Foods You Should Avoid on a Lipid-Lowering Diet

Foods to avoid on a low cholesterol diet
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Although there are many types healthy foods that can be included in a diet to lower your cholesterol and triglycerides, there are some foods you should use sparingly – if not completely omit – from your lipid-lowering diet. Not only do some types of foods affect your cholesterol and triglycerides – they can affect other medical conditions that have a negative impact on your heart health – such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

By paying attention to the foods you include in your diet, you are ensuring that you are keeping your lipid levels – and your heart – healthy. The following foods may affect your lipid profile and should be used sparingly in your diet:

Foods High in Saturated Fats

Studies have noted that consuming foods high in saturated fat can increase your LDL cholesterol. However, some studies have noted that although foods high in saturated fat may increase your LDL levels, the type of LDL increased is large and buoyant – a type of LDL that does not appear to increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Nonetheless, these foods are also higher in calories – which can cause you to gain weight if you consume these foods regularly. The American Heart Association recommends that saturated fat should consist of less than 7% of your daily caloric intake. These foods are usually high in saturated fat:

  • Processed meats
  • Dairy products
  • Certain cooking oils
  • Animal meat

There are many pre-packaged foods – such as snacks and meals – that may also be high in saturated fat. In some cases, a low-fat version of your favorite foods may also be available. In these cases, you should check the nutrition labels to verify amount of saturated fat per serving.

Trans Fat Foods

Trans fats are a form of fat found in some foods. Because these fats can lower HDL, increase LDL, and promote inflammation, it is recommended that you limit foods containing trans fat in your heart-healthy diet. Some of the following foods are likely to introduce trans fats into your diet:

  • Fried foods
  • Some fast foods
  • Pastries, cakes and pies
  • Some snack foods
  • Non-dairy creamer

The FDA has stated that trans fats are “generally not recognized as safe”, so manufacturers are phasing out the use of this fat in the preparation of their foods. Because these foods have the potential to add saturated fat and calories to your foods, too, they should be limited – if not avoided – in your lipid-lowering meal plan.

Foods with Refined Sugars

Foods that are high in refined sugar content should also be avoided if you are watching your lipid levels. Consuming a diet high in refined sugars can adversely affect your HDL and triglyceride levels. Some studies have also found a link between consuming a diet high in refined sugars and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Because of this, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar in foods should be consumed daily by women, and 9 teaspoons daily for men.

Some of the more obvious foods that are high in refined sugars include candy, pastries, colas, cookies, and cakes. However, refined sugars can be hidden in some seemingly healthier foods, including:

  • Fruit juices
  • Breads
  • Yogurt
  • Snack foods
  • Sauces – including tomato and apple sauce
  • Salad dressings

Refined sugar can also be hidden in some pre-packaged meals and foods, contributing even more sugar and calories to your daily intake. Fortunately, there are some ways to make these foods healthier and with less added sugar. For instance, you can swap your higher carbohydrate white bread for whole grain bread. Instead of purchasing sugary fruit juices off of the shelf, you make your own fruit juices using real fruit – without the added sugar. This will also increase your fiber intake – a type of carbohydrate that can help lower your LDL cholesterol.

Nutrition labels – which can be found on the back of many food packages – can be your best ally when looking for foods to limit in your healthy diet. Saturated fat and trans fat content are located under the Total Fat heading of the nutrition label, whereas sugar content can be found under Total Carbohydrates.


Whitney EN and SR Rolfes. Understanding Nutrition, 14ed. Wadsworth Publishing 2015.

National Cholesterol Education Panel. Third report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III) final report. Circulation 2002;106:3143–3421.

American Heart Association: Added Sugars Add to Your Risk of Dying from Heart Disease. Link: Accessed 21 April 2016.

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