A diet that lowers blood cholesterol levels protects you against heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Cholesterol provides benefits to the body by helping to make hormones, vitamin D and substances to help with digestion, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The body produces all the cholesterol it needs. You also get cholesterol from certain foods you eat. Excess cholesterol can build up on the wall of the arteries and form plaques that interfere with blood flow. This can narrow the arteries and lead to heart problems.
Limit the amount of saturated fats in your diet. Saturated fats raise unhealthy LDL cholesterol, which builds up in the arteries. Saturated fats come from animal products and some plant foods, such as coconut and coconut oil. Healthier options include monounsaturated fats, such as olive, peanut and canola oils as well as almonds and walnuts.
Eliminate trans fats, which raise LDL cholesterol and also lower healthy HDL cholesterol, which removes excess cholesterol from the bloodstream and brings it to the liver for disposal. Commercially baked cookies, crackers and snack foods and margarines contain trans fats. Check ingredients on food labels for products free of trans fats when shopping.
You can limit fat and cholesterol intake from protein-rich foods. Choosing lean meats, fish and chicken and turkey without skin help in a diet to reduce cholesterol, according to the National Cholesterol Education Program. Limit your total amount of these foods to 5 ounces or less a day and avoid fatty meats. Eat no more than 2 egg yolks a week; substitute egg whites whenever possible. Choose fat-free or 1-percent milk instead of whole milk products. Low-fat milk provides as much calcium as whole milk with less saturated fat and cholesterol.
Fruits and Vegetables
Low-fat fruits and vegetables have no cholesterol. Include at least 3 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet each day, the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends. They work well as sides, in salads or for healthy snacks throughout the day. Fruits and vegetables also contain high amounts of fiber to lower cholesterol and help with digestion and weight management. Eating more fruits and vegetables helps you avoid consuming high-fat foods that cause weight gain. Excess weight also contributes to high cholesterol, MayoClinic.com points out.
Whole grains also provide high-fiber benefits. Whole-grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, oat brain and brown rice help to reduce cholesterol. They are low in saturated fat and calories. Avoid bakery breads and sweet bread products made with high fat. Eat 6 to 11 servings of whole grains each day, the National Cholesterol Education Program says. Whole grains provide you with a feeling of fullness, but do not cause digestive or weight problems associated with high-fat foods.