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  • Writer's pictureTangible Wellness

A Non-Diet Guide to Cholesterol

By Bryshan Francis, Nutrition Science and Chemistry Candidate 2025

Let's talk about cholesterol – that somewhat misunderstood substance that's often the villain in heart health discussions. We're here to demystify it all and guide you through a non-diet approach to keeping your heart beating happily.

First off, what's the deal with cholesterol? Well, it's not all bad. Our bodies need it to function properly. Cholesterol is an interesting nutrient in that we need a certain amount of it to survive, but like most things, too much of it can cause problems. An increased risk of heart disease can develop when we have too many of the wrong kinds floating around in our bloodstream.

Instead of listing out high cholesterol foods to avoid, let's understand the nutrients that contribute to elevated cholesterol. These components include saturated fats, trans fats, and excessive added sugar. Finding lower saturated/trans fat and added sugar-option snacks are a part of finding that moderate approach. Other foods that contain these nutrients include:

  • Red meat

  • The skin on poultry

  • High fat dairy

  • Butter

  • Coconut and Palm oils

  • Processed snacks with trans fat (read the label to find out)

On the flip side, there are nutrients that can help to lower our cholesterol, specifically unsaturated fats and soluble fibre. Foods that contain these nutrients include:

  • Fish

  • Olives

  • Avocados

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Beans and lentils

  • Oats and other whole grains

Keep in mind that entirely cutting out a food you love that might elevate cholesterol, is not a sustainable approach. It's okay to have a burger or a steak still included in your diet. The key is to find a new balance. Eating red meat 3 times a week? Reduce it to once or twice. Replace those other days with fish or beans and you will be having less saturated fats and more unsaturated fats which will influence your cholesterol levels.

Aside from food, your habits matter too. Certain everyday behaviours can either boost or bust your cholesterol levels. Lack of physical activity? Smoking? Stress? They're not just bad for your mood – they can harm your cholesterol levels too. Want to give your heart some extra love? Get moving! Regular physical activity can work wonders for your cholesterol levels, not to mention your mood and energy levels. Seeking professional help for habits that may die hard such as smoking or chronic stress can go a long way not just for your mental health, but physical as well!

Instead of fixating on lists like "The Top Ten Worst Foods for High Cholesterol", focus on incorporating heart-healthy choices into your meals. Things like fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins like fish and poultry, and plant-based protein options like beans and lentils. These wholesome foods can help keep your cholesterol levels in check without sacrificing flavour or satisfaction. This mindset also gives you the opportunity to keep your favourite processed foods in your diet in a moderate amount. You can see an improved health status without sacrificing the foods you love!

In a nutshell, managing cholesterol doesn't have to be a daunting task. By making small, sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can help keep your heart happy and healthy for years to come. So, here's to nourishing your body, embracing balance, and living your best life – cholesterol and all!

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