A high level of "bad" cholesterol, also known as an elevated low-density lipoprotein level, increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association. Not all cholesterol is bad, though -- in fact, your body needs cholesterol to synthesize vitamin D, hormones and certain digestive juices. Making some changes to your diet and lifestyle may help you lower your cholesterol to within a healthy range.
The Institute of Medicine notes that men should eat 30 to 38 grams of fiber per day, and women and should get 21 to 25 grams per day. Eating a high-fiber diet helps to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your body. Your body releases bile acids, which contain cholesterol, during digestion. Normally a portion of the cholesterol is reabsorbed into your body during digestion. When fiber is present, however, it binds to cholesterol and removes it from your body in waste. Soluble fiber, a type of fiber that absorbs water and swells into a sort of gel in your digestive tract, is particularly helpful for lowering bad cholesterol, according to Colorado State University. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, beans, wheat bran, flaxseed, apples, apricots, figs, oranges, pears, plums, strawberries, asparagus, brussels sprouts and turnips.
Low-Saturated Fat Diet
Your body is capable of producing cholesterol from other types of fat. Too much saturated fat in particular can raise bad cholesterol levels. According to the American Heart Association, you should eat no more than 16 grams of saturated fat per day on a 2,000-calorie diet. Saturated fats are found in animal products and animal fats. To limit your intake, eat less cheese, butter, whole milk, cream, lard and high-fat cuts of meat such as beef, pork and lamb. Remove skin from poultry and trim visible fat from meat before cooking to reduce the saturated fat content.
Avoid Trans Fats
Trans fat, a type of liquid fat chemically altered to be a solid fat at room temperature, may also contribute to elevated LDL cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association. These fats are commonly found in processed and fried foods, such as french fries, doughnuts, pie crusts, cookies, crackers and some margarine. Check the nutrition facts panel on packaged food to see if it contains trans fat. To lower your cholesterol, aim for under 2 grams of trans fat per day on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Limit Dietary Cholesterol
You absorb cholesterol into your body from consuming dietary cholesterol as well. The American Heart Association suggests limiting dietary cholesterol to 200 milligrams per day if you have an elevated cholesterol level. Animal products and foods made from them are the biggest contributors to cholesterol in your diet. Limit your intake of eggs, shrimp, squid, lobster, crab, liver, veal, lamb, beef and ham to decrease cholesterol intake. Butter, cheese, milk fat and yogurt also contain small amounts of cholesterol.
- American Heart Association: Saturated Fats
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: What Is Cholesterol?
- Colorado State University: Dietary Fiber
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol and Protein
- Harvard University: Fiber Content of Foods in Common Portions
- American Heart Association: Trans Fat
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- University of California, San Francisco: Cholesterol Content of Foods