Victorian Gov Health Dept- CHOLESTEROL


Cholesterol is a type of fat that is essential for the body. Too much cholesterol in the blood can cause health problems. Healthy eating habits can help reduce cholesterol levels. Suggestions include choosing polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated oils and reducing saturated fats and trans fats in your diet.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance normally produced by the liver and found in our blood. It has many good uses, but can become a problem when there is too much of it in the blood.
Developing healthy eating habits will help reduce your cholesterol levels. Some suggestions include choosing polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated oils and reducing saturated fats and trans fats in your diet.
If you have high levels of cholesterol, you can reduce them by making changes to your lifestyle (especially changing your eating habits) and, if recommended, by taking medication prescribed by your doctor. Talk to your doctor about what will be the best approach for your situation.
Cholesterol explained

Cholesterol is made in the body by the liver. Cholesterol also comes into the body through some foods – this is called ‘dietary’ cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol is found only in animal products (such as offal, fatty meats, full fat dairy products and egg yolks). Plant foods – such as avocados, nuts, grains, fruit and vegetables – don’t have any dietary cholesterol.
Cholesterol is packaged for transport around the body into small spheres called ‘lipoproteins’. There are two types of lipoproteins:

Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – this is known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol because it contributes to heart disease by sticking to and narrowing blood vessels.

High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol – this is known as the ‘good’ cholesterol because it helps protect against heart disease.

High blood cholesterol usually does not give warning signs. You can have high blood cholesterol and feel perfectly well. The only way to find out if your blood cholesterol is high is by having it checked regularly.


In addition to cholesterol, your blood also contains a type of fat called triglycerides. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. These triglycerides are stored in your fat cells. Later, hormones release triglycerides for energy between meals. If you regularly eat more calories than you burn, you may have high triglyceride levels (hypertriglyceridaemia).

Causes of high blood cholesterol
Fats in food are a mixture of polyunsaturated, mono-unsaturated, saturated and trans fats. These different types of fats have different effects on your cholesterol level.
Polyunsaturated fats – these help lower blood cholesterol if your meals are low in saturated fat. Some examples of foods that contain polyunsaturated fats are fish, plain nuts (such as walnuts, hazelnuts and brazil nuts) and polyunsaturated margarines and oils.
Mono-unsaturated fats – these can help lower blood cholesterol if your meals are low in saturated fat. Foods that include mono-unsaturated fats include avocado, plain nuts (such as peanuts, cashews and almonds) and mono-unsaturated margarine and oils.
Saturated fats – these raise blood cholesterol. Foods that are high in saturated fats include many takeaway meals, potato chips, commercial cakes, biscuits and pastries, butter and dairy products (full fat milk, cream, cheese and so on).

Trans fats – these raise total and LDL (bad) blood cholesterol and also reduce the HDL (good) component of blood cholesterol. Foods high in trans fats include those that use hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable fats (for example, baked products like pies, pastries, cakes, biscuits and buns).

Cholesterol in food

Cholesterol in food can also raise blood cholesterol, particularly in people who have a high risk of developing heart disease. However, cholesterol in food does not raise cholesterol in the blood to the same extent as saturated and trans fats. Research shows that limiting the intake of saturated and trans fats is more useful than limiting cholesterol-rich foods when trying to lower blood cholesterol levels. See your doctor or dietitian for further information and advice.

Reducing high blood cholesterol

Replacing foods that contain saturated fats with foods that contain polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats will help lower blood cholesterol levels. Foods high in polyunsaturated fats include margarine spreads and oils (such as sunflower, soybean and safflower), fish, some nuts and seeds. Foods high in mono-unsaturated fats include margarine spreads and oils (such as olive, canola and peanut), avocados and some nuts.

Limiting your intake of foods such as cakes, pastries, pies and biscuits will not only lower your saturated fat intake but also your trans fat intake.

Foods low in refined carbohydrates and high in dietary fibre, particularly soluble fibre, can reduce the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Foods containing soluble fibre include fruits, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, four bean mix and baked beans) and cereals (oats and barley).
Eating healthy foods as part of a well-balanced diet will help keep your blood cholesterol in check.
Eat vegetables, beans, fruit, wholegrains and nuts
Healthy eating suggestions include:
Base your meals around a variety of vegetables and fruit.
Choose wholegrain foods such as wholegrain rice, pasta, noodles, bread and breakfast cereals.
Include legumes (chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, four bean mix, baked beans or split peas) in two meals a week.
Choose plain, unsalted nuts and seeds.
 Eat fish and lean meat
Healthy eating suggestions include:
Eat fish (preferably oily varieties, either fresh or canned) at least twice a week.
Select lean meat (meat trimmed of fat and chicken without skin).
Try to limit fatty meats, including sausages and delicatessen meats such as salami.
Use vegetable oils and choose reduced fat dairy products

Healthy eating suggestions include:
Use margarine spreads instead of butter or dairy blends.
Use a variety of oils for cooking – some suitable choices include canola, sunflower, soybean, olive and peanut oils.
Use salad dressings and mayonnaise made from oils such as canola, sunflower, soybean and olive oils.
Choose low or reduced fat milk and yoghurt or ‘added calcium’ soy beverages.
Try to limit cheese and icecream to twice a week.
Try to limit takeaway and snack food
Healthy eating suggestions include:

Try to limit takeaway foods to once a week. Takeaway foods include pastries, pies, pizza, hamburgers and creamy pasta dishes.
Try to limit snack foods such as potato crisps and corn crisps to once a week.
Try to limit cakes, pastries and biscuits (chocolate or creamy) to once a week.
Cholesterol-rich foods can be included as part of a healthy eating pattern. People with high blood cholesterol should discuss with their doctor or an accredited dietitian (APD) how much cholesterol-rich food they can eat.

Where to get help

Your doctor
An Accredited Practising Dietitian, contact the Dietitians Association of Australia or call Tel. 1800 812 942
Heart Foundation HeartLine Tel. 1300 36 27 87

Things to remember
Limit your intake of saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol-rich foods.
Replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats.
Enjoy a variety of foods such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, fruit, vegetables, legumes, lean meats, poultry, nuts, fish and reduced fat dairy products.
Have your cholesterol and lipid levels checked by your doctor at regular intervals