5 ways to lower your cholesterol

Keeping your cholesterol to healthy levels is important to reduce the risk of heart disease and to promote your general health and well-being. Your eating habits and lifestyle can help you to lower LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”).


 Here are five practical tips to follow.

1. Eat more fibre

Eating your “5-a-day” is not only good for your gut, but for your cholesterol levels too. In fact, fibre helps to reduce the absorption of cholesterol from your gut to your bloodstream.

Fruit and vegetables are great sources of dietary fibre, other good sources of fibre include wholegrains (e.g. oats, brown bread, brown rice and pasta, quinoa, buckwheat, barley), legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, chickpeas), nuts and seeds.

Including more fibre in your day may be simpler than you think. Some practical ideas are:

  • have a bowl of porridge for breakfast with some chia seeds
  • eat brown toast instead of white
  • have a piece of fruit and a small handful of nuts as a snack
  • add some lentils to your pasta sauce

2. Swap saturated fat for unsaturated fat

The Western diet is often high in saturated fats (e.g. butter, fatty meat, coconut oil, cream) because they are present in many ingredients used to make popular foods we find in shops or restaurants (e.g. processed meat, pastries, fried food, burger, cakes, biscuits, crisps, chips). This does not mean that you should cut out these foods completely, as always, moderation is key.  

A practical way to help you reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat is to swap it with unsaturated fat (“healthy fat”). To get started, you could give these swaps a try:

  • When purchasing meat, choose the leanest option.
  • Swap butter for vegetable spread or vegetable oils (e.g. olive oil, rapeseed oil).
  • Instead of fried chips, make roasted potatoes.
  • Try unsalted nuts instead of crips.
  • For your curries use yoghurt instead of single/double cream.
  • Reduce meat consumption by choosing fish, legumes or eggs instead.

Wait, are not eggs bad for your cholesterol levels?

No, that is a nutrition myth! Eggs do contain some cholesterol, but studies show that this does not raise your LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). When it comes to lowering cholesterol levels, high consumption of saturated fat is linked with higher levels of cholesterol.

Eggs do not contain much saturated fat, and they contain important nutrients for your health (e.g. vitamin D, vitamin B12 and iodine). One important aspect to keep in mind is your chosen cooking method. Poached and boiled eggs are healthier options as they do not contain any added butter or fried oil.

3. Reduce alcohol consumption

The liver is responsible for clearing bad cholesterol. However, consuming lots of alcohol can put more strain on your liver. Therefore, reducing your alcohol consumption can support your liver to get rid of the excess bad cholesterol. Here are some practical tips:

  • Make sure you do not exceed the weekly limit (14 units).
  • If you drink alcohol, avoid drinking many units in one go (binge drinking). Spread them out across different days of the week.
  • Have at least three days per week without alcohol.

4. Get (and keep) active

Regular exercise helps increase HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) and lower LDL cholesterol in your body. When speaking about exercise many people think of the gym as the only option. Going to the gym can be fun and convenient for some people, but if that does not suit you, there are so many other valid options (some free too). For instance: brisk walking, Pilates, running, cycling, swimming and dancing.

Moreover, apart from engaging in physical activity regularly (two to three times per week), try to keep active daily. There are lots of opportunities to move your body, and these activities (as short as they can be) can make a positive difference to your health and well-being. Here are some examples to think about: taking the stairs when you can, walking/cycling to places instead of driving or taking public transport, gardening and taking a short break from sitting every hour (make yourself a cup of tea or do a couple of quick stretches for your back).

5. Stop smoking

Smoking can raise your LDL cholesterol and lower the HDL cholesterol. If you are looking to stop but you are not sure how to do it, check the NHS website for more information and support networks: NHS stop smoking services help you quit.

Ready to make a difference to your cholesterol levels?

What you do daily can have a big impact on your cholesterol levels. Whether you decide to start eating more fibre, reducing saturated fat, drinking less alcohol, moving more, stop smoking… make a plan!

Take some time to set a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) and, if possible, share it with a family member or friend for support and accountability. Once you are consistent with this new change, add something new. Remember that small and consistent changes bring big results.  

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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