Heart diseases have been for quite some time, the leading cause of death globally (1). The choices we make at the dinner table can help eliminate this statistic.
Low cholesterol high protein foods strike the perfect balance between indulgence and nutrition. Not only do these foods support muscle growth and repair, but they also play a pivotal role in ensuring our heart remains resilient by lowering our blood cholesterol with food.
A heart-healthy diet doesn’t mean one has to compromise on taste or satisfaction. It’s about making informed choices, understanding the nutritional value of what we consume, and embracing foods that offer the best of both worlds.
In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into the world of low cholesterol high protein food sources that are not just heart-friendly but also delicious.
- Cholesterol is a crucial component in the body, serving as a structural element of cells and playing a vital role in hormone and vitamin D production. It is categorized into two types: HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Low-cholesterol high-protein foods strike a balance between indulgence and nutrition, supporting muscle growth and heart health by lowering blood cholesterol.
- A heart-healthy diet doesn’t require compromising taste or satisfaction; it’s about making informed choices and embracing foods that offer both nutrition and flavor.
- Incorporating low-cholesterol high-protein foods like plant-based proteins, lean meats, fish, and specific nuts and seeds can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Top Takeaways
- Understanding Cholesterol: What It Is And Why It Matters
- The Importance Of Protein In Your Diet
- A Low-Cholesterol High-Protein Diet And Blood Cholesterol Levels
- Watch Video
- Top Low-Cholesterol High-Protein Foods
- Incorporating Low-Cholesterol High-Protein Foods Into Your Diet
- Meal Ideas And Recipes For Low Cholesterol High Protein
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
Understanding Cholesterol: What It Is And Why It Matters
The Role Of Cholesterol In The Body
Cholesterol is a critical component in the proper functioning of the body. Cholesterol in our bodies serves as structural components of the cells. It is also essential in the production of hormones (the sex and thyroid hormones) and vitamin D (2).
The Difference Between Good And Bad Cholesterol
Good cholesterol is also known as HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol while bad cholesterol is referred to as LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Both types of cholesterols are lipoproteins which are molecules that help transport cholesterol to the cells that need it.
Good (HDL) cholesterol removes excess cholesterol from the blood. This surplus is then transported to the liver from where it can be excreted from the body as waste products. Therefore, this “good” type of cholesterol helps decrease heart disease risk by eliminating unwanted cholesterol in the body (3).
Bad (LDL) cholesterol transports cholesterol and deposits it in the arteries, where it can build up and block the blood vessels increasing the occurrence of stroke or heart attack (3).
How Diet Affects Your Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol plays an important part in ensuring that the body functions well. The amount of cholesterol in your body is determined by:
1) your body production of cholesterol through metabolic reactions
2) the consumption of dietary cholesterol from food
Your diet can influence your blood cholesterol levels by around 20 to 30% (4). The body already contains cholesterol, adding more could either be advantageous or have consequences on your health.
When we look at foods that influence our blood cholesterol, low dietary cholesterol foods do not have a significant impact on cholesterol levels compared to other nutrients like saturated fat.
Saturated fat has more influence on the circulating cholesterol in the body than dietary cholesterol. Studies have shown that lowering intake of this type of fat and replacing it with unsaturated fatty acids can help lessen the occurrence of cardiovascular disease (1). Therefore, it is recommended to decrease saturated fat consumption rather than restricting dietary cholesterol intake.
Your dietary regimen can also influence the body’s cholesterol levels. Most of the recipes recommended below are based on the Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, Portfolio diet, MIND diet, post stent diets, PAD diet, and lower cholesterol diet. This type of diet mostly consists of seafood, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats which are low in saturated and trans-fats.
The Importance Of Protein In Your Diet
Protein foods are an important part of a heart healthy diet, but it also has a significant impact on cholesterol levels. Read on to learn more.
How Protein Supports Your Health
Protein is commonly found in animal meats, dairy, nuts, legumes, fish and seafood. It is an essential nutrient, meaning that the body does not make it and it can only be obtained through food. Thus, we must eat protein to survive.
