How to lower your cholesterol and improve your heart health on a budget

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Understand your cholesterol levels, and make changes to your diet and lifestyle for long term benefits. 


Lets say you have started Cholestero-Low, and you realise that there are changes that need to be made in your diet and lifestyle.  

First off, take a look at what normal levels are, look at what your cholesterol level is, then take a deep breath. Next step, is get a food diary of what you eat including sauces and biscuits etc. Then you may be able to identify the culprits of what is pushing up your cholesterol. 

Challenge yourself to use what ingredients you have to make a different breakfast, lunch or dinner!! Check out these cholesterol lowering recipes from Dr. Murphy! 

First off, the easiest thing to do is stop/ decrease certain foods.

  • Processes meats and foods
  • Biscuits, pastries etc 

WHY? They contain saturated fats including heavily saturated fats such as palm oils, and possibly trans fats which actively raise your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol. 

Then increase the types of foods that can decrease your cholesterol

  • fibre – oats (porridge, Cholestero-Low), beans/lentils.
  • good fats such as unsaturated fats that are contained in fatty fish, avocados, nuts
  • fruits and vegetables- they contain polyphenols which have been shown to lower cholesterol.

Can’t afford a gym membership ?


There are other ways and means of getting your calories count down and building muscle. 


  • Get your 10,000 steps. There are a load of free apps (I use this one) that will count your steps. Hit your 10,000 steps a day and thats minus 4-500 calories a day.
  • HIITS workouts via YouTube.
  • Yoga via YouTube


Plan Ahead

You dont have to have Monica Geller levels of organisation, just an idea of what your week looks like. 


From week to week, most people have a general idea of what they eat, but as soon as we go shopping, we end up buying things we may not need, which end up going off and in the bin, or on the shelf where we eventually find them 2 years after its best before date.

I buy enough veg that will last me for the week, not really knowing what I’ll pair it with but happy enough that I’ll be able to mesh it in with dishes.

As well as that, there is generally a stash of dried lentils/chickpeas that I will use at some point. 

A rough outline of the week may be something like

  • meat day
  • 2 x fish days
  • 2 veggie day/ salad day
  • tofu/ tempeh day


Watch out for trans fats / palm oils in sauces. 

I generally make my own, or use a small amount of pesto or almond butter as a starter and then add (depending) will add oat milk, herbs and spices, soya sauce, a bit of almond flower, tomatoes, soya sauce, bit of wine etc. 

olives good for cholesterol

Buy in Bulk

In particular, foods that dont go off quickly and foods that can be used in a variety of dishes and meals. 



Brown Rice



Olive oil

Cous Cous 

Where ?

Your local Eastern European or Asian supermarket.

Famers markets. 

Cook in bulk

Save time, energy and food. 


  • Make enough for lunch the next day. 
  • Have it for dinner later in the week when you are tight for time
  • Freshen it up with some salad, cous-cous salad or fancy bread roll!


If you buy lentils in bulk,  then you need to soak them before you cook them. The first few times I did this, there was a trail of lentils, either soaked beyond recognition, or half cooked as I had’t timed the cooking aspect right. 

Beginners mistake(well, what I used do):

  1. Soaking the lentils or chickpeas and then forgetting about them! (Then finding them a few days later!) 
  2. Thinking you can cook the soaked lentils in 5 minutes. 

What I do now, is I pop them in a bowl with water, overnight or in the morning, generally not on the day I want to use them. I then cook them alongside my dinner, and then pop into the fridge. THEN they are ready for your 5 minute meal, salad or lunch! 

Over the week, I will use them in in stir fries, add to salads, use in pies, like shepherds pie etc. 

Detour off the beaten track.

To find some seasonal or exotic foods and to buy in bulk. 


Farmers Markets & Market Stalls 

Support your local growers and farmers the benefits to you being local, seasonal fresh produce at local prices. 

Hopefully, Farmers Markets and Stalls will reopen soon and we will be able to visit these over the next few weeks and months! 

Eastern European or Asian shops. 

I love roaming through these shops, for foods, herbs or drinks that I would normally come across in my daily life. 

Where you may find 

  • Turmeric 
  • Dragon Fruit
  • Ginger
  • Large Tubs of Olives! 
  • Bulk buy almonds 
  • Bulk buy Lentils 

Frozen Fruit and Vegetables

Fear not frozen fruit!


Contrary to popular belief, frozen fruit and vegetables have comparative levels vitamins and minerals, when compared to refrigerated

Furthermore, when frozen vegetables are consumed, it increases the total amount of fruit and veg consumed. 

A study looked at those who ate frozen fruit and veg vs those who did not, and it found that for those that did not eat frozen fruit and veg, the gap was not filled by other forms, such as fresh, canned, or dried. 

Food Labels 

Mentioned here because certain cheaper foods can be higher in saturated fats and /or calories.
Keep an eye out for ‘Per portion’ or look at the traffic light guidance. 


Becoming aware of what is in your food via food labels is a great way to ensure you are not adding secret calories, or extra saturated fats.  The labels are there to guide us to the amount of macronutrients, so carbs, fats etc. This is good because it guides us to the amount of calories per portion as well as sugars, and saturated fats which can raise our cholesterol. It can take a little bit of time to figure out whats what, so once you start becoming aware of it, you will gradually get to familiar with them

I have taken the following images from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. 

I sometimes shows these blogs to friends, to make sure they are reasonably interesting. My friend suggested I give a little intro here in food labels, and so this ones for you Kate 😉 

food labels explainer for cholesterol diet

Food Label Example 1

 This product gives information on per 100g, per portion and per biscuit. 

This product has 80 calories per biscuit. 

In each biscuit, there is 1.5g of saturated fat per 3.4g of total fat.Therefore in terms of the fat in each biscuit, 44% of it is saturated fat. And saturated fats raise your cholesterol. 

Image taken from the FSAI website 

Reading Food labels for cholesterol lowering diet

Food Label Example 2 

Reference intake means the suggested amount of nutrients per average intake of 2000 calories. 

11.5 % of the fats are saturated per 100g. 

Equates to 2% of reference intake of saturated fats per day.

Image taken from the FSAI website. 


Good video on food labels!

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