Some meats and dairy products are high in saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels if eaten frequently. Therefore, if you have high cholesterol, it’s best to eat more plant proteins, oily fish, lean meats and low fat dairy products instead.
In the UK, it’s recommended that adults eat 0.75g of protein for each kilogram they weigh. For the average adult, this equates to:-
- 55g protein per day for men
- 45g protein per day for women
It’s easy to hit these targets if you eat a varied diet, especially if you include protein in your breakfast and snacks. Here are my favourite cholesterol-friendly protein sources:-
Salmon contains healthy fats that can help to lower bad cholesterol, as well as raising good cholesterol levels. Salmon fillets contain approximately 23.8g of protein per 120g serving.
Here are some easy cholesterol-friendly meal ideas:-
- Smoked salmon & avocado on wholemeal toast
- Salmon superfood salad
- Salmon filo pastry pie
- Honey mustard pecan crusted salmon
There are lots of other cholesterol-lowering oily fish options, like trout, sardines, anchovies, mackerel and fresh tuna. Other fish, like cod, haddock and plaice are also good protein sources for a low cholesterol diet because they’re low in saturated fat, but they don’t have the same cholesterol-lowering benefits as oily fish.
The NHS recommends that a healthy diet should include at least two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish. Oily fish can contain low levels of pollutants that can build up in the body, so there are maximum recommendations for the number of portions we should be eating each week – see this NHS article for more information.
Pulses are very low in saturated fat and rich in cholesterol-lowering fibre. There are plenty of different types available, plus they’re inexpensive and easy to store in your kitchen cupboard
Here’s the approximate protein content per 120g serving for different varieties:-
- Black beans – 8.9g
- Chickpeas – 8.6g
- Kidney beans – 8.3g
- Lentils – 7.3g
- Butter beans – 6.9g
Here are some simple ways to include more cholesterol-lowering beans in your daily diet:-
- Use houmous in your sandwiches
- Eat baked beans on toast
- Try this chickpea & turmeric peanut butter curry
- Snack on crunchy roasted chickpeas
- Add beans to meat casseroles
- Try these smoky lentil & sweet potato tacos
For more ideas on how to include beans in your daily diet, see this post.
Almonds contain approximately 5.3g of protein per 25g serving. They’re a great cholesterol-lowering protein source and really easy to fit into your daily diet. Here are some suggestions:-
- Sprinkle flaked almonds on your breakfast cereal.
- Mix almond butter into your porridge.
- Snack on almond butter on oatcakes.
- Add crushed almonds to muesli.
- Eat whole almonds as an on-the-go snack.
- Add flaked almonds to your curries.
- Mix almond butter into your smoothies.
There are lots of other nuts that also help to lower cholesterol, such as walnuts, pecan nuts, hazelnuts and peanuts, so you can pick and choose your favourites.
Although chicken doesn’t actively lower cholesterol, it’s a good choice for a low cholesterol diet because it’s low in saturated fat. Skinless chicken breast meat contains approximately 34.8g of protein per 145g serving. Skinless chicken thigh meat is higher in saturated fat than breast meat and isn’t as high in protein (about 26.2g per 145g serving), so chicken breast is better for a cholesterol-lowering diet.
There are lots of great cholesterol-friendly chicken recipes, for example:-
- Spicy chicken & avocado wraps
- Asian chicken salad with peanut dressing
- Chicken & avocado burgers
- Chicken & vegetable masala curry
For more cholesterol-friendly chicken meal ideas, see this post.
5. Canned Tuna
Canned tuna doesn’t count as ‘oily fish’. Fresh tuna does, but when it’s canned the amount of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids is reduced, so it doesn’t have the same cholesterol-lowering benefits as salmon. Even so, it’s still a good cholesterol-friendly protein source because it’s very low in saturated fat. Canned tuna contains approximately 28.2g of protein per 120g serving.
I buy canned tuna in spring water so that I can mix it with my own olive oil or a tablespoon of mayonnaise*. Here are my favourite cholesterol-lowering canned tuna recipes:-
Note, if you’re trying for a baby or are pregnant, the NHS recommends that you should have no more than four cans of tuna a week because it contains higher levels of mercury than other fish.
* read more about cholesterol-friendly mayonnaise in this post.
