausages.The recipe: We have more than a few salmon recipes here on the ProActiv site – for a swift lunch, you could try salmon rillette, or oven baked salmon with a dill glaze for an evening meal.The twist: Looking for something new? Look out for trout at your local fishmongers. It’s an oily fish with a slightly more delicate flavour than salmon, perfect with a squeeze of lemon.
- TofuIf you’re looking for foods low in (cholesterol-influencing) saturated fats, soy-based products, made from soybeans, are a tasty option. Tofu in particular is available in lots of different forms – so it can be used as a meat substitute in many everyday dishes – while soy yoghurts and milk are now commonplace in many supermarket aisles.The switch: Tofu is an alternative to meat products high in saturated fat – it is also a vegan and vegetarian-friendly option.The recipe: Gently press the water out of your tofu with a paper towel before slicing into cubes, marinating in your chosen sauce (lime, garlic, and chilli work well), and then grilling it. The crispy cubes will be deliciously silken inside, and are great in soups, stir-fried, or on top of salads.The twist: A tasty variation to this is smoked tofu – the process brings out a rich flavour that forms a bold comparison to the very delicately flavoured plain variety. Slice as is and eat on wholegrain toast.
- Vegetable oil (and products based on it)Many of us use butter as both a spread and to fry food, but it is very high in saturated fat. To swap butter when frying for an unsaturated fat alternative, try cooking with vegetable oil-based products like Flora Cuisine – use a spray to spritz the pan sparingly, and where possible use a non-stick pan to limit the amount of cooking fat you use. Vegetable oil-based soft spreads like Flora ProActiv have less saturated fat and more unsaturated fat than butter.The switch: As mentioned above, vegetable oils such as sunflower or rapeseed oil are good options if you’re avoiding butter and cooking oils high in saturated fat, like coconut oil.The recipe: All the recipes on this site (found here) include a little Flora ProActiv, a food good for cholesterol-lowering diets. It is a soft vegetable oil-based spread, with added plant sterols – an active ingredient that is clinically proven to lower cholesterol. A daily consumption of 1.5-2.4g of plant sterols can lower cholesterol by 7-10% within 2-3 weeks as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, with sufficient fruit and vegetables**.The twist: Aside from spreads, it’s very easy to infuse the vegetable oils you use while cooking with herbs and spices – popping an entire dried chilli or a sprig of dried rosemary into oil (they must be entirely dry, however) will gradually create a gently flavoured cooking accompaniment.
- Pine nuts and pumpkin or sunflower seedsIf you’re looking for a quick and easy snack, unsalted nuts and seeds are the way to go, and you can sprinkle them on salads as well. Not only is it fun cracking open their husks and shells, eating a reasonable portion of nuts and seeds on a regular basis is a good way to increase your intake of “good” unsaturated fats.The switch: Resist snacks high in saturated fats by keeping a handy bag of trail mix on hand to graze on.The recipe:We have plenty of recipes containing nuts here on the ProActiv site – pine nuts bring plenty of rich, earthy flavour to our stuffed aubergines, and an appetising crunch to our chicken pesto sandwich.The twist: For extra flavour, add just a few herbs or spices to your nuts or seeds and toast them in a dry frying pan for a few minutes. Sprinkle on a hot meal or leave to cool before using to top salads.
- ChickpeasChickpeas – used to make hummus dip – and other beans, like kidney, pinto, or lima beans, all contain a very minimal amount of saturated fat, but are great sources of protein. Chickpeas in particular are both affordable and versatile, with three tablespoons constituting one of your five-a-day.The switch: Chickpeas are perfect for adding bulk to stews, casseroles, and curries, allowing you to use a little less meat while still enjoying plenty of flavour.The recipe: Our chicken curry is a simple weekday crowd pleaser, packing plenty of spices.The twist: Hummus is remarkably easy to make yourself in a blender, controlling how much of each ingredient goes in – and even swapping chickpeas for another bean or pulse to make a change. Combine your chosen pulse, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, cold water, and just a little tahini and olive oil. Blend to your desired consistency and season to taste.Want to know more about what foods are good for cholesterol-lowering diets? Find out more about a balanced diet here, or get started with our free downloadable Cholesterol Lowering Starter Kit today.
*Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats in the diet has been shown to lower blood cholesterol. **
**High cholesterol is a risk factor of heart disease. There are many risk factors for coronary heart disease and it is important to take care of all of them to reduce the overall risk of it.