4 ways to lower cholesterol

Written by Linda Main and Baldeesh Rai, HEART UK dietitians, and featuring lots of helpful advice, motivational tools and recipes.  

 
Blood Fats
Blood Fats

Read our popular Blood Fats Explained leaflet.  

Heart of the Family - combined

Watch this film to hear GP, Dr Sarah Jarvis, and patients, talk about inherited high cholesterol

Patients’ Charter
Patients' Charter

We have launched a patients’ charter to provide specific guidance for patients with lipid and cholesterol-related health issues and help them communicate with health care professionals about their condition. 

To find out more and download the patients’ charter.

The UCLP Store Tour

Take our whistle stop tour of a typical Waitrose store to find the perfect basket of cholesterol lowering foods and find out just how easy it is to shop the UCLP©.

 

Confused about fats and oils?

Everyone has an opinion about which fat is best.  But with the press changing their minds every week no wonder we get confused.

Spreads – best choice

Always choose a spread that is made from unsaturated fats like rapeseed, olive and sunflower:
•    Want to lose weight?  Choose a low fat or light spread
•    Want to reduce cholesterol?  Consider a cholesterol lowering spread

AVOID or Use Sparingly: Butter, ghee, dripping, hard margarine, soft butters    

Salads – best choice 

Drizzle oil on your salad but keep portions modest.  Always choose an oil based dressing: 
•    For more flavour – virgin olive and rapeseed oils 
•    For a lower calorie version - try a vinaigrette made with a seed or nut oil 
•    If you like mayonnaise choose a light version   

Avoid:  Ranch, Ceasar and other creamy dressings

Baking today?

Choose baking fats and oils that are mainly unsaturated 

Baking - best choices   

•    Need a yellow spread? Use a 60% spread made from rapeseed, sunflower or olive oil
•    Some cholesterol lowering spreads can be used in baking - check packs for details
•    Got a recipe that calls for an oil – use sunflower oil with its mild flavour 

Avoid or Use Sparingly: Butter, hard margarine, ghee, soft butters, suet, lard

Frying, roasting, grilling, barbecues?

Certain oils and fats are more suited to different kinds of cooking. When cooking at high temperatures you really need to use oils that have:

•    A high smoke point 
•    Are more stable at high temperatures

The smoke point is the temperature at which oil starts to smoke. Every oil’s smoke point is different. When the oil smokes it means that the fat is breaking down and that harmful substances are being produced. It is best not to heat an oil beyond its smoke point but if you do then throw away the oil, wipe the pan clean and start again.

Repeat frying has a similar effect. Over time the oil can become more saturated, lose some of its protective antioxidant properties and harmful trans fats and free radicals can be made. So best to throw the deep fat fryer away altogether. 

Some oils are less stable and more susceptible to change during high temperature cooking. Oils rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) are more prone to damage more than those that are rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFA) or indeed saturated fat. This is because the unsaturated bonds are where the oxidation takes place.  MUFA have fewer unsaturated bonds and are therefore more stable.

Cooking Oils – best choice 

•    Choose rapeseed* sunflower and corn oils most often
•    Only use the oil once and then throw it away
•    Use oil sparingly as it contains lots of calories
•    Marinate meat and fish before you barbecue in an oil and vegetable rich marinade 

Avoid or use sparingly: Coconut oil, goose fat, lard, dripping, butter, 

*most oil sold as vegetable oil is in fact rapeseed

Why is palm oil commonly used in food products?

In the past the food industry have use processed oils that have been hardened to make them harder, more stable and versatile.  However this kind of processing can also result in the production of harmful trans fats.  Trans fats are “double trouble” because they not only increase harmful LDL cholesterol, they also decrease good (HDL) cholesterol.  The good news is that many food manufacturers no longer use processed oils. Instead they now use more saturated fat, such as palm oil, because it is a very stable and functional oil.  The result is that  many processed foods may be slightly higher in saturated fat but lower in harmful trans fats. Look out for palm oil on food labels and check the nutritional information panel to see how much saturated fat is in your food.   

What about food that is cooked in restaurants, café’s and chippies? 

If you eat out regularly then it might be worth asking which fat the restaurant uses for deep frying or high temperature cooking.  The food industry commonly use palm oil or a palm oil blend because these types of oils are also more stable and have a longer fry life.  A new range of rapeseed and sunflower oils are now becoming available to the food service industry which are both stable and heart healthy and therefore have a longer fry life.    

Why is coconut oil so popular?

A very clever marketing programme has seen coconut oil become a popular choice in health food stores and supermarkets. There are lots of stories about its health benefits but the evidence is sparse and scientists are far from convinced.   Coconut oil is highly saturated – the highest of any oil - so not surprisingly it is also solid at room temperature.  The heart benefits claimed rest on the suggestion that coconut oil can increase good (HDL) cholesterol and that the type of saturated fat is more quickly metabolised.  However the fats in coconut oil significantly raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and this is of a far greater concern.  So for now it’s best to avoid coconut oil completely.