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Cholesterol is found naturally in your body. It is present in the structure of cell walls and used to produce steroid hormones, vitamin D, and acids which aid in digestion and the absorption of dietary fat in the gut.

Cholesterol is carried around the body in blood on two different proteins called high density lipoproteins (HDL) and low density lipoproteins (LDL). These proteins differ considerably in terms of their risk to health. HDL is the good stuff and is beneficial to the body. LDL is the bad stuff and can cause blood vessels to become narrowed and blocked which can increase your risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

In the UK, 2 out of every 3 adults have levels of LDL cholesterol sufficiently high enough to consider there to be a high risk of CVD. If you have been diagnosed with high levels of LDL,then smoking, poor fitness, being overweight, high blood pressure, diabetes and a family history of heart disease can all increase your risk of suffering from CVD.

Causes of LDL

One cause is a diet high in saturated fat. Saturated fat also reduces the rate of removal of cholesterol from the body.


Saturated fat (limit in your diet)

Unsaturated fat (include in your diet)

Full fat dairy products


Meat products such as pasties, sausages and pies


Cakes and pastries

Savoury snacks




Polyunsaturated fat

Sunflower oil

Oily fish


Monounsaturated fat

Olive oil

Rapeseed oil




Reducing your levels of LDL cholesterol

Once you have started to reduce your intake of saturated fat, the next thing to think about is to increase your intake of soluble fibre, as this helps to soak up cholesterol. Good sources include:

  • Oats
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Pulses
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas

Aim to eat at 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced are all good options.

BE AWARE: Some foods contain cholesterol but this has much less of an impact on your blood cholesterol levels compared to a diet high in saturated fat.

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