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Ask Our Dietitian: Lower Bad Cholesterol

Ask Our Dietitian: Lower Bad Cholesterol

Our Expert Dietitian Answers All Of Your Nutrition Questions

Q: “My doctor told me my LDL (bad cholesterol) was too high and my HDL (good cholesterol) was too low. What changes can I make to improve these numbers?”

A: How to lower bad cholesterol? Let's first start off with the normal values for total cholesterol, LDL and HDL. You want your total cholesterol levels to be less than 200 mg/dl, LDL cholesterol should be below 130 mg/dl and your HDL cholesterol should be above 35 mg/dl. If your total cholesterol is over 200 mg/dl but your HDL cholesterol is high (especially > 60 mg/dl) the risk of heart disease is not increased and may actually be lower than average.

To lower bad cholesterol (your LDL) through diet you should reduce the amount of saturated fats you consume. You should also try to consume less than 300 mg of total cholesterol per day. Cholesterol is only found in animal and fish products and where egg whites have no cholesterol in them, an egg yolk contains 210 mg of cholesterol (almost your entire days limit).

Increasing the amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in your diet will also help in lowering your cholesterol. These fats can be found in things like nuts, olive oils, and canola oils. Increasing the amount of dietary fiber will also lower your LDL cholesterol. It is recommend that dietary fiber intake should be above 25 grams/day.

Increasing your HDL is a bit trickier. Physical activity is one way to increase your HDL levels. Exercising for about 45 minutes at least 4 times a week has been shown to be beneficial in raising HDL levels. Losing excess weight, especially around the midsection and not smoking has also been shown to increase HDL cholesterol.

If you have a question for our dietician, email her at

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