Quinoa is one of the only plant foods that’s a complete protein, meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids. Quinoa not only contains approximately 8.1g of protein per 185g serving, but it’s also rich in dietary fibre, which helps to lower cholesterol.
Here are some great cholesterol-lowering quinoa recipes:-
- Quinoatmeal with apple & toasted walnuts
- Vanilla almond overnight quinoa
- Quinoa stew with squash & pomegranate
- Spicy cajun chicken quinoa
- Quinoa black bean tacos with avocado sauce
- Quinoa salad with baked salmon
7. Lean Beef Mince
Red meat tends to be high in saturated fat, however lean beef mince is fairly low in saturated fat, so can be included in a low cholesterol diet.
Lean beef mince contains approximately 26.1g of protein per 125g serving and 2.5g of saturated fat. I tend to mostly eat foods that contain less than 1.5g of saturated fat per 100g to help keep my cholesterol low, but beef mince is rich in iron so I try to eat it once or twice a week.
Here are my favourite cholesterol-friendly lean beef mince recipes:-
You can also buy cholesterol-friendly lean beef stir fry strips, which are great for quick recipes, like this beef and mushroom stir fry. Another good cholesterol-friendly option is lean diced beef, which you can use in slow cooking recipes, like this tangy Mongolian beef.
8. Cottage Cheese
Low fat cottage cheese makes a great cholesterol-friendly protein snack on oatcakes or seeded Ryvitas. I like ‘Arla Protein Plain Cottage Cheese‘ because it’s low in saturated fat and contains 20.3g of protein per 165g serving.
Another good cholesterol-friendly cheese option is low fat natural cheddar cheese, like ‘eatlean Protein Cheese’, which is contains 37g of protein per 100g with only 1.3g saturated fat. I love eating it on apple slices, oatcakes or crackers.
9. Ground Flaxseeds
Ground flaxseeds are a really nutritious cholesterol-lowering protein source, so I try to eat at least one tablespoon every day in things like porridge, muesli, pancakes, salads and curries. Ground flaxseeds contain approximately 6.6g of protein per 30g serving, and 7.1g of cholesterol-lowering fibre.
Other seeds, like chia, sesame and pumpkin seeds are also good cholesterol-lowering protein sources. See this post for ideas on how to include more seeds in your daily diet.
Last but not least is one of the top cholesterol-lowering foods – oats. Porridge oats contain approximately 7.7g of protein per 75g serving and are low in saturated fat. There are lots of different cholesterol-lowering ways to eat oats, for example:-
I also snack on oatcakes with different toppings, like avocado, cottage cheese and almond or peanut butter.
Other Cholesterol-Friendly Protein Sources
- Soy Protein is low in saturated fat, making it a great alternative to high fat meats for a low cholesterol diet. Historical research showed that soy products helped to lower cholesterol substantially, but more recent studies have shown that it is more of a modest impact.
- Turkey is similar to chicken in that it doesn’t actively lower cholesterol, but it’s another great protein source as it’s low in saturated fat.
- Low fat natural yoghurt and milk are also good cholesterol-friendly protein sources that can be eaten with other cholesterol-lowering foods, like porridge, muesli, fruit salads and oat pancakes.
There are plenty of cholesterol-friendly protein options to choose from, including fish, pulses, chicken, turkey, lean beef mince and low fat dairy products. Some protein sources also actively lower cholesterol, like oily fish, beans, nuts, seeds, quinoa and oats.
Including some protein in every meal and snack will ensure that you reach the daily recommended amount as well as helping to keep you full for longer.
Protein Content Reference
Cholesterol-Lowering Protein Sources:-
- Salmon fillets – 23.8g per 120g serving
- Black beans – 8.9g per 120g serving
- Chickpeas – 8.6g per 120g serving
- Kidney beans – 8.3g per 120g serving
- Quinoa – 8.1g per 185g serving
- Porridge oats – 7.7g per 75g serving
- Lentils – 7.3g per 120g serving
- Butter beans – 6.9g per 120g serving
- Ground flaxseeds – 6.6g per 30g serving
- Almonds – 5.3g per 25g serving
Other Cholesterol-Friendly Protein Sources:-
- Skinless chicken breast – 34.8g per 145g serving
- Canned tuna – 28.2g per 120g serving
- Lean beef mince – 26.1g of protein per 125g serving
- Cottage cheese – 20.3g per 165g serving