Protein is a macronutrient that serves as an integral structural component of muscles and organs, it is the most satiating macronutrient and is essential in the metabolic reactions for the optimal functioning our body (5).
The Relationship Between Protein And Cholesterol
Various protein-rich foods have distinct effects on cholesterol levels. Protein foods are categorized as animal- or plant-based. Research suggests that eating more animal-based protein than plant-based proteins increases cholesterol levels (6).This is because animal protein often has more saturated fat. A key nutrient discussed above that can increase cholesterol levels, and your risk for heart disease.
A Low-Cholesterol High-Protein Diet And Blood Cholesterol Levels
A low-cholesterol high-protein diet could help prevent your risk of developing heart disease and support your health especially when we eat low cholesterol protein foods that are also high in soluble fiber.
Soluble fiber is an essential component in a heart healthy diet that can reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the bloodstream, and is removed from the body during bowel movements, contributing to lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Not to mention it can also help manage blood sugar, blood pressure, reduce weight, promote gut health and reduce inflammation.
Thus, not only eating low cholesterol but eating more soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol.
Who Could Benefit From This Diet
People at risk of heart attack or stroke could significantly benefit from the high protein low cholesterol diet.
Individuals who have or at risk of heart disease or diabetes could also follow this diet to improve their health.
Top Low-Cholesterol High-Protein Foods
Are you ready to learn about your options when following a low cholesterol high protein diet? Lets dive in!
Plant-based protein are low cholesterol proteins because they actually have no cholesterol, as cholesterol is only produced in the cells of animals.
Plant proteins are high in protein, soluble fiber and low in saturated fat. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals which are also beneficial in supporting your heart-health. Find some examples of plant proteins below:
Black beans contain protein, carbohydrates, various vitamins and minerals, and phenolic compounds. Overall, they aid in reducing factors that may lead to cardiovascular disease (7).
The health benefits of eating black beans include satiety, weight management, reduction of LDL cholesterol, and decreasing blood pressure because they are a great source of potassium and magnesium, minerals that are essential in the DASH diet.
Interestingly black beans specifically help in lowering blood pressure and insulin levels compared to lighter-colored beans (7).
If you want to elevate your meals by adding black beans to your diet, you can check out our black bean toast recipe or black bean smoothie! They are a perfect food that is high in protein and low in cholesterol.
Garbanzo beans or chickpeas are a low cholesterol protein because they are a plant food.
Chickpeas are high in protein and soluble fiber, and low in saturated fat, a perfect storm of nutrients that help with decreasing total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels (8).
These chocolate covered chickpeas are a wonderful way to add garbanzo beans to your diet.
Edamame And Tofu
Edamame beans are young soybeans that are a protein without cholesterol. They are typically eaten as a snack in their pods or added to main dishes.
Meanwhile, tofu is also a protein without cholesterol because it is similarly made up of soybeans. Tofu is often used as a protein alternative in vegetarian meals.
Soy protein contains fiber, all essential amino acids, isoflavones, and other components which help regulate cholesterol to healthier levels (9).
There are lots of ways to eat edamame and tofu. Edamame is not only eaten as a snack, but it can also be made into pasta sauce. You can also try the tofu Bolognese recipe if you are looking for another innovative pasta dish to make for lunch or dinner.
Lentils are nutrient-rich plant-based proteins, perfect for a high protein low cholesterol diet. They are high in fiber and potassium. They are also low in saturated fat, and naturally low in sodium (10). Actually, they are another protein without cholesterol since they are plant foods.
In my opinion lentils are one the of best proteins for high cholesterol because of their rich soluble fiber that can naturally lower blood cholesterol levels.
If you are craving a burrito but are unsure on how to make it high-protein and low in cholesterol, make sure to try the lentil burrito recipe!
That’s why they’ve made the list of top 39 foods to unclog arteries and are considered one of the of best proteins for high cholesterol because of their rich soluble fiber that can naturally lower blood cholesterol levels.
