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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.  

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©.

Familial Hypercholesterolaemia Sanofi Booklet
Inherited Cholesterol Guide

Download our easy to read pictorial guide to Familial Hypercholesterolemia. Find out more about inherited high cholesterol.  

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Six Super Foods That Actively Help Lower Cholesterol

Some foods punch well above their weight in helping to reduce cholesterol levels – we call them the “Cholesterol busters”.  Choosing a healthy diet, low in saturated fat  is important in helping to keep your cholesterol low but you can reduce your cholesterol levels further by including these six super foods in your every day diet. 

Super Food 1 - Soya Foods

Soya Foods and DrinksBeing naturally low in saturated fat, soya foods help lower cholesterol.    The special proteins in soya also appear to influence how the body regulates cholesterol too.  Studies show you can lower your cholesterol by around 6% by including as little as 15g soya protein per day. 

Choose from: soya alternatives to milk and yogurt, soya desserts, soya meat alternatives, soya nuts, edamame beans and tofu. 

See below for suggestions of how to eat 15g of soya protein

Super Food 2 - Nuts

Super Food NutsAll nuts are rich in vegetable protein, fibre, heart healthy unsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, natural plant sterols and a host of beneficial plant nutrients.  30-35g a day of nuts (a handful) has the potential to lower cholesterol by an average of 5%.

What is 30-35g of individual nuts - see below?

Super Food 3 - Oats and Barley

Super Food Oats BarleyBoth oats and barley are rich in a form of soluble fibre called beta glucan.  Once eaten beta glucan forms a gel which helps bind cholesterol in the intestines and prevent it from being absorbed.   It is recommended that we eat about 3g of beta glucan per day.  Foods which contain 1g or more of beta glucan can carry a cholesterol lowering claim.

See below for suggestions on how to achieve 3g beta glucans per day

Super Food 4 -Foods fortified with plant sterols and stanols

Super Foods fortified with Plant sterols and stanolsPlant sterols are structurally similar to cholesterol and can be divided into sterols and stanols. Their cholesterol lowering effects have been known for some time.

Plant sterols/stanols are naturally found in a wide range of foods such as vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. However, for most people, it is not possible to achieve the optimum intake from ordinary foods. 

An intake of 1.5-2.4g plant sterols/stanols everyday has been shown to reduce cholesterol by 7-10% over 2-3 weeks.  They work by blocking cholesterol absorption in the gut.  Visit our section on cholesterol-lowering plant sterols & stanols to find out more.

How much is 1.5-2.4g plant sterols/stanols - see below?

Super Food 5 - Fruits and vegetables

Super Foods Fruit & VegtablesAll fruits and vegetables are low in saturated fat so eating more helps to keep saturated fat intake low.  Fruit and vegetables are also a valuable source of cholesterol lowering soluble fibres.  Try to include at least one pulse (beans, peas, lentils) everyday.  Other rich sources of soluble fibre include sweet potato, aubergene, okra (ladies finger), broccoli, apples, strawberry and prunes.

Do you know what's an adult portion of fruit or veg - look below for our guide to portion sizes.


Super Food 6 - Foods rich in unsaturated fats

Keeping our daily saturated fat intake below 20g (women) and 30g (men) is vital for cholesterol lowering, but it is equally important to replace this saturated fat with modest amounts of unsaturated fats such as those found in olive, sunflower, corn, rapeseed and other vegetable, nut and seed oils.  Other foods rich in unsaturated fats include vegetable spreads, avocado, oily fish and nuts.    Avoid coconut and palm oil as, unlike other these vegetable oils, they are rich in saturated fats.

Why not try our Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Diet (UCLP) - it is based on these 6 super foods.

So, this page has looked at the good, but what about the ugly?  You can find out about foods that increase cholesterol here.


How much is 15g of soya protein?

  • Any ONE of these:
  • A handful of soya nuts (also called roasted edamame beans)
  • 2 large glasses (2 x 250ml) soya milk alternative
  • 100g soya mince/chunks (as served)
  • 55g marinated tofu pieces

Any ONE of these

  • 75g tofu (silken hard variety)
  • 70g soya mince/chunks (as served)
  • 40g marinated tofu –great on salads or as a snack
  • One soya burger

PLUS...125ml of soya yoghurt, custard of soya dessert

Or any TWO of these 

  • 50g tofu (silken hard variety)
  • 25-30g marinated tofu
  • 250ml glass soya milk alternative
  • One soya sausage
  • 3-4 tbsp. (80g) fresh or frozen soya/edamame beans

What does 30-35g of individual nuts look like?

  • 32 almonds
  • 10 Brazils
  • 28 cashews
  • 4 chestnuts
  • 21 hazelnuts
  • 21 macadamias
  • 28 peanuts
  • 35 pistachios
  • 11 walnut halves

How do I achieve 3g beta glucans per day?


Any three of the following:

  • A bowl of porridge (30g dry oats or an individual sachet of instant porridge)
  • 2 tbsp. (13g) oatbran –sprinkled onto cereals or added to casseroles, stews, soups and smoothies
  • 1 oat breakfast biscuit
  • 2 slices bread made with 50% oat flour
  • 3 oatcakes
  • A serving (30-35g) oat-based breakfast cereals
  • 30g oats in recipes that are also low in saturated fat

How much is 1.5-2.4g plant sterols/stanols?


ONE mini-drink (65-100g bottle) – dairy or dairy-free (labelled fortified with stanols or sterols).

Or 2-3 portions from the following fortified foods 

  • 2 tsp. (10-12g) fortified spread
  • 1 (120g) pot fortified yogurt
  • 1 (250ml) fortified glass milk

What is a portion of fruit and vegetables?

  • An adult portion is around 80g or a handful
  • 3 tablespoons vegetables
  • 2-3 cauliflower or broccoli florets
  • ½ courgette, pepper  or avocado or aubergine
  • 1 medium turnip, parsnip, sweet potato, leek, tomato or carrot
  • 1 medium fruit (apple, orange banana)
  • 2 small fruits or a handful of berries
  • A bowl of salad
  • A good sized slice of melon, mango or pineapple
  • A tablespoon of dried fruit
  • A 150ml glass of fruit juice

Which foods are rich in unsaturated fats?

  • Olive oil
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Corn oil
  • Vegetable spreads
  • Avocado
  • Oily fish such as salmon or mackerel
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

If I include more than one super food in my diet do the cholesterol lowering effects add up?  


Yes is the answer.  Research has shown that people who adopt all of these changes can lower their cholesterol by 20%, sometimes even more.  But it does depend on many things such as:

  • How many super foods you can introduce into your diet
  • The quantity of each super food that you eat
  • Which foods you stop eating (in order to eat these super foods)
  • How long you can maintian your new healthier habits
  • Your genetic makeup   

Why not try our Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan which is based on our 6 super foods