Patient Education

Health Library

Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.

High Cholesterol: Effect of Food on Cholesterol

Skip to the navigation

Topic Overview

Food can affect the amounts of cholesterol in your blood. Some foods raise cholesterol. Other foods help lower cholesterol.

The table below lists different foods and how they affect your total cholesterol level, your HDL ("good") cholesterol, and your LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

Effects of different foods on your cholesterol

Dietary element

Examples

Effect on your cholesterol level

Dietary fiber (soluble)
  • Oats
  • Dried beans (legumes)
  • Peas
  • Barley
  • Citrus fruits
  • Apples
  • Proved to reduce total cholesterol and LDL

Dietary fiber (insoluble)

  • Whole wheat breads and cereals
  • Beets
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Does not affect cholesterol but promotes healthy bowel movement
Saturated fat
  • Fatty meats (beef, pork)
  • Poultry skin
  • Butterfat (in whole milk, cream, ice cream, cheese)
  • Tropical oils (coconut, palm)
  • Raises LDL
  • Little effect on HDL or triglycerides
Monounsaturated fat
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Avocados
  • Walnuts
  • Lowers LDL if substituted for saturated fat
  • Keeps HDL up
Polyunsaturated fat
  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Corn oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Linoleic acid, found in these oils, can lower LDL if used in moderation.
Omega-3 fats
  • All fish, especially fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel
  • Plant sources, such as walnuts, canola, and flaxseed oils
  • Lowers triglycerides
Trans fats
  • Hydrogenated fats, found in some margarines, vegetable shortenings, nondairy creamers, and whipped toppings
  • Snack foods (potato chips, cookies, cakes)
  • Peanut butter that contains hydrogenated fat (except all-natural varieties)
  • Raises LDL
  • Little effect on HDL but at high levels can lower HDL

Soy protein

  • Soybeans
  • Soy products such as tofu
  • Lowers LDL by a small amount
  • No effect on HDL

Plant stanols and sterols

  • Specially labeled margarine
  • Lowers LDL
  • No effect on HDL

References

Other Works Consulted

  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2005). Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC (NIH Publication No. 06-5235). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/chol_tlc.pdf.
  • Raymond JL, Couch SC (2012). Medical nutrition and therapy for cardiovascular disease. In LK Mahan et al., eds., Krause's Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 13th ed., pp. 742-781. St Louis: Saunders.
  • Sacks FM, et al. (2006). Soy protein, isoflavones, and cardiovascular health: An American Heart Association science advisory for professionals from the Nutrition Committee. Circulation, 113(7): 1034-1044. Also available online: http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/113/7/1034.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Kathleen M. Fairfield, MD, MPH, DrPH - Internal Medicine

Current as ofOctober 5, 2017

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.