Ask Esther: Lowering Cholesterol

Ask Esther: Lowering Cholesterol

Esther Trepal, RD, MS, CDN answers reader questions about nutrition during treatment and beyond:

"What can I do to lower my Cholesterol? I want to get off meds."

Lifestyle changes are a terrific way to address high cholesterol. As a registered dietitian-nutritionist, I’ll walk you through some things you can do. But keep in mind that some people are genetically wired to produce cholesterol. If that’s the case, it can be more challenging for you to normalize your numbers by diet alone. The suggestions below are a few ways to get started and intended for a general audience. You may need more detailed and specific guidance based on your particular health issues.

Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Target a body mass index (or BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. If you are above this level, weight loss of 10% of your current weight can produce results. As part of this process, eliminate junk food of all kinds and eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains daily.

Eliminate high-fat meat and dairy products. Saturated fat is a big contributor to cholesterol production. It is found mainly in animal products. This includes meat – beef, pork, lamb, chicken, fish – as well as dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and butter. The lower the fat content, generally the lower the saturated fat. Red meats tend to have more fat. So, I recommend small and only occasional portions of lean red meat. Certainly poultry, fish, low-fat milk and low-fat cheese are healthier choices. Would you consider a vegetarian diet? Even one that included low-fat dairy and fish could be helpful.

Eat high fiber foods daily. A certain type of fiber, soluble fiber, is especially helpful. It binds with cholesterol in your intestine and eliminates it with your stool. This type of fiber is found in oats, flax seeds (not the oil), apples, beans and barley, among other foods.

Other ideas include eating nuts regularly (walnuts have been well studied), and using products with plant stanols or sterols (some margarines include this and are advertised as such).

Along with changes in your diet, be sure to discuss cholesterol goals with your physician or other healthcare worker. As you may know there are several measures that are looked at: total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL is considered a risk factor for heart disease, while HDL is considered beneficial. In deciding whether to prescribe medication or keep you on meds, your doctor will look at these numbers, along with your age, your medical history, your family medical history and other factors.

Bonus points: by following a healthy diet as described above, you can not only lower your cholesterol but also strengthen your entire cardio system (especially if you add an exercise component) and support your immune system. It’s a win-win. Good luck!

Esther Trepal, MS, RDN

A post from our blog at

April 27, 2015

Last edited by

8 Replies

  • In contrast, I control my carbohydrate intake to between 40-50g at each meal, eating high-fibre, low Gi carbohydrates. I eat a portion of protein at each meal too; lean protein however is the fastest way to deplete our liver of vitamin A, so we need fat to accompany it. The balance of what I eat is made up of natural fats.

    In this way I minimise my fructose intake; fructose thickens blood and causes harmful triglycerides with vldl. Non-alcoholic fatty-liver and insulin-resistance are caused by fructose.

    It also regulates my insulin/IGF-1 levels by limiting foods such as yoghurt, beans, and high-glycaemic foods. This reduces the risk of chronic inflammation in the body.

    Fat is relatively inert, giving the age/health benefits observed from a calorie restricted diet, without having to suffer the hunger.

  • The body produces 2/3 cholesterol and the food we intake gives us the other 1/3.

    There has been talk about calories, fat and cab. Some time this can be very confusing.

    What people need is a list of food one has to stop eating and do a life style change and a list of food to eat.

    Coconut oil is in a solid form in UK therefore one can spread like margarine on toast.

    Olive oil, full fat milk, cheese and butter can also help towards good health.

    BMI, NHS risk calculator says I am obese! only time will.

    As we get older the blood test numbers do change, we have to allow for this as well.

    The food plate NHS uses may need changing as it is very old. The information on food that is available on the Internet is very different to what NHS are telling us.

    The question is when will we get a new updated version?


  • This strikes me as advertising and self promotion. Sorry, don't like your post at all and like the other posters do not agree with what you say.

  • Hi CDreamer, we're sorry if this post comes across as anything other than a helpful article. We're a nonprofit org with volunteer nutritionists, and our articles are a part of our site to help people touched by cancer.

    This specific post was a response to an email we received from a reader, which we decided to share with the Health Unlocked community. Of course we promote ourselves, but always with the intention of helping others.

  • Thank you for putting it into context, that was not evident in the post which just came across as self-promotion, at least to me.

    Personally I would prefer a link to articles so that I can see who, what & where but I do accept it was posted with good intent.

    Having tried eating low fat diets and just seen my cholesterol climb to over 7, I have now recently converted to the Paleo diet.

    Having now suffered 3 inflammatory diseases I am more interested in an anti inflammatory diet which includes meat and fat but excludes dairy and wheat, of any kind. This worked for me 35 years ago so hoping it helps now. I am certainly losing weight so hope to see a corresponding reduction in cholesterol. I currently have Myasthenia gravis and taking immune suppressants so am interested in anything to do with anti inflammatory properties such as garlic, ginger, turmeric etc.

    The best pieces of advice came from my grandmother who was 'an apple a day keeps the Doctor away' person and recent research seems to back up that eating apples can help reduce cholesterol and may be at least as effective as statins. And my Godmother who drank a concotion of cider vinegar, hot water, lemon and manuka honey every day of her life and to my certain knowledge never suffered so much as a cold.

    Both lived well and in good health until their 90's.

    Best wishes CD

  • The cider vinegar tea is a great trick! I do that myself. I also recommend a golden honey recipe to make milk and turmeric teas. These are great for night time.

    I will pass your suggestion along and see about an anti-inflammatory blog post. Check out our recipes as well on the site, as many of these for cancer treatment are anti-inflammatory.

    Stay well

  • Is it possible for you to give us a list of food to eat and a list of food to avid?

  • Throwing caution to the winds and risking being called a heretic, I will add my opinion here. Data is now showing the whole cholesterol scenario to be a complete myth, and the low fat diet just plain dangerous. Obviously the kind of fat you eat matters, but the trouble is, we've all been told to eat vegetable oils and avoid saturated fats. Now it's being shown that just the opposite is true- vegetable oils cause inflammation, while your body knows what to do with saturated fats. You don't lose weight by cutting fats, you lose weight by cutting carbs. And cholesterol is an absolutely necessary substance your body needs; the whole cholesterol/heart theory is bogus. It's people with low cholesterol that die from heart attacks!! Check out my pinterest board for loads of links- or my blog post on the subject with more links to websites as well as books: chronicdiseaseprevention29.... Statins (cholesterol meds) are just plain dangerous. All my references have done their due diligence with cited studies and lots of technical medical info that geeks will love wading through. I am just giving you the extremely shortened nutshell version- you don't need to lower your cholesterol! Though your doctor may threaten you with certain death if you don't follow their most hallowed advice. Many mean well, but just don't know any more than what the drug companies have told them.

    More recommended reading- Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes and Fat Chance by Robert Lustig. Bottom line here- the low fat high carb diet (with "healthy whole grains") is what is making us all obese and thus sick with chronic disease, something the drug companies love. Follow standard advice and you'll just line pockets from the medical industry to the drug companies to the funeral homes. I watched my mother waste away from side effects of statins and the cursed low fat diet. Not pretty, and thus my very large soapbox. If you doubt any of this, just go to amazon or youtube and do a search for "cholesterol myth". You won't believe the number of books and videos that come up, and it's getting longer every year as people wake up.

You may also like...