Diet for High Cholesterol: A Guide to Approved and Restricted Foods

Discover the foods to include, cooking methods, and those to avoid for better cholesterol management

Photo of author

By Alex

Diet for High Cholesterol

You will increasingly hear discussions about a diet for high cholesterol. The increased awareness of cholesterol’s impact on cardiovascular health has led to a growing recognition of high cholesterol as a prevalent issue and risk factor. Regular monitoring and normalization through an appropriate diet are essential

As people become more informed about the connection between high cholesterol and heart disease, there is a heightened interest in adopting diets aimed at managing cholesterol levels. This shift is accompanied by a growing emphasis on making wise food choices, specifically favoring those that contribute to higher levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and lower levels of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol).

This article aims to outline the fundamental principles of a diet tailored for managing high cholesterol, aligning with the increasing focus on preventive measures and informed dietary choices.


What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol, a dense fat produced by the body, aids in proper fat digestion. About 80-85% is internally generated, with only a small portion (15-20%) acquired through food.

Besides facilitating fat digestion, cholesterol regulates cell membrane smoothness, acts as a vitamin D precursor crucial for bone health, and synthesizes hormones like estrogen and testosterone.

Two cholesterol types exist:

  • LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” contributes to cardiovascular diseases by forming atherosclerotic plaques on vessel walls.
  • HDL, or “good cholesterol,” with a less viscous consistency, cleans vessel walls of LDL cholesterol, returning it to the liver for elimination.

High cholesterol is determined by reference values that may vary over time:

  • Total cholesterol: 130mg/dl to 200mg/dl
  • HDL: For men, values above 35mg/dl are good; for women, above 45mg/dl
  • LDL: 40mg/dl to 130mg/dl
  • HDL cholesterol/total cholesterol ratio: 0.24 to 0.48

Common causes of high cholesterol include genetic predisposition (familial hypercholesterolemia) and an imbalanced diet rich in fats and sugars.

Foods Permitted in a Diet for High Cholesterol

Approved foods for a high cholesterol diet include:

  • Whole grains: bread, pasta, rice, barley, and more.
  • White meat: chicken (preferably breast without fatty skin), turkey, rabbit, and pork loin.
  • Lean cold cuts: chicken and turkey salami, and raw ham without visible fat.
  • Fish: blue fish like sardines, anchovies, and mackerel, as well as salmon, tuna, and cod.
  • Mollusks: octopus, cuttlefish, and squid.
  • Dairy products: skimmed or partially skimmed milk, low-fat yogurt, and cheeses.
  • Legumes: all varieties, both fresh and dried, combined with cereals.
  • Fruits and vegetables: all types, preferably seasonal.
  • Condiments: extra virgin olive oil for cooking and seasoning, vinegar, lemon, spices, and aromatic herbs.

Diet for High Cholesterol: Preferred Cooking Techniques

In addition to knowing which foods to prioritize, paying attention to the cooking and preparation methods is crucial. Opting for healthier, simpler techniques that don’t require the addition of fatty condiments is ideal. The recommended cooking methods include:

  • Roasting
  • Boiling
  • Steaming
  • Pan-cooking
  • Baking
  • Water bath cooking
  • Microwave
  • For fruits and vegetables, consuming them raw is ideal to preserve valuable nutrients like vitamins and mineral salts.

Avoiding, or using very rarely, frying, braising, charcoal grilling methods is advised, with particular attention to preventing charring.

Quantity and Distribution of Foods Throughout the Week

For comprehensive information, after identifying permitted foods and suitable cooking methods, let’s discuss how often to include various foods in the weekly diet:

  • Whole grains: Every day
  • Meat: Maximum 3 times
  • Fish: At least 3 times
  • Mollusks: Only once
  • Legumes: 3-4 times
  • Cheese: Once
  • Lean cold cuts: Once
  • Eggs: A couple a week if whole; egg white can be consumed more frequently
  • Vegetables: At least 2-3 portions every day
  • Fruit: 2 portions every day

Diet for High Cholesterol: Foods to Avoid

Now, let’s identify foods to avoid due to their high fat content:

