I've lived in Flagstaff, AZ, since 2003, where I'm an active member of the Coconino County Sheriff's Search & Rescue team and an avid hiker.
What to Eat and Not Eat if Your LDL and Triglycerides are Too High
So, I was searching the internet for a bare bones list of yes and no, good and bad foods for my husband's "new" diet. He just found out his LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are WAY too high, so I'm practicing tough love and making ... well, encouraging ... him to make some lifestyle changes and give up some of the foods he loves--foods that I told him could kill him. And I won't have that.
In order to help him (not just nag him) I wanted to give him a list of what he can and should eat--and those foods he shouldn't--to help lower his cholesterol. Seeing it on paper would make it easier for him, since he keeps asking me (sometimes texting me if he's out) if he can eat this or that. So, I wanted to give him a nice long list. (And, yes, I'll be eating what he eats ... and not eating what he shouldn't.)
But with all the searching I did online, I kept coming up with sites that would list maybe five GOOD foods and/or a few BAD foods, along with a lot of blah-blah. (Like I'm doing now.) I just want a LIST! So, fine, I'll make one myself. And you can certainly use it, too.
This will be an ongoing, growing list, as nitty-gritty as can be, so please help me out by adding what I've missed in either category--good or bad--as well as dessert/sweet foods that are okay for someone with high cholesterol. And I'll add an "in moderation" list too, since some foods aren't quite right for "good" or "bad."
If you disagree with something on either list, please let me know (and why) in the comments section below. Thank you!
Note: I'm not a nutritionist or a doctor. I've just compiled this list from a variety of sources and double-checked as much as possible to be sure that more than one source agrees. Of course, you should check with your own doctor to find out the "diet" that's right for you.
List of Foods BAD for Cholesterol Levels
Try to avoid these items as much as possible.
Please help me out by adding any that I've missed. If you want, you can add some explanation in the box below the list item, including a better alternative if you have one.
- Red meat (If you're going to eat red meat, choose the leanest cuts possible and trim as much visible fat as you can)
- Organ meat (liver, for example)
- Veal, lamb and pork (but, as far as I've read and heard, these are better choices than red meat, but keep portions to no more than 4 ounces and trim all visible fat)
- Processed lunch meats, especially bologna, ham, salami, roast beef
- Bacon (make it turkey bacon if you're going to eat it)
- Sausage (although lean turkey sausage is a much better choice, such as the Jennie-O brand, which comes in Sweet Italian and Spicy too)
- Hot dogs
- Duck and goose
- Butter (Choose vegetable oil spread or margarine without trans fats or saturated fats instead)
- Full fat dairy products (Choose lowfat or, best of all, skim cheeses)
**See "Are There Really Any Substitutes for Cheese?" for a bunch of healthier ideas (not just vegetarian substitutes) and suggestions.
- Coconut oil, Palm kernel oil, Palm oil, and Cocoa butter
**These are saturated fats
- Shellfish (such as mussels and clams)
- Ice cream and heavy cream
- Candy bars and sugary candy
- Cakes, pies and cookies
- French fries
- Chicken wings, fried with skin
- White bread
- Full fat salad dressings (Ranch, Blue Cheese, Thousand Island, French, etc.)
- Egg noodles and pasta made with white flour (Whole wheat pasta and rice noodles are much better choices.)
Foods You SHOULD Eat or CAN eat if You Have High Cholesterol - And drinks too
I'm being very specific when it comes to things like fruits and veggies, to give my husband ideas rather than just listing "fruits" and "vegetables." I want to make this "yes food" list a long one, so he doesn't feel so much like there's so much he can't have and not much that he can.
Please help me out by adding any good foods or foods that are okay in moderation that I've missed in the comments section below.
- Oranges, grapefruits and other citrus
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.)
- Melon (watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, etc.)
- Peaches, plums, nectarines
- Avocado (a healthy fat)
- Salad greens (but iceberg lettuce isn't so great because it has few nutrients; better to choose other leafy greens)
- Onions, leeks, shallots
- Mushrooms (incl. Portobellos, which are excellent grilled as "burgers")
- Squash (zucchini, spaghetti squash, butternut, winter squash, etc.)
- Cabbage and sauerkraut
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Green beans
- Potatoes and yams
- Raisins and cranberries (which add great sweetness to so many things, including salads, casseroles, rice, oatmeal, etc.)
- Oatmeal and oat bran
**The Mayo Clinic says this is one of the top 5 foods for lowering cholesterol.
- Beans (pinto, black beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans, etc.)
- Rice (especially brown rice)
This is a very versatile, healthy food, which is a great base for many recipes. See "A Recipe for Quinoa Salad" with alternatives and other ideas for cooking with quinoa.