Almonds can be made into products such as almond butter which can be used in many recipes such as cookie dough baked oats!
Other nutrients such as phytosterols are present in cashews. They help with processing cholesterol in our body. Thus, adding cashews in your diet can help in managing your cholesterol levels, especially individuals who have or are at risk of having high LDL cholesterol (12).
Instead of using peanut butter to make the avocado smoothie recipe try substitute it with cashew butter instead.
Pumpkin seeds are plant seeds rich in beneficial nutrients which help in improving heart-health. Besides being high in protein, they also have unsaturated fats, vitamin E, and phytosterols which help lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (13).
They are also essential at reducing blood pressure, and made the list of the top foods to reduce blood pressure.
Try topping your flaxseed pudding with pumpkin seed for a perfect low cholesterol, high protein meal!
Quinoa is a whole grain food high in protein and low in cholesterol. It has a low glycemic index which helps control blood sugar, and contains other cardioprotective nutrients such as fiber, plant protein, vitamins, and minerals (14).
Because of its rich nutrient profile, eating quinoa has been found to lower LDL and increase HDL cholesterol levels (14).
Mediterranean chickpea quinoa bowl is a colorful and nutritious bowl through which you can incorporate quinoa into your daily meal plan.
Another nutrient-dense food that is high protein low cholesterol food is oats. They contain beta-glucans (soluble fiber) which change the gut bacteria’s composition, enhance cholesterol release, and aid in protecting cholesterol and glucose metabolism (16).
This heart-healthy food can also used in various meals like in these 15 oatmeal recipes to lower your cholesterol.
Fish and Seafood
Fish and seafood are typically higher in protein than plant proteins which makes them a high protein low in cholesterol food. They are low in saturated fats, and rich in unsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids which aid in decreasing heart disease risk by lowering LDL cholesterol levels.
Consuming Atlantic and Pacific salmon helps decrease blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. Because of its omega-3 fatty acid and protein contents, consuming salmon assists in the increase of HDL cholesterol levels. It is an excellent low cholesterol protein.
Are you looking for other ways to cook your salmon? Take a look at the pesto butter salmon recipe which you can use as an inspiration for your next salmon dish!
Sardines are a high protein low in cholesterol food that is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and vitamin D which are not only beneficial for bone-health but also for heart-health (16).
Check out our delicious sardine pizza recipe – this would surely satisfy your pizza craving!
Tuna, another great low cholesterol protein, aids in lowering bad cholesterol levels and decreasing the risk of heart disease and mortality. However, this saltwater fish can be high in mercury and must be eaten within the recommended amount according to the dietary guidelines (17).
Try the nutritious tuna melt wrap recipe and learn how to make the wrap in different ways!
Halibut made the list of foods high in protein low in cholesterol. Halibut also contains vital nutrients which significantly support heart health with its unsaturated fat, protein magnesium, selenium, and vitamin B3 (19).
If you have leftover halibut in your fridge, you can transform them into fish cakes! This a great way to reduce food waste and learn how to make healthy and yummy meals.
Oysters are a type of shellfish that you could also include in your low cholesterol high protein diet. They are rich in protein and other cardioprotective nutrients such as omega-3 and minerals such as potassium and selenium (20).
Lean meats are excellent sources of high-quality protein, although their cholesterol content can vary. They serve as better alternatives to red and processed meats due to their lower saturated fat levels.
Surely, there are a lot of ways to cook chicken, but one option is to prepare it as a low sodium chicken noodle soup!
Did you know you can also add turkey on pizza? Any lean protein can be used to customize your low cholesterol pizza, which you could check out on this website.
Dairy And Eggs
You may be thinking, how did eggs make the list? Well, eggs are high in protein and dietary cholesterol but low in saturated fat.
In a review, researchers suggested that, although eggs are high in cholesterol, this factor did not have a negative effect on the fat profile of healthy individuals and those at high risk of cardiovascular disease. This outcome was linked to other nutrients present in eggs (23).
For an easy to-go meal and/or snack, try the ricotta egg bites recipe!
