Fat and Cholesterol Control Diet

Cholesterol levels in your body are determined significantly by your diet. Cholesterol levels may also be related to heart disease. The following material helps to explain this relationship and discusses what you can do to help keep your heart healthy. Not all cholesterol is bad. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is the "bad" cholesterol. It may cause fatty deposits to build up inside your arteries. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is "good." It helps to remove the "bad" LDL cholesterol from your blood. Cholesterol is a very important risk factor for heart disease. Other risk factors are high blood pressure, smoking, stress, heredity, and weight.

The heart muscle gets its supply of blood through the coronary arteries. If your LDL cholesterol is high and your HDL cholesterol is low, you are at risk for having fatty deposits build up in your coronary arteries. This leaves less room through which blood can flow. Without sufficient blood and oxygen, the heart muscle cannot function properly and you may feel chest pains (angina pectoris). When a coronary artery closes up entirely, a part of the heart muscle may die causing a heart attack (myocardial infarction).


When your caregiver sends your blood to a lab to be examined for cholesterol, a complete lipid (fat) profile may be done. With this test, the total amount of cholesterol and levels of LDL and HDL are determined. Triglycerides are a type of fat that circulates in the blood. They can also be used to determine heart disease risk. The list below describes what the numbers should be:

Test: Total Cholesterol.

  • Less than 200 mg/dl.

Test: LDL "bad cholesterol."

  • Less than 100 mg/dl.

  • Less than 70 mg/dl if you are at very high risk of a heart attack or sudden cardiac death.

Test: HDL "good cholesterol."

  • Greater than 50 mg/dl for women.

  • Greater than 40 mg/dl for men.

Test: Triglycerides.

  • Less than 150 mg/dl.


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), 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