Overview

If you have familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), what you eat plays an important part in lowering your cholesterol levels and protecting your heart health.

Hypercholesterolemia means that you have high levels of cholesterol in your blood. High cholesterol levels can lead to clogged arteries, heart disease, and heart attacks.

FH is an inherited genetic disorder. It affects the way your body processes cholesterol by preventing the liver from removing excess cholesterol from the blood.

If you have FH, healthy eating habits are an important part of protecting your heart health. Alongside other treatments, a healthy diet can help you lower your cholesterol levels.

Read more: 9 simple ways to lower your cholesterol »

Avoid these foods

Cholesterol levels can become elevated by a diet high in saturated fat and trans fatty acids, also known as trans fat. Diets with a lot of these two types of fat contribute to high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as the “bad” cholesterol.

Here’s what you should avoid to reduce your intake of saturated and trans fats:

Foods high in saturated fatFoods high in trans fat
• animal products, such as beef, pork, lamb, and organ meats
• butter
• egg yolks
• high-fat dairy products, such as whole milk, many cheeses, and whole milk yogurt
• tropical oils, such as coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil
• fried fast food
• margarine
• ready-made baked goods, such as frosted cakes
• cake mixes
• frozen foods, such as pizza and pie crust
• boxed crackers
• donuts
• canned and frozen biscuits
• packaged cookies
• candy
• microwave popcorn

Nutrition facts labels include trans fats. But keep in mind that foods containing 0.5 grams (g) of trans fat or less can legally be listed as having no trans fat at all. If you eat multiple servings or portions larger than the label describes, the amount of trans fat adds up.

Sugar in the diet can also promote inflammation, which can accelerate plaque formation and heart disease. Reduce intake of added sugars — like high fructose corn syrup, table sugar, honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar — to less than 24 g per day for women, or 36 g per day for men.

Learn more: What’s the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats? »

Eat more of these foods

A healthy diet rich in high-fiber foods and the “good” fats — polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats — can also help lower your cholesterol levels.

Fiber

A daily intake of at least 25 g of fiber may reduce the risk of heart disease. Soluble fiber helps to reduce LDL levels by moving cholesterol out of the digestive tract quickly. Sources of fiber include:

  • beans
  • whole grains
  • fruits
  • vegetables

Try: This quinoa salad has a mix of high-fiber foods. Grilled chicken or chickpeas would make great additions. Finish up with an apple or some blueberries for dessert.

Polyunsaturated fat

Polyunsaturated fat is a “healthy fat.” It’s found in:

  • salmon
  • avocados
  • seeds
  • nuts
  • plant-based oils, such as olive oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, and grapeseed oil
  • tofu

Try: For an easy-to-prepare meal, try broiling, baking, or grilling salmon. Surround it first with colorful, high-fiber vegetables and herbs. Try carrots, red peppers, onion, and garlic. Drizzle olive oil on top instead of butter.

You can also create a delicious stir fry with tofu and chicken. Add vegetables, like bok choy, water chestnuts, and straw mushrooms. This tofu stir fry is as fragrant as it is colorful.

Monounsaturated fat

The same plant-based oils with polyunsaturated fat are also good sources of monounsaturated fat. Unlike saturated and trans fat, these types of oils have health benefits when eaten in moderation.

Foods high in monounsaturated fat include:

  • olives
  • walnuts
  • avocados
  • peanut or almond butter

Try: These roasted walnut and cauliflower tacos are a good source of fiber, vegetables, and healthy fats.

Try these instead

There are many healthy, delicious alternatives to LDL-spiking foods. Try these easy, tasty substitutions.

Tips

  • Swap out whole milk for skim milk or plant milk like almond or flax milk.
  • Instead of a beef cheeseburger on a standard bun, opt for a grilled turkey burger with avocado on a whole wheat bun or wrapped in lettuce.
  • Opt for fresh fruit instead of baked goods. Also, use whole fruit to sweeten foods instead of adding sugar.
  • Start your day with an egg-white vegetable omelet instead of breakfast pastry or a fast-food egg sandwich.
  • Instead of eating fried chicken with the skin on, trim the skin off and grill chicken breasts with herbs for extra flavor.
  • Use olive oil in cooking and on salads instead of palm, palm kernel, or coconut oil.
  • Instead of eating processed cookies, cakes, or other baked goods, bake them at home from scratch. Use a light-tasting olive oil, or other heart-healthy oil, instead of butter and cut the sugar in half.