Dairy milk is a food high in protein low in cholesterol. Even though milk contains saturated fat, research shows that milk consumption is not linked to heart disease. This is because even though it may increase bad LDL cholesterol levels in the body, it also increases the good HDL cholesterol (25).
There are many alternatives to full-fat milk products such as plant-based milk which are lower in fat content. You can directly drink milk or use it to make breakfast meals such as oat milk pancakes!
Greek yogurt is the last food that made the list of high protein proteins low in cholesterol. It is a protein-rich yogurt which has vitamins and minerals that have cardioprotective benefits.
Eating Greek yogurt is linked to decreased triglyceride levels and LDL cholesterol concentration in the blood. As a result, it helps prevent the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease and support overall health (26).
One way to add protein in your oatmeal is by adding Greek yogurt in it! Check out the creamy oatmeal recipe on this website and learn how to get the most out of this classic breakfast meal.
Incorporating Low-Cholesterol High-Protein Foods Into Your Diet
Now that we have listed the top low-cholesterol, high-protein foods, we can figure out how we can include them in our daily meals.
Number One Tip For Gradually Incorporating These Foods
If you are only beginning to implement this new dietary recommendation, try substitute common ingredients in your recipes with one or more low cholesterol high protein food
Overcoming Common Barriers
According to research, the common barriers adults face with healthy eating are cost, social factors (support system such as friends and family), and cultural factors. Therefore, it is important to tackle these aspects to help you transition into a healthier lifestyle (27).
To overcome these barriers, try
- doing weekly meal-preps to help budget your money and manage your time wisely
- choose quick and easy-to-make meals to reduce kitchen time and help prioritize personal responsibilities
- add healthy foods to your diet to create nutritious meals
- encourage friends and family members to exercise and eat healthy meals with you, and
- engage in local health and wellness programs and communities to create a stronger support system for your health journey.
Seeking Professional Guidance
It is important to seek out help with health-care professionals, like a Registered Dietitian, whenever there is a change in your usual dietary lifestyle. Furthermore, people’s bodies may react differently to dietary changes Therefore, getting help from your healthcare providers would certainly help with safely and enjoyment.
Meal Ideas And Recipes For Low Cholesterol High Protein
Cooking Tips For Low Cholesterol
Most of the best low cholesterol high protein sources may vary in nutrient composition because of the cooking method used.
Some cooking tips to help lower cholesterol content in your meals are:
- choosing low-fat cuts of meat products
- trimming visible fat and skin before or after cooking
- baking, roasting, or broiling instead of pan-frying
- using paper towels or a rack to drain excess oil from the cooked food
- adding herbs and spices to create flavorful meals, and
- using liquid vegetable oils (such as canola and olive) instead of butter, lard, ghee or shortening to cook food
Now that you have learned some cooking methods in preparing high protein low cholesterol foods, you can learn how to plan and make heart-healthy dishes!
For breakfast, you could make:
A vegan high-protein meal that is not your usual avocado toast. It is quick, easy to prepare, and can be made the day before. It packs 10g of protein and 11 g of fiber which could help satisfy your morning appetite!
If you are someone who likes to eat something sweet in the morning, you should definitely try the cookie dough baked oats! This chewy protein-rich baked oats are easy to make and can be customized according to your desire. It is also high in fiber and low in saturated fat making it a heart-healthy meal.
Another way to make your omelet is by making it into a sardine omelet! This recipe contains 22 g of protein its inexpensive and quick to make.
Some heart-healthy meals for lunch could be:
Protein tomato soup is a comforting and delicious classic soup, that can fit into a heart healthy diet. Instant or canned tomato soup is often lacking in protein, fiber and often high in sodium. That’s why we’ve created a recipe that not only delivers on taste but is also packed with protein and heart-healthy ingredients.
Carrot ginger lentil soup is a flavorful soup that is bright in color and full of heart-healthy nutrients like soluble fiber and plant protein. You will love its gingery taste and satiating effect.
