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Ask the nutritionist

How to get healthy cholesterol levels


In our new series ‘Ask the nutritionist’, Nutritional Director Rick Hay explains the simple changes you can do for healthy cholesterol levels

According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of all adult Americans have cardiovascular disease.

According to latest statistics, at least 48 percent (121.5 million in 2016) of all adults in the United States have some form of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is comprised of coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and high blood pressure.

Nearly half of all adult Americans have cardiovascular disease.

‘As one of the most common and dangerous risk factors for heart disease and stroke, this overwhelming presence of high blood pressure can’t be dismissed from the equation in our fight against cardiovascular disease,’ said Ivor J. Benjamin, M.D., volunteer president of the American Heart Association.

Approximately 80 percent of all cardiovascular disease can be prevented by controlling high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, plus adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors such as not smoking.

Eating a healthy diet, engaging in physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight could have the most impact as they contribute to multiple conditions concerning high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Not sure about your overall health? or perhaps you would like to just improve it? Our new series, ‘Ask the Nutritionist’ with Nutritional Director Rick Hay, is here to help answer your questions and show you how to achieve a healthier you with a few simple changes.

Unhealthy food options are causing many to suffer from high levels of bad LDL cholesterol, raising the risk for heart disease and strokes. Unfortunately many people aren’t even aware that their cholesterol is too high.

Rick explains some simple steps to reducing cholesterol levels.



Go unprocessed and natural A diet for healthy cholesterol should include whole foods like fruit, nuts and grains. Garlic and olive oil are good inclusions too but things like sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed foods and meats should be consumed in moderation.

Eat more plant-based food (and keep it colourful) The Journal of the American Heart Association has reported that simply switching one meat meal for a plant based meal can reduce risk of heart attacks.

In a meta-study of 112 randomised, controlled studies, the researchers showed that swapping animal fats for plant based protein reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Observing the effects on three markers for cholesterol,  low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad’ cholesterol),   high density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol) and apolipoprotein B, a specific protein found in bad cholesterol that clogs arteries, they concluded that just substituting one or two meat or dairy meals with non-animal protein slashed the risk of heart disease.  High-fibre foods had a further helpful effect.

Avoid trans fats Trans fats, found in biscuits, margarine, cakes and take away fried foods can increase cholesterol levels so ensure your diet is low in processed foods and take aways – which are likely to contain trans fats.

Even small amounts of trans fats can harm health and for every two per cent of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease rises by 23 per cent, says a report by Harvard Medical School.

‘Eating foods rich in trans fats increases the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduces the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol,’ says the report.

‘Trans fats create inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions – they contribute to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes,’ they conclude.

Eat oats They contain oat beta-glucans, a type of soluble fibre that dissolves inside the digestive tract to form a thick gel – the gel binds to excess cholesterol and helps to prevent it from being absorbed, lowering total cholesterol and harmful LDL cholesterol in the body.

In fact, in 2016, a systematic review and meta analysis reviewed the literature and found that oat fibre lowered three markers of heart disease risk, not only cholesterol.



Regular exercise can benefit cardiovascular health, lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risks of heart attacks, strokes and coronary artery disease.

In particular HIIT training (high intensity interval training) has been shown to be one of the best ways to reduce LDL cholesterol.

Nutritional support

Nutritional support can have a positive impact on cardiovascular health and to help lower cholesterol levels. There are two in particular that can help with this, these are plant sterols and certain forms of lactobacillus.

Plant sterols

Plant sterols, a group of compounds found in vegetables and plant-based foods act as competitors to cholesterol by blocking its absorption inside the intestine.

Research by National centre for Biotechnology has shown that a recommended intake of about 2 to 2.5 g/day of products enriched with plant stanol or sterol esters help lower LDL cholesterol levels by around 10-14 per cent without any reported side effects.


Certain forms of a probiotic bacteria called lactobacillus have the ability to bind to cholesterol in the intestines and prevent absorption. They also help to produce certain bile acids which help to metabolise fat and cholesterol in the body.

Further studies by National centre of Biotechnology showed a reduction of up to 17.6 per cent in cholesterol levels, over a 12 week period taking probiotic lactobacillus plantarum daily.


Rick Hay recommends:

BioCare’s BioPlantarum Plus Sterols, contains 800mg of plant sterols together with a lactobacillus probiotic for £24.95 for 90 capsules


Rick Hay is an Anti-Ageing and Fitness Nutritionist with many years clinical experience in nutrition, naturopathy, botanical medicine and iridology. He specializes in obesity treatment and weight management. He writes a regular Natural Health and Fitness Blog for Healthista. Find out more at Follow Rick on Twitter @rickhayuk


rick hay anti ageing fitness plan

Rick Hays book the Anti Ageing Food and Fitness Plan is available to buy on Amazon. 


More from Rick Hay:

Anti Ageing Fitness Plan: Week 6

5 foods to keep your body young

10 rules of weight loss

5 foods to eat when you’re frantic

10 pre-exercise snacks that WON’T ruin your diet

FOOD is seven a day the new five a day?

HOW TO Choose a protein powder

What to eat if you exercise


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