When you're first trying to lower your cholesterol levels, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction online. So: what lowers cholesterol, really? In the guide below, we take a look at some of the most common diets and tips around and explore which are true and which are false.
What lowers cholesterol levels? Frequently asked questions answered
Do low fat diets lower cholesterol?
Fat plays a vital role in any healthy, balanced diet, so cutting out fat isn’t what lowers cholesterol. It’s more important to know the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats instead: swapping ‘bad’ saturated fats for ‘good’ unsaturated fats in the diet has been shown to lower cholesterol levels*.
Verdict : No. Try a ‘Fat Swap’ diet instead of a low fat diet, replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats. Find out more about this here .
Do avocados/oily fish/nuts lower cholesterol levels?
When it comes to avocados, oily fish, and nuts, the reason they’re mentioned in relation to cholesterol is the fact that they’re high in unsaturated fat. As mentioned above, replacing ‘bad’ saturated fat with ‘good’ unsaturated fat in the diet can help lower blood cholesterol levels*. So these foods can be helpful, but only if they replace foods high in saturated fat – like dairy products, fatty meats, and baked goods – in your existing diet. Avocados in particular are also high in fat overall, and it is advisable to eat them in moderation. If you’re wondering what foods lower cholesterol actively, they do exist – find out more about them here.
Verdict : Depends. Unsaturated fatty foods don’t lower cholesterol by themselves, but if you eat them as part of a balanced diet overall, and use them to help replace saturated fats in that diet, they can make a good addition to your cholesterol lowering efforts*.
When it comes to food that lowers cholesterol, do plant sterols work?
If you came to this page wondering what lowers bad cholesterol, plant sterols are a good place to start – they’re clinically proven to lower LDL-cholesterol levels. The trick is to eat the right amount: between 1.5 and 2.4g a day, as part of a healthy balanced diet, can bring levels down by 7-10% in 2-3 weeks**. It’s not really possible to get this amount by eating the plant based foods you usually eat, like fruit, vegetables, or nuts – so many people opt for foods with plant sterols added to them, like the Flora ProActiv range.
Verdict : Yes. Find out more about plant sterols here .
Does the Mediterranean diet lower cholesterol?
The Mediterranean diet, which mimics the traditional eating habits of people living in countries like Greece and Italy, boasts a lot of fresh oily fish, olive oil, nuts and fresh fruit and vegetables. If balanced, the Mediterranean diet isn’t necessarily a bad move. To make it a cholesterol lowering diet, you just have to focus on the foods that offer good fats and cut out those that tend to have a lot of saturated fat*, like feta and mozzarella.
Verdict : Depends. With a few small changes, you could make your diet more Mediterranean and a cholesterol lowering one*. Find out more about cholesterol lowering diets here .
Should I stop eating foods that contain cholesterol?
If you search for ‘high cholesterol foods’ online, some foods tend to come up often, such as eggs and shrimp. And it’s true that these foods contain dietary cholesterol. However, the current scientific consensus is that saturated fat has a much bigger impact on cholesterol levels in the blood.
So for both eggs and seafood, the question isn’t the amount of cholesterol they contain, but how you cook them and whether you eat reasonable amounts – portions that are in line with a balanced, healthy, and varied diet overall. So, it’s a good idea to to boil or poach eggs instead of frying or scrambling them in butter in order to reduce the body’s intake of saturated fat. It’s also better to avoid using butter when cooking shrimp, opting for vegetable or olive oil if you need a cooking fat.
Verdict : Not necessarily. Just avoid adding saturated fat when you cook them and eat reasonable amounts. Read about high cholesterol foods here .
So, what lowers cholesterol levels?
If you have elevated cholesterol levels, you should sit down with a healthcare professional to talk through your options. Here on the Flora ProActiv site, we have a full guide to lowering cholesterol levels, free to download. You can also check out our article on how to lower cholesterol levels, and our special guide on cholesterol lowering foods. Or you can sign up to our newsletter for regular tips. There are plenty of small ways to make a difference, so why not start today?