A high cholesterol diet does not actually refer to a diet that is high in cholesterol, but instead means a diet that is meant to help a person with high cholesterol to lower his or her cholesterol levels. A high cholesterol diet usually aims to cut out foods with high cholesterol levels and other unhealthy components in them and add "heart healthy" foods that lower LDL, or the "bad" kind of cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Many doctors advise patients with high cholesterol to watch out for and limit intake of foods containing not only cholesterol, but also saturated fat and trans fats, which also contribute to cholesterol levels. Some of the foods commonly eliminated on a high cholesterol diet include beef, egg yolks, and dairy products made with whole milk. Processed and fried foods are also generally avoided. Foods that contribute to weight gain, such as junk foods with a high calorie density are discouraged, since weight gain can cause additional heart problems.
Foods that are encouraged on a high cholesterol diet generally include fish, nuts, and other foods with unsaturated fats. Additionally, whole grains, vegetables, and foods with a high fiber content are always recommended. These foods not only do not add to the problem of high cholesterol, but can potentially help to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Eating healthy foods like these can help a person manage his or her weight more easily and avoid the other health risks caused by being overweight or obese.
It is important to keep the LDL levels of cholesterol low and the "good" HDL levels of cholesterol high enough to counteract the negative effects that LDL cholesterol can have. Too much "bad" cholesterol leads to buildup in the arteries called atherosclerosis, which restricts blood flow and may cause heart disease and strokes. Most of the time, high cholesterol does not exhibit any noticeable symptoms, so it is important for people, especially those at risk for heart disease, to regularly check cholesterol to ensure the levels are within a safe range.
Many doctors recommend following an exercise plan as part of the high cholesterol diet. Increasing physical activity can lower LDL cholesterol while raising HDL cholesterol. If these measures are not enough, the doctor is likely to have the patient remain on the high cholesterol diet and exercise plan, and introduce cholesterol lowering medication to provide extra help.