- Whole wheat / whole grain breads, including whole wheat tortillas and pita pockets
- Corn tortillas
- Soy products (soy milk, tofu, edamame, etc.)
- Salmon (Fish in general, but I'll list some types separately)
**Best to grill or bake fish
- Albacore tuna (packed in water if canned)
- Lake trout
- Chicken, skinless, especially white meat (baked, broiled, grilled ... not fried)
- Turkey, skinless, especially white meat (baked, roasted, grilled, etc.)
- Whole wheat pasta ...and Soba noodles, rice noodles
- Nuts, unsweetened (almonds, pistachios, walnuts, etc.) and seeds (such as sunflower seeds)
**Since nuts high in calories, just grab a handful now and then. Nuts are great, healthy fat substitutes for croutons, meats and cheese in salad. AVOID Brazil nuts, however.
- Veggie burgers / Black bean burgers
- Lentils and barley
- Oil & Vinegar (made with olive oil) and Balsamic Vinagrette dressings
- White wine vinegar (great for cooking with instead of oil, because it doesn't change the taste of food and doesn't add fat)
- Olive oil, Canola oil, Peanut oil
**These are monounsaturated fats.
- Low fat soups (especially vegetable and broth-based soups, including lentil soup, minestrone, chicken and rice, etc.)
- Cream of wheat
- Low sugar cereals (Corn Flakes, Rice Crispies, Cheerios, etc.)
- Air-popped popcorn
- Skim milk (or at least low fat if you really don't like skim)
- Nonfat yogurt
- Egg whites or egg substitute
- Low fat or nonfat cottage cheese
- Green tea (or any other tea is good, too)
- Coffee (but no cream ... choose skim milk instead)
- Herbs and spices (to add flavor instead of fatty additives)
**Examples include oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, coriander, black pepper, and cumin. But stay away from a lot of salt, which can raise blood pressure and contribute towards water retention.
- Low fat condiments (mustard, catsup, relish, low-sodium soy sauce, lowfat mayonnaise)
- Pita chips (at least, the brand I saw in the store today had no trans fats, no saturated fat, and just a small amount of monounsaturated fat, so check the container for this information)
Foods to Eat in MODERATION
I guess you could say "everything in moderation," especially the good desserty/sweet foods listed above. But there are some foods that aren't dessert and don't really quite fit in the BAD or GOOD lists as much as others. So that's what this category is for. For example, people with high cholesterol don't really have to give up eggs altogether, but they should try to most often use egg whites or egg substitute when possible. And while olive oil, for one, is a good oil, it's better to use just a light, sprayed on coating instead of dousing the food.
- Eggs, no more than 4 yolks per week. (Best to use egg whites only or egg substitute as much as possible.)
- Margarine, soft tub or liquid (Look for little to no trans fat)
- Red wine (All alcohol in moderation, but red wine is best. It's said to actually help lower cholesterol.)
**See "New Cholesterol Fighter Found in Red Wine" from Science Daily.
- Fruit juices (100%, unsweetened juice is best.)
**EverydayHealth.com says that grape juice is especially beneficial.
- Peanut butter
**This is one source of information I used to decide is peanut butter was "okay" or not: "Peanut Butter: Is it a Pro or Con When it Comes to Cholesterol?"
- Safflower, Sunflower, Corn, and Soybean oil
**These are polyunsaturated fats
Desserts & Other Sweet Foods You Can Eat
I'm separating this out, since this is one area where my husband is feeling especially deprived right now
- Dark chocolate (The darker the better, but it depends how bitter you like it.)
**Definitely in moderation on this one. Dark chocolate shouldn't be mistaken for a "health food," but studies have shown that the antioxidants it contains helps lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and increase the good (HDL). See one of many sources at EverydayHealth.com.
- Fat-free, sugar-free pudding
- Jell-O, especially sugar-free
- Angel food cake
- Fat-free sorbet
- Nonfat frozen yogurt
- Fig bars or other types of "newtons"
**The Nabisco 100% Whole Grain, Triple Berry Newtons we just bought have no trans fat and no saturated fat. Just .5mg of polyunsaturated fat per two newtons.
- Low-fat vanilla wafers (which are good with the fat-free, sugar-free pudding)
A Cookbook from the American Heart Association
Sometimes we need a little help putting the good ingredients together.
It's one thing to pick up a piece of fruit or grill a piece of chicken (no skin, of course), but if you're like me, you might have a bit of trouble combining the healthy stuff into tasty recipes, without adding ingredients that defeat the purpose. This cookbook will help you do that.
There are Lots of Low-Cholesterol Recipes Online
- Over 400 Low-Cholesterol Recipes
from The Food Network
- Low-Cholesterol Recipes from AllRecipes.com
More than I can count, but you can search in a variety of ways, including by ingredient, main dishes, side dishes, desserts, the top 20, etc.