  • Refined cereals and derivatives (seasoned bread, crackers, taralli, etc.)
  • Fatty fish and shellfish
  • Fish preserved in oil
  • Fatty meats
  • Cured meats, sausages, and preserved meats
  • Innards
  • Eggs (consume in moderation, no more than a couple a week)
  • Whole milk and yogurt
  • Fatty cheeses
  • Animal fats (butter, lard, cream)
  • Sauces like mayonnaise and béchamel
  • Dried and oily fruits
  • Dehydrated fruits
  • Sweets and sugary drinks
  • Spirits

Diet for High Cholesterol: General Lifestyle Advice

Recognizing that food alone is not sufficient, adopting a healthy lifestyle enhances results. Consider these behavioral tips:

  • Quit smoking to prevent artery damage and lower “good” cholesterol levels.
  • Engage in regular aerobic physical activity (running, walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, football) for at least 150 minutes per week, ideally 300 minutes.
  • Achieve and maintain an ideal weight, with attention to waist size.
  • Regularly monitor co-existing conditions, especially diabetes and high blood pressure, in consultation with your doctor.

Diet for high cholesterol: menu example

Based on everything explained so far, here is a typical example of a daily menu with various alternatives.


Tea or coffee with:

  • skimmed milk and wholemeal biscuits
  • low-fat plain yogurt and wholemeal toast with a layer of jam
  • low-fat plain yogurt + oat flakes and fresh fruit


  • Spelled soup with lentils seasoned with good olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan + fresh vegetables
  • Turkey breast with mixed salad and wholemeal bread
  • Turkey salami with vegetables and boiled potatoes


  • Vegetable and lentil soup with rye bread croutons
  • Pan-seared tuna steak with raw carrots and fennel in a salad and a wholemeal sandwich
  • Slice of salmon baked in foil with broccoli and steamed potatoes
Diet for High Cholesterol
This dietary regime is aimed at managing cholesterol levels

Q&A on diet for high cholesterol

After having seen the list of foods to prefer and those to limit if you suffer from high cholesterol, let’s move on to answering the questions you most often ask us on this topic, in order to have a timely answer to each specific topic.

Can those with high cholesterol eat parmesan cheese?

Yes, because it contains saturated, or “good” fats. However, you should not overuse the quantities.

What fruit not to eat with high cholesterol?

It would be better to avoid the consumption of apples, pears, cherries, dates, grapes and dried figs.

Can those with high cholesterol eat tomatoes?

In case of hypercholesterolemia and hypertension, tomatoes represent an effective natural remedy to combat these pathologies. To make them even more effective in this sense, they should be consumed with a certain frequency and preferably cooked. In fact, experts claim that the lycopene contained in them – an antioxidant carotenoid – would help reduce LDL cholesterol by up to 10%, if taken daily in doses greater than 25 milligrams.

What vegetables lower cholesterol?

Abundant with broccoli, spinach, asparagus and fresh peas as they contain high levels of folic acid, a very important substance for lowering homocysteine values, which promotes the oxidation of bad cholesterol. Carrots and cauliflowers are also good because they are rich in fibre.

Can those with high cholesterol eat eggs?

Here is a false myth that has been debunked for a long time now. In fact, eggs contain a good percentage of lecithins, substances which are enemies of cholesterol, which help not only to keep levels low, but also to reduce their absorption into the blood.

Which water lowers cholesterol

Experts maintain that the most suitable waters for combating high cholesterol levels would be sulphate-calcium, saline-sulphate and bicarbonate-calcium waters with sulphate levels above 100 mg per litre.

Which cheese contains the most cholesterol

Parmigiano Reggiano contains 88 milligrams of cholesterol, equal to approximately 30% fat and a caloric intake of 387 calories. On the other hand, in Parmesan we also find good percentages of calcium and proteins.

Can those suffering from high cholesterol eat bananas?

Yes because, being rich in fibre, they help you feel full more quickly and for a long time.

When is cholesterol a concern?

In blood levels, total cholesterol values should not exceed 200 mg/dl. We begin to talk about slightly high cholesterol when the values are between 200 and 239 (a widespread condition for 37% of males and 34% of women). When the values exceed 240 mg/dl, we definitively speak of high cholesterol.

Can those with high cholesterol eat canned tuna?