Lentil burrito is a delicious heart-healthy meal you could make for lunch or dinner! Lentils, pumpkin seeds, and pepitas make this very nutritious because of their cardioprotective nutrient compositions. You could also enjoy preparing this healthy burrito with family and friends!
Salmon nachos are quick to make, comforting, and good for your heart! These high protein nachos can be eaten straight from the pan, and the toppings are endless!
For dinner, you could make:
Surely, you will be able to find a recipe out of these 31 dietitian approved salmon recipes.
Beet mac and cheese is a twist on the classic comfort food that many of us love to indulge in. Traditional mac and cheese recipes are often high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can be detrimental to our heart health. That is why this heart healthy mac and cheese recipe will not only satisfy your craving for this comfort meal but also provides essential nutrients that support cardiovascular health.
Low sodium chili is a classic dish that is anything but bland—it’s a satisfying and nourishing option that is full of low cholesterol, high protein foods.
Some quick-to-eat recipes you could make are:
Turmeric energy balls could be eaten in between meals or, simply, whenever you are hungry. These snack bites provide you with some spice from the turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger. It also has a healthy balance of nutrients to help support heart-health.
Oat milk chocolate pudding could be prepared as a snack or dessert after a big meal. This pudding is vegan and gluten-free. You could add various toppings, such as fruits, on this sweet snack to make it more nutritious and enjoyable to eat!
Do you want to have something savory as a snack instead? Another way to add sardines to your high protein low cholesterol diet is by making it into a dip. This dip is rich in protein and contains healthy fats. For more healthful benefits and to enjoy your sardine dip, you could eat it with bread, crackers, or vegetables snacks.
- Check out this list of 15 low cholesterol dessert recipes as well!
- 11 top juice recipes to lower cholesterol
- 21 natural drinks to lower cholesterol
- homemade, 2 ingredient, juice to lower cholesterol
- A smoothie to lower cholesterol
Frequently Asked Questions
What Food Is High In Protein But Low In Cholesterol?
Foods that are high in protein but low in cholesterol of plant foods like beans, legumes, tofu, and soybeans.
Are High Protein Foods High In Cholesterol?
Not all high-protein foods are high in cholesterol. While red meats and full-fat dairy products can contain significant cholesterol, plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, and tofu are cholesterol-free. What foods are high in protein for your heart?
Foods that are high in protein for your heart include beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and seafood, lean meats, and dairy products.
Does Peanut Butter Lower Your Cholesterol?
Are Eggs Bad For Cholesterol?
Eggs are bad for cholesterol if eaten within the recommended amount.
Even though they are high in dietary cholesterol they low in saturated fat (24). Saturated fat has a more negative influence on blood cholesterol levels than dietary cholesterol. Additionally, eggs have beneficial nutrient contents which help decrease the risk of heart disease and improve health (24).
What Cheese Is Best To Eat If You Have High Cholesterol?
The cheese that is best to eat if you have high cholesterol are ones that are low in saturated fat like mozzarella, feta, and goat cheese.
What Are The Worst Foods For High Cholesterol?
The worst foods for those with high blood cholesterol levels are high saturated and trans fat foods like red meat, processed meats like bacon and sausages and baked goods made with hydrogenated oils (30). Some examples are in this blog post of 11 foods that cause stroke.
Is Pasta Low In Cholesterol?
Yes, plain pasta is naturally cholesterol-free since it is made from grains. However, toppings and sauces, especially those with cream or meat can add cholesterol.
Lowering cholesterol and decreasing heart disease risk can be also achieved through developing other healthy lifestyle habits including:
- ceasing cigarette habit
- reducing alcohol consumption
- taking medication as prescribed (32).
A low-cholesterol, high-protein diet is certainly beneficial for people who want to improve their health in the long-term. Learning how, why, and what to incorporate into this dietary adjustment could enable you to reap the health benefits of this diet.
Which low cholesterol high protein food will you try first? Tell me in the comments below!
This article was written by Larissa Bantegui, nutrition student Nutrition Student, and Veronica Rouse, MAN, RD, CDE.