© 2012 Deb Kingsbury
Let me know that you stopped by and what you think. Do you or someone you love have high cholesterol? Or did you (they) control it with diet and exercise (weigh
Shubha Debnath from Cooch Behar on August 24, 2020:
An problematic listing organized via the author. Well researched and properly presented.
What it boils down to is that one has to reduce down on fried and junk meals having excessive carb and go for low calorie fruits and greens. So it is a existence fashion alternate and the people will naturally have resistance to such adjustments and that in reality requires a sturdy will energy and dedication to absolutely undertake new practices.
I loved the article fully and thank the writer for posting it here.
Health Tips Hubber from Pakistan on March 16, 2020:
nice article a lot of information you provide.
Theresa Gray on January 14, 2020:
Thank you for these lists it is a great start! I have high cholesterol and diabetes and needed a list to get started on getting it under control! Great work! Thanks again
Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on August 31, 2019:
Thanks, Connie! Both my husband and I have had great results since we started really paying attention to the "good" and "bad" foods. Our levels are both within normal range now.
Connie on August 31, 2019:
Your story sounds like my story! My husband’s last doctor visit revealed that he too has high cholesterol and high triglycerides. I’ve been looking for recipes and lists of foods myself. I will be printing your lists off to show my husband. I think it will help him to see it all on paper. Thank you for doing the research and making the GOOD and BAD lists of foods.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 28, 2019:
An elaborate list prepared by the author. Well researched and well presented.
What it boils down to is that one has to cut down on fried and junk foods having high carb and go for low calorie fruits and greens. So it is a life style change and the persons will naturally have resistance to such changes and that in fact requires a strong will power and determination to really adopt new practices.
I enjoyed the article thoroughly and thank the author for posting it here.
Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 11, 2019:
Thank you for your comment, Shannon. But there are many sources that do state otherwise, including the National Institute of Health (multiple studies).
shannon on July 10, 2019:
you have to take watermelon off the list that is actually bad for anyone with high cholesterol hydro triglycerides because of its glycemic index
Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on February 21, 2019:
I'm glad to hear that! Thanks.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 21, 2019:
Very exhaustive and useful. Thanks.
mohammed echadili from United State on October 03, 2017:
Good stuff! I especially enjoyed Foods You SHOULD Eat or CAN eat if You Have High Cholesterol - And drinks too
Denise on May 31, 2017:
Thank you so much, you are right there is not a list to go by so again thank you! This helps tons!
Lisa Steinberg on August 18, 2016:
I just found out I have high cholesterol and triglycerides (I have a family history on my dad's side) and I have heard many times it is hereditary. With that being said your list is very comprehensive and I quite like the way you have organized it. One thing I would recommend adding to the "What not to eat list" for snacks are most crackers. They seem healthy but many of them are high in saturated fats. I haven't researched what brands are heart smart but I assume ones that are made with whole grains like melba toast or Ryveta are cracker type substitutes that would work. Thanks again for sharing.
CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on October 26, 2014:
No, not me (yet) but hubby is in trouble with his cholesterol and I'm sure to pass this on.
Useful and very informative hub.
Joyette Helen Fabien from Dominica on October 23, 2014:
Thanks for sharing these very useful tips!
debra1026 on July 28, 2014:
better cut some of my foods that are bad according to this essential lists of yours,Really great lens,Very helpful, gonna print it out..
with this essential list and my www.jeffersonnutrition.com I see good result in my future.Thanks..
msblacque46 on March 29, 2014:
My cholesterol was completely out of control,and last November I ended up in the hospital with a "silent heartattack". This is how the doctor described it.Diabetic for 18yrs.,and trying to live a normal life eating all kinds of junk food,and paying a narrow fatal price for it. I was hospitalized for 6days. I was placed on a low sodium/low cholesterol diet,and i've lost 3opds. since November. I'm so happy to run cross your info,and the delicious things that I can eat.. I season my food with many of the things you've listed,and i'm doing very well now.My cholesterol was so bad my heart wasn't pumping the amount of blood required(@25%),but it's increased greatly since my check-up. I share my experiences with the world now,to take better care of themselves,otherwise they'll have serious problems later on. Again,Thanks soooooooooo very much for sharing.Ms. C.F.B.
othellos on June 14, 2013:
Thanks for this essential list. I bookmarked it for reference at any time. I think I eat a lot from the "Good" list plus coffee of course. Thanks for sharing:=)
Delia on April 10, 2013:
Oh My....poor my hubby eats all the stuff on the first bad list...I barely eat stuff like that, yet I have a cholesterol problem...I think mine is due to my Thyroid Meds...well I try cooking healthy for hubby but I'm not with him 24 hrs.
thanks for sharing!