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Explore the myths surrounding this popular health topic and learn how to restore and maintain healthy cholesterol.

How to Lower LDL Cholesterol Through Diet and Lifestyle Modification

The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) is a cholesterol-lowering program you may have heard of before. Now learn what it is and how it may help you lower "bad" cholesterol.

How to Lower LDL Cholesterol Through Diet and Lifestyle Modification

LDL, also known as low-density lipoprotein, cholesterol is known to be that "bad" cholesterol. It's appearance in the bloodstream contributes to plaque. The thick build-up can clog and harden the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis. Consequently, a clot can form and block the arteries and result in a heart attack or stroke. Fortunately, dietary and total lifestyle changes can keep reduce cholesterol and prospective heart disease.

The TLC Diet

Recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) is a cholesterol-lowering program. The concept of the TLC diet is a total lifestyle change targeting LDL cholesterol and an effort to reduce cholesterol levels before introducing medication. The TLC components include diet, weight management, and physical activity.


The TLC dietary recommendations target all aspects of the diet, not just single nutrients. Following the TLC diet can reduce LDL cholesterol by 25 to 35% compared to a traditional U.S. diet. Furthermore, LDL is lowered 2% for every 1% decrease in total calories from saturated fat. A recent weight loss study found an 8% LDL reduction when reducing saturated fat to less than 7%. Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat can further reduce LDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, research shows a reduction in sodium intake reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 25%. The table below identifies targeted TLC diet recommendations.

Reduce saturated fat and cholesterol by limiting processed and red meats. PUFAs and MUFAs can be increased with the consumption of seeds, nuts, and olive and vegetable oils. When achieving protein recommendations, strive for lean and plant proteins such as chicken, turkey, and beans. Reduce the intake of sweets and opt for whole grains and fresh fruits and veggies to meet not only carbohydrate recs, but fiber intake as well. Soluble fibers such as oats can reduce LDL cholesterol whereas insoluble fiber has not been shown to.

Physical Activity

Weight loss achieved with the incorporation of exercise can reduce LDL cholesterol. Additionally, there are additional beneficial effects on insulin resistance, blood pressure, serum triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol. The pairing of physical activity and calorie reduction can improve metabolic syndrome risk factors approximately 3.5-fold compared to diet alone. The TLC diet recommends adults engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week. Exercise for 60 minutes to manage weight and prevent weight gain and 60 to 90 minutes to sustain weight loss.

Weight Management

In general, the TLC diet is not a weight loss program. Since the TLC diet is low in saturated fats, dietary cholesterol, and sodium and filled with MUFAs and PUFAs, though, nutrients will not be compromised despite reduced calorie levels. Because carbohydrates, protein, and fat are in healthy balance, the diet is considered safe. Ultimately, the diet's totality and composition paired with increased exercise can ultimately lead to successful weight loss.

Reference: Can Lifestyle Modifications Using Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Reduce Weight and the Risk for Chronic Disease? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at:

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