Some diets may help lower your cholesterol levels and promote weight loss. These could include plant-based diets, the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and TLC diets, among others.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that is created by your liver. It’s important for several bodily functions.

However, high levels of cholesterol can build up in your arteries, narrowing or stopping the flow of blood. This could potentially cause a heart attack or stroke.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 86 million adults in the United States over the age of 20 years have borderline high or high cholesterol.

If you have high cholesterol, a healthcare professional may recommend controlling your cholesterol levels with dietary and lifestyle changes.

Keep reading to learn more about dietary choices that could help you lower your cholesterol and lose weight.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following foods as the basis for a heart-healthy diet:

Foods to avoid

Foods that can increase your cholesterol and contribute to weight gain include:

Here are some research-backed, heart-healthy diets that could help you lower your cholesterol levels and lose weight.


The Mediterranean diet is a popular diet to help lower cholesterol. It includes:


The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was crafted specifically to stop high blood pressure. A 2023 review found that it’s also effective at reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.

The DASH diet is rich in:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • low fat dairy products

The diet also calls for reducing total fat, especially saturated fat.


In 2005, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet to help reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. It includes eating based on certain numeric guidelines and getting 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.

Key dietary recommendations are:

Dean Ornish

The Dean Ornish diet is a low fat, lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet. This means you avoid eating meat from animals, but you can have milk and egg products. In this case, it allows for egg whites and nonfat dairy.

A 2009 study found that the Ornish diet was effective at reducing total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

The Ornish diet also emphasizes eating plants in their natural forms. Some protein sources include tofu, beans, and tempeh. It also emphasizes whole grains and healthy fats and limits simple carbohydrates, especially sugar.


The Flexitarian diet is primarily a vegetarian diet that allows for some animal foods to be eaten in moderation.

A 2015 study found that people who occasionally strayed from a vegetarian or vegan diet had significantly reduced their cholesterol and lost weight. A 2017 review also found that a Flexitarian diet improved metabolic health and blood pressure, and reduced the risk of diabetes.

The Flexitarian diet has no rigid rules, just lifestyle recommendations:

  • Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
  • Focus on protein from plants instead of animals.
  • Be flexible and incorporate meat and animal products from time to time.
  • Eat the least processed, most natural forms of foods.
  • Limit added sugar and sweets.


The vegan diet cuts out all animal products, which could reduce cholesterol greatly. A vegan diet consists of:

  • whole grains
  • legumes
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • soy products

A 2018 study concluded that, in most countries, a vegan diet can significantly reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. The study also showed reductions in body mass index (BMI), waist size, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

South Beach (maybe)

A 2020 review suggests that low carb diets may raise your LDL cholesterol levels. However, the South Beach Diet claims to do just the opposite. A 2009 study found that the diet did reduce LDL and total cholesterol.

The South Beach diet doesn’t suggest entirely cutting carbs, but rather choosing those with a low glycemic index. It’s a phased program that initially calls for cutting out carbs, and then gradually reintroducing them.

The diet’s effect on your cholesterol level depends on the types of protein and fat you choose to eat. The South Beach meal plan reduces your intake of saturated fats, which could lower your LDL cholesterol.

How long before I see results?

Lowering cholesterol levels with healthy dietary choices takes time. Some research on plant-based diets has seen small results in as little as 4 weeks.

The combination of diet and exercise may yield quicker results. A 2019 case study saw a 33-year-old male cut his cholesterol levels by more than 50% in just 6 weeks with an altered fat diet and moderate exercise.

The majority of people will see changes in their cholesterol levels after they lose 5–10% of body weight.

How long weight loss takes depends on how much you weigh when you start, and how great a calorie deficit you maintain. A deficit of 500 calories per day for 1 week could result in 1 pound of weight loss.

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Some diets stand out as being risky for heart health. They may focus on low carb and high protein ways of eating that could promote weight loss. However, they may recommend foods known that raise cholesterol levels.


The ketogenic (keto) diet involves eating 20–50 g of carbohydrates per day. The bulk of your nutrients comes from protein and fats. This forces your body to use ketones instead of glucose for fuel.

However, a 2021 study found that eating a keto diet drastically increased LDL and total cholesterol in every participant.

The keto diet may be safe and healthy for some people, but it’s best to speak with a healthcare professional before starting this diet.


The Atkins diet entails eating all the protein and fat you want as long as you avoid high carb foods. This could create a calorie deficit, which is effective for weight loss. However, this diet may include high levels of processed meat.

A small 2018 study found a 44% increase in LDL cholesterol over 3 weeks in young, healthy adults on the Atkins diet compared to those who continued with their regular eating habits.

What reduces cholesterol quickly?

Some ways to help you lower your cholesterol include:

  • exercising for at least 150 minutes per week
  • maintaining a healthy-for-you weight
  • limiting your intake of alcohol, if you drink
  • limiting sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda
  • quitting smoking, if you smoke
  • eliminating trans fats and processed foods

What is the best diet for someone with high cholesterol?

The Mediterranean diet is popular for people with high cholesterol. A 2021 review found that the Mediterranean diet could help lower LDL and total cholesterol while elevating HDL (good) cholesterol. Other diets that may help lower cholesterol include the DASH diet, TLC diet, and plant-based diets.

What foods to cut out of the diet to lower cholesterol?

Some foods to cut out of your diet to help lower your cholesterol include processed foods, fried foods, and fast foods.

Eating a heart-healthy diet may help you lower your cholesterol levels and lose weight.

Some beneficial diets may include the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH diet, and the TLC diet. Plant-based diets like vegan and vegetarian diets can also help lower cholesterol.

It’s important to speak with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before starting a new diet or if you’re unsure of what foods are best for you. They can help you develop a diet that’s right for you.