Fat and Cholesterol Control Diet

Fat and cholesterol levels in your blood and organs are influenced by your diet. High levels of fat and cholesterol may lead to diseases of the heart, small and large blood vessels, gallbladder, liver, and pancreas.


Although exercise and lifestyle factors are important, your diet is key. That is because certain foods are known to raise cholesterol and others to lower it. The goal is to balance foods for their effect on cholesterol and more importantly, to replace saturated and trans fat with other types of fat, such as monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and omega-3 fatty acids.

On average, a person should consume no more than 15 to 17 g of saturated fat daily. Saturated and trans fats are considered "bad" fats, and they will raise LDL cholesterol. Saturated fats are primarily found in animal products such as meats, butter, and cream. However, that does not mean you need to give up all your favorite foods. Today, there are good tasting, low-fat, low-cholesterol substitutes for most of the things you like to eat. Choose low-fat or nonfat alternatives. Choose round or loin cuts of red meat. These types of cuts are lowest in fat and cholesterol. Chicken (without the skin), fish, veal, and ground turkey breast are great choices. Eliminate fatty meats, such as hot dogs and salami. Even shellfish have little or no saturated fat. Have a 3 oz (85 g) portion when you eat lean meat, poultry, or fish.

Trans fats are also called "partially hydrogenated oils." They are oils that have been scientifically manipulated so that they are solid at room temperature resulting in a longer shelf life and improved taste and texture of foods in which they are added. Trans fats are found in stick margarine, some tub margarines, cookies, crackers, and baked goods.

When baking and cooking, oils are a great substitute for butter. The monounsaturated oils are especially beneficial since it is believed they lower LDL and raise HDL. The oils you should avoid entirely are saturated tropical oils, such as coconut and palm.

Remember to eat a lot from food groups that are naturally free of saturated and trans fat, including fish, fruit, vegetables, beans, grains (barley, rice, couscous, bulgur wheat), and pasta (without cream sauces).


Soluble fiber may lower your cholesterol. This type of fiber is found in fruits such as apples, vegetables such as broccoli, potatoes, and carrots, legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils, and grains such as barley. Foods fortified with plant sterols (phytosterol) may also lower cholesterol. You should eat at least 2 g per day of these foods for a cholesterol lowering effect.

Read package labels to identify low-saturated fats, trans fat free, and low-fat foods at the supermarket. Select cheeses that have only 2 to 3 g saturated fat per ounce. Use a heart-healthy tub margarine that is free of trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil. When buying baked goods (cookies, crackers), avoid partially hydrogenated oils. Breads and muffins should be made from whole grains (whole-wheat or whole oat flour, instead of "flour" or "enriched flour"). Buy non-creamy canned soups with reduced salt and no added fats.


Never deep-fry. If you must fry, either stir-fry, which uses very little fat, or use non-stick cooking sprays. When possible, broil, bake, or roast meats, and steam vegetables. Instead of putting butter or margarine on vegetables, use lemon and herbs, applesauce, and cinnamon (for squash and sweet potatoes). Use nonfat yogurt, salsa, and low-fat dressings for salads.


Meats / Saturated Fat (g)

  • Avoid: Steak, marbled (3 oz/85 g) / 11 g

  • Choose: Steak, lean (3 oz/85 g) / 4 g

  • Avoid: Hamburger (3 oz/85 g) / 7 g

  • Choose: Hamburger, lean (3 oz/85 g) / 5 g

  • Avoid: Ham (3 oz/85 g) / 6 g

  • Choose: Ham, lean cut (3 oz/85 g) / 2.4 g

  • Avoid: Chicken, with skin, dark meat (3 oz/85 g) / 4 g

  • Choose: Chicken, skin removed, dark meat (3 oz/85 g) / 2 g

  • Avoid: Chicken, with skin, light meat (3 oz/85 g) / 2.5 g

  • Choose: Chicken, skin removed, light meat (3 oz/85 g) / 1 g

Dairy / Saturated Fat (g)

  • Avoid: Whole milk (1 cup) / 5 g

  • Choose: Low-fat milk, 2% (1 cup) / 3 g

  • Choose: Low-fat milk, 1% (1 cup) / 1.5 g

  • Choose: Skim milk (1 cup) / 0.3 g

  • Avoid: Hard cheese (1 oz/28 g) / 6 g

  • Choose: Skim milk cheese (1 oz/28 g) / 2 to 3 g

  • Avoid: Cottage cheese, 4% fat (1 cup) / 6.5 g

  • Choose: Low-fat cottage cheese, 1% fat (1 cup) / 1.5 g

  • Avoid: Ice cream (1 cup) / 9 g

  • Choose: Sherbet (1 cup) / 2.5 g

  • Choose: Nonfat frozen yogurt (1 cup) / 0.3 g

  • Choose: Frozen fruit bar / trace

  • Avoid: Whipped cream (1 tbs) / 3.5 g

  • Choose: Nondairy whipped topping (1 tbs) / 1 g

Condiments / Saturated Fat (g)

  • Avoid: Mayonnaise (1 tbs) / 2 g

  • Choose: Low-fat mayonnaise (1 tbs) / 1 g

  • Avoid: Butter (1 tbs) / 7 g

  • Choose: Extra light margarine (1 tbs) / 1 g

  • Avoid: Coconut oil (1 tbs) / 11.8 g

  • Choose: Olive oil (1 tbs) / 1.8 g

  • Choose: Corn oil (1 tbs) / 1.7 g

  • Choose: Safflower oil (1 tbs) / 1.2 g

  • Choose: Sunflower oil (1 tbs) / 1.4 g

  • Choose: Soybean oil (1 tbs) / 2.4 g

  • Choose: Canola oil (1 tbs) / 1 g