The fats present in canned tuna represent an important source of Omega 3, polyunsaturated fatty acids known to have beneficial effects on the body. In fact, they would help to reduce total cholesterol levels and at the same time raise those of good cholesterol (HDL).

How to season pasta with high cholesterol?

In general, with high cholesterol you shouldn’t overdo it with condiments. To flavor a pasta dish, a drizzle of raw extra virgin olive oil to taste may be enough, also add a sprinkling of some spices, such as pepper, saffron, chili pepper or nutmeg.

Can those with high cholesterol eat raw ham?

If consumed in the right quantities and frequencies, lean cold cuts are allowed. Green light therefore for raw ham, as well as cooked ham and speck, all obviously removed from visible fat. The bresaola and the cold cuts of chicken and turkey are also good. However, sausages containing high levels of saturated fats, such as sausage, salami and mortadella, are banned.

What biscuits can you eat with high cholesterol

The most suitable are wholemeal dry biscuits, which should however be consumed in moderation due to their sugar content.

How many nuts a day to lower cholesterol?

Various studies have shown that taking 30 grams of walnuts every day, equal to approximately 6-8 fruits, would be useful to cover the average daily requirement of Omega-3, the quantity needed to lower LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” one). ) and improve insulin sensitivity at the same time.

How much water to drink with high cholesterol?

It is recommended to drink a lot, at least one and a half liters of water a day, as it seems that there is a direct link between high cholesterol and dehydration. Therefore, if our body is adequately hydrated, preferably by drinking water enriched with sodium carbonate, cholesterol levels would be kept at bay.

Can those with cholesterol eat oranges?

The consumption of oranges is highly recommended as these citrus fruits bring numerous benefits, such as: maintaining cholesterol levels within an optimal range, keeping the walls of the arteries clean and healthy, maintaining normal blood pressure values. And all this, consequently, would reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, strokes and heart attacks.

What to eat the day before cholesterol tests?

The characteristics of a single meal, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, do not influence the levels in the peripheral blood. Therefore, to do tests to check cholesterol values, it would not even be necessary to skip breakfast.

When to take lemon to lower cholesterol?

A widespread natural remedy is to drink, as soon as you wake up in the early morning and on an empty stomach, a cup of warm water (approximately 250 ml) with the juice of 1/2 lemon. Then wait at least 15/20 minutes before having breakfast or even just drinking a simple coffee.

What yogurt can I eat with high cholesterol?

It seems that yogurts enriched with plant sterols would help reduce bad cholesterol levels, more or less by 10-12%. However, this reference parameter would also vary based on other factors, such as the quantities of cholesterol consumed through diet. Soy-based yogurts are also excellent, as they are naturally cholesterol-free.

What type of fish is good for cholesterol?

All those fish that contain “good fats”, such as Omega 3 and Omega 6, would be preferable. Some examples? Salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and herring.

Can those with high cholesterol eat dark chocolate?

Dark chocolate would be of great help in significantly reducing LDL and total cholesterol values in the blood. Obviously, you shouldn’t exceed the quantities. One square per day would be the allowed dose.

Can those with high cholesterol eat meat?

Yes, but preferring white meats, such as chicken, turkey, rabbit and veal. In any case, always choose leaner cuts and eliminate any visible fat.

How much pasta can you eat with high cholesterol?

Within a food context that can be defined as “healthy”, approximately 80 grams of pasta or rice, weighed raw, should be consumed. To be replaced, alternatively, with 50 grams of bread or other baked products.

What are the seeds that lower cholesterol

Dried fruit, especially walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and pistachios, as well as flax and pumpkin seeds contain good quantities of Omega 6, polyunsaturated fatty acids of plant origin capable of lowering bad cholesterol levels.

Can those with high cholesterol eat pizza?

If you follow a correct dietary regime, once a week you can treat yourself to a Margherita pizza, accompanied by a nice plate of generous, lightly seasoned vegetables.

Can those with high cholesterol eat potatoes?

Green light for potatoes, as long as they are cooked lightly. So good for boiled, steamed and baked potatoes. Thumbs down for the french fries instead.

Can those with high cholesterol eat salmon?

Salmon, as well as other types of fish, such as anchovies, mackerel, tuna and sea bream, are allowed and indeed recommended because they are a source of “good fats”.

More on this topic

Other diets that might interest you: