High Cholesterol


High cholesterol is when you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. It is predominantly caused by eating fatty food, not exercising enough, being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol. It can also be part of your genetic makeup, often termed as running through the family. For example if a parent had a high cholesterol issue, you are more likely to suffer from the same condition, although it is not always the case.

It is possible to reduce your cholesterol by eating healthily.  in particular cutting back on saturated fats and eating more unsaturated fats, sometimes referred to as ‘good fats’. Exercising regularly is also known to play a significant part in cholesterol reduction. 

Your cholesterol results:

A cholesterol test can measure:

  • total cholesterol – the overall amount of cholesterol in your blood, including both "good" and "bad" cholesterol
  • good cholesterol (called HDL) – this makes you less likely to have heart problems or a stroke
  • bad cholesterol (called LDL and non-HDL) – this makes you more likely to have heart problems or a stroke
  • triglycerides – a fatty substance similar to bad cholesterol

You may be given just one figure when you collect your results, but understanding teh balance between the good and bad cholesterol can help you to understand a bit more about your personal situation. Speak to your medical practitioner for a more detailed breakdown

NHS guidelines:

Healthy levels

Total cholesterol  5 or below  

HDL (good cholesterol)  1 or above  

LDL (bad cholesterol)  3 or below  

Non-HDL (bad cholesterol)  4 or below  

Triglycerides  2.3 or below

What to eat:

Follow a low-fat, high-fibre eating plan containing plenty of fruit and vegetables and choose low-Gi foods. Note: if you have familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), or have been prescribed statins, you may be sensitive to the effects of some foods, so please speak to your registered dietician for specific advice.

Bread, cereals & potatoes


Wholemeal bread, chapattis without fat, pitta bread, flour tortillas, pasta, rice, basmati rice, noodles, couscous, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, plantain, wholegrain breakfast cereals, oats.


Garlic bread, croissants, Waffles, parathas, Samosas, Pakoras, pilau, biryani and fried rice. Sugar-coated breakfast cereals. Deep-fried chips.

Fruit & vegetables Choose at least 5 portions every day:


Fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables,100% fruit juice (please note this counts as only 1 portion no matter how much you drink, plus it contains a lot of fruit sugar and calories, so limit to 1 small glass a day), Dried fruit, canned fruit in natural juice, vegetables canned in water, Homemade vegetable-based soups.


Coleslaw and high-fat vegetable salads battered or fried vegetables.

For more information about5 a Day portion sizes visit:




Lean meat, Poultry, Lower-fat meat products eg sausages.


Fatty cuts of meat, Sausages, Pies, Pasties, Pastries, Quiche.



Fish 2 or 3 times a week, including 1 portion of oily fish which should be about 140g serving

Cod, plaice, sole, whiting, canned tuna, shellfish (once a week).

Oily fish (fresh and canned) – mackerel, sardines, pilchards, salmon, trout, herrings and fresh tuna.


Fried battered fish, rich creamy or cheesy sauces.



Up to 3-4 per week boiled, scrambled or poached without fat. Fat-free omelettes.


Eggs fried in fat,

Scotch eggs.


Nuts and seeds, while good for you, are high in calories, so include them sparingly in a weight-reducing diet.


Almonds, Walnuts, Chestnuts, Linseed (flaxseed), Chia, Pumpkin, Sesame and sunflower seeds.


Nut/seed butters. Coconut, coconut milk and cream. Nuts roasted in oil and salt.

Beans/lentils and meat-free alternatives


Baked beans, Sweetcorn, Kidney beans, Chickpeas, Lentils, peas. (Rinse before using if canned in salt/sugar.)

Soya mince, soya beans, tofu, seitan, tempah and Quorn products.

Milk and dairy


Skimmed, semi-skimmed milk, semi-skimmed milk with added plant sterols. Soya milk, Low-fat or ‘diet’ yoghurt, Yoghurt and yoghurt drinks with plant sterols, Soya yoghurt, Virtually fat-free fromage frais. (Check the label when buying low-fat yoghurt, as they are often high in sugar.


Full-fat milk, sheep's’, goats’, evaporated or condensed milk.

Greek yoghurt, whole milk yoghurt, thick and creamy yoghurt, all-cream and full fat crème fraîche.



Low-fat cheeses eg reduced-fat Cheddar-type cheeses, cottage cheese, quark, ricotta, extra-light cheese spread or use a very small quantity of very strong mature Cheddar to provide flavour but not too much fat.


High-fat cheeses eg cream cheese, mascarpone, Stilton, Gouda, Parmesan, full-fat cheese spreads.


All fats are high in calories. Don’t get confused by the types of oil. Olive oil is the best choice for your heart, but it is very high in calories, so it is not good if you are watching your weight. Keep all fats to a minimum.


Lower-fat unsaturated fat spreads – olive oil-based or sunflower types are best.

Olive, rapeseed, sunflower, soya, corn.


Full-fat spreads, lard, butter, ghee, hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Salad dressings


Reduced-fat, low-calorie salad dressings, salad creams and mayonnaise.


Salad creams, mayonnaise, rich sauces made with cream.

Treats and sweet things


Plain biscuits, teacakes, crumpets, malt bread.

Fruit salads, sorbet, sugar-free jelly.

Use sweeteners to replace sugar in hot drinks.

Boiled sweets, mints, fruit gums.


Cakes, Pastries, Pies, Steamed puddings, Trifle, Doughnuts, Cheesecake, Chocolate biscuits, Shortbread, Chocolate, Fudge, Toffees, Indian sweets.


Plenty of fluid every day and either avoid or drink alcohol sensibly, especially if you are watching your weight.

Useful websites