Give Online: Help shape patient care for generations to come.
Cleveland Clinic Logo

Cholesterol-Lowering Strategies

If you are overweight, losing weight will help lower your total cholesterol and raise your HDL.

  • Aerobic exercise helps raise your HDL. If you have not exercised in a while, check with your doctor before starting. Start your exercise slowly and build up to 30-40 minutes at least 5 times per week. Brisk walking counts as aerobic exercise. If you develop any unexplained, recurrent chest pain, skipping of the heart, shortness of breath, or lightheadedness, see your personal physician or cardiologist for evaluation.
  • Increase fiber intake, especially soluble fiber, which is found in fruits, legumes, root vegetables, oats, barley, and flaxseed. For every 1-2 grams of soluble fiber that you consume daily, you may lower your LDL by 1%. Blueberries, nectarines, raspberries, apples, apricots, figs, prunes, zucchini, cabbage, beans, peas, and lentils are all excellent sources of soluble fiber.
  • Choose chicken, turkey, and fish - baked, broiled, or grilled as your animal sources of protein. Try limiting lean red meat (beef, pork, veal, lamb) to once or twice a week, selecting only the leanest cuts. Rather than making meat the focal point of the meal, try the plating method: fill half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables and one-quarter of the plate with a starchy vegetable like potato, peas, corn, lima beans or brown rice, or pasta. That leaves only one-quarter of the plate for lean protein.
  • Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, and haddock are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have a favorable effect on cholesterol. Aim for at least 2 portions per week (6 ounces total). Another good source of omega-3 fatty acids is flaxseed. Add ground or milled flaxseed to cereal or sprinkle it on salad. Aim for 2 tablespoons/day. (Whole flaxseed will not provide the same benefit.) Eat nuts such as walnuts and almonds for additional omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Soy protein may help reduce cardiovascular disease and is low in saturated fat, high in polyunsaturated fats, high in fiber, and high in vitamins and minerals. Try replacing some of your protein from animal sources with soybeans (fresh, frozen, canned), soy milk, soy yogurt, soy nuts, tofu, or textured vegetable protein.
  • Limit fat to 30% of total calories. Saturated fat (fat from animal sources) should account for no more than 7% of total calories. Limit cholesterol to 200 mg per day.
  • Read labels. Avoid products made with partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated vegetable oils. They are sources of trans fatty acids, a form of fat that promotes plaque formation in the arteries. Avoid products with trans fats.
  • Do not skip meals. Recent research indicates that cholesterol levels may be higher when you eat fewer meals.
  • Plant stanols or sterols are known to promote healthy cholesterol levels. Try using products containing plant stanols/sterols like: margarine spread, juices, and yogurts. Effectiveness has been shown with dosages of 1.3 grams plant sterols or 3.4 grams plant stanols per day.

© Copyright 1995-2015 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

Can't find the health information you’re looking for?

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 12/20/2013...#10842