Cholesterol diet

What are the best margarines/spreads for a cholesterol diet?

I’ll start this blog post by saying that, since I started my cholesterol-lowering plan, I’ve massively reduced the amount of butter and other spreads in my diet. One reason is because a lot of them are high in saturated fat, which can increase cholesterol, and the other reason is because the meals and snacks I now eat a lot of don’t need butter or margarine.

But if you love your daily morning toast, or don’t like the thought of eating a sandwich without spread, then there are still a few options that can fit into a cholesterol-lowering diet:-

1. Olive/vegetable oil based spreads

Olive/vegetable oil based spreads like Bertolli and Flora contain significantly less saturated fat than butter, so they can be included in a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Bertolli Original has 1.3g saturated fat per 10g portion (which is about 2 teaspoons) and is pretty tasty on toast with a tiny bit of salt added. Flora Original has just 1g saturated fat per 10g portion. I haven’t eaten Flora for a while, but have heard it’s good too.

Cholesterol diet

Like any food containing more than 1.5g saturated fat per 100g, these margarines should still be eaten in moderation, especially if you’re eating them with other foods containing saturated fat. The NHS recommends that:-

  • the average adult man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day.
  • the average adult woman should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.

These are maximums, so try to limit the amount of saturated fat in your diet as much as possible to keep your cholesterol levels low.

2. Cholesterol-reducing spreads

Spreads like Benecol and Flora ProActiv contain plant stanols/sterols, which have been proven to actively lower cholesterol. I haven’t tried Benecol spreads, but really like the taste of Flora ProActiv Buttery.

To achieve the cholesterol-reducing benefits from these products, you need to consume 1.5g to 2.4g of plant stanols/sterols every day for 2-3 weeks. This is the equivalent of 3 servings of spread (about 6 teaspoons), which isn’t always that easy to fit into your daily diet if you’re not eating lots of bread.

An easier way to get enough plant stanols/sterols in your daily diet is to have a cholesterol-reducing yoghurt drink, which are also part of the Benecol and Flora ProActiv product ranges. They contain 2g of plant stanols, which is the full daily amount required. I drank one of these every day when I wanted to quickly reduce my cholesterol last year, but don’t have them at the moment as Benecol isn’t recommended for pregnant women.

Cholesterol diet

3. Light/low fat spreads

There are tons of ‘light’ and ‘low fat’ spreads/margarines available in the supermarket nowadays, but I’ve never found one that tasted good so tend to avoid them. If you find one you like though they’re fine to include in a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Important: make sure you avoid any margarines or spreads that contain trans fats (found in hydrogenated oils), as they’re actually worse for you than saturated fats. Look for ‘0g trans fat’ on food nutrition labels and no hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list.

Alternatives

Instead of using spreads on your toast or in sandwiches, you could try some of these cholesterol-friendly alternatives:-

  • Houmous
  • Mustard
  • Low fat cottage cheese
  • Avocado slices with a pinch of salt
  • Peanut / almond butter

Include butter in your 20% meals

If, like me, you love toast, croissants etc spread with generous amounts of real full-fat butter, then make sure you include them in your 20% food time (more about that in this blog post). Life’s too short to give up butter!

For more cholesterol-reducing tips, click here.