High cholesterol is one of a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing heart disease.* Some of the factors involved in developing elevated cholesterol are uncontrollable – for example, gender, family history, or age. However, you’ll be happy to hear that there are ways to lower cholesterol levels, so youcan do something about it! By making a few small changes you can set out towards a heart healthy diet and lifestyle.

Six ways to lower cholesterol levels

An important way to lower cholesterol is to make a series of small changes to make your diet and lifestyle healthier. Here are some tips:

  1. Swap less healthy fats for more healthy fats to lower cholesterol**Replace foods high in saturated fats like sausages, butter, biscuits, cake, pies, pastries and fatty meats with those containing unsaturated fats (mono- and poly-unsaturated), like oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds and olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils and unsaturated spreads made from them.
  2. Aim for a healthy weight. Eating a healthy balanced diet and staying active are important to maintain a healthy weight. You can try reduced or lower-fat options – for example, lower fat cheeses, yoghurts and milk and leaner cuts of meat. Don’t forget to include plenty of fruit and veg in your diet and go for higher fibre choices like pulses and wholegrains! You could try out our Simple Swaps page to find delicious and healthier swaps.
  3. Try to add soluble fibre into your diet. A healthy diet includes foods containing soluble fibre such as nuts, whole grains and pulses, fruits and vegetables. But, for cholesterol lowering you may want to try eating oats and barley, which have a special soluble fibre called beta–glucan.
  4. Introduce plant sterols or plant stanols into your diet. Eating foods with added plant sterols or stanols is an effective way to lower cholesterol. The plant sterols in Flora ProActiv foods are clinically proven to actively lower cholesterol. A daily consumption of 1.5 – 2.4g of plant sterols can lower cholesterol by 7-10% in 2-3 weeks, as part of a healthy, balanced and varied diet and lifestyle, which includes sufficient fruit and vegetables. You could try swapping butter, for example, for a Flora ProActiv spread (choosing the lighter version with fewer calories if you are aiming to lose weight) and including the skimmed milk drink from the Flora ProActiv range, but remember you need 3 servings of these per day. Alternatively, you could choose a Flora ProActiv mini drink once per day.
  5. Cut out bad habits. Drinking excess alcohol is associated with higher cholesterol. The Chief Medical Officers’ guideline is that men and women should not consume more than 14 units of alcohol in a week. Alcohol should be spread over 3 or more days for those who do consume as much as 14 units, and for those who want to cut down it is recommended to have some alcohol-free days each week. Tips on cutting down and stopping smoking can be found on the relevant section of the NHS site.
  6. Get some exercise. Doing 30 minutes of exercise five days a week (or 150 minutes per week) is a positive step towards a healthier lifestyle, so why not try some of our 9 easy 10-minute workouts to get started?

If you want to know more about how to lower your cholesterol, it’s a good idea to consult your GP, pharmacist or other health professional, who may be able to give you personalised information on how to do this. You could also order our free Cholesterol Lowering Starter kit or join us on Facebook.

* High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease. There are many risk factors for coronary heart disease, and it is important to take care of all of them to reduce the overall risk of it.
**Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats in the diet has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels

BNF references:

  1. Mensink RM (2016). Effects of saturated fatty acids on serum lipids and lipoproteins: a systematic review and regression analysis. World Health Organization (WHO). (accessed 20/05/2019)
  2. European Food Safety Authority (2010). Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of a health claim related to oat beta glucan and lowering blood cholesterol and reduced risk of (coronary) heart disease pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal 8(12): 1885. (accessed 20/05/2019)
  3. Commission Regulation (EU) No 686/2014 as 20 June 2014 amending Regulations (EC) No 983/2009 and (EU) No 384/2010 as regards the conditions of use of certain health claims related to the lowering effect of plant sterols and plant stanols on blood LDL-cholesterol. (accessed 20/05/2019)
  4. NHS Digital (2018). High cholesterol. (accessed 20/05/2019)
  5. Department of Health and Social Care (2016). UK chief medical officers’ low risk drinking guidelines. (accessed 20/05/2019)
  6. British Nutrition Foundation (2019). CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: Diet, Nutrition and Emerging Risk Factors, 2nd Edition. Wiley Blackwell.

The British Nutrition Foundation has reviewed the accuracy of the scientific content of this page in May 2019 (please note this does not include linked pages). The Foundation does not endorse any brands or products. For more information about the Foundation, please visit www.nutrition.org.uk

This information has been included in good faith, but is for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a guarantee. The nutritional facts and statements on this site are designed for educational and resource purpose sonly, not being substitutes for professional advice. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always check with your GP or healthcare professional.