People have varying degrees of success in lowering their cholesterol by changing their diets. Those who are most successful using diet changes to lower their cholesterol are those who lose excess weight. Diet changes are usually the first step in lowering cholesterol before medicines are added.
The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet is recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.1 The diet's main focus is to reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat, because saturated fat elevates your cholesterol. You can reduce the saturated fat in your diet by limiting the amount of meat and milk products you consume. Choose low-fat products from those food groups instead. Replace most of the animal fat in your diet with unsaturated fat, especially monounsaturated oils, such as olive, canola, or peanut. Monounsaturated fat lowers LDL ("bad") cholesterol if it is substituted for saturated fat and keeps HDL ("good") cholesterol up.
The TLC diet calls for less than 7% of your daily calories to come from saturated fat and for eating no more than 200 mg of dietary cholesterol a day. But the diet allows 25% to 35% of daily calories from fat, mainly from unsaturated fat. Most of the fat should be monounsaturated, and only 10% should be polyunsaturated fat. Your diet should include only enough calories to stay at your desired weight and avoid gaining weight.
Last Revised: June 18, 2012
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