The ketogenic diet is a low-carb diet that consists of eating a lot of fat and a moderate amount of protein. The idea is to turn the body into a fat-burning machine. However, many people report that the ketogenic diet increases their LDL cholesterol levels (aka the bad cholesterol). If you’ve noticed a spike in your cholesterol level after starting a ketogenic diet, you can bring it back to normal by making small changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Make changes to your diet
Eat plenty of steamed vegetables and vegetables every day. The healthiest way to eat vegetables is steamed (rather than sautéed, grilled, or roasted). Luckily, steamed leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, and mustard greens are low in carbs.
Green bell peppers, broccoli, and cabbage are also high-fiber vegetables that taste great steamed and won’t push you over your carb limit. Steam any combination of these vegetables and serve over cauliflower rice with coconut oil and a lean protein of your choice (such as fish, poultry, or tofu).
Cook vegetables and fish with a few cloves of fresh garlic to increase the cholesterol-lowering effect.
Incorporate nuts and oily fish into your daily diet. Nuts and fatty fish (such as wild salmon, tuna, trout, and shellfish) are low in carbohydrates and high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are fatty acids that help lower cholesterol. They are also the beloved staples of the ketogenic diet.
Grill, bake, or sear a salmon fillet and add crushed walnuts on top for a ketogenic and cholesterol-lowering side dish.
Increase your intake of nuts and seeds. The unsaturated fats in nuts and seeds help lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. Chia seeds also contain a high amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, and Brazil nuts are also good keto options that contain three or fewer grams of net carbs.
One tablespoon of chia seeds contains just five grams of carbohydrates and four grams of fiber.
Choose healthy monounsaturated fats like coconut and olive oil. The ketogenic diet is based on fats, especially butter. However, when it comes to lowering cholesterol, it’s important to swap butter for heart-healthier options like coconut or olive oil.
Avoid using grapeseed, safflower, and sunflower oils, as they contain many omega-6 fatty acids that can affect the balance of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
If you want to still enjoy the popular keto bulletproof coffee (which is regular coffee with butter, cinnamon, and salt), use two tablespoons of coconut oil instead of butter.
Eat small portions of oatmeal to meet your daily carbohydrate limit. Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which is great for lowering cholesterol. While not considered a keto-friendly food, you can enjoy it in small portions to stay in ketosis if you plan ahead and allocate carbs wisely.
Five cups (4 fluid ounces or 120 ml) of dry rolled oats have 13 grams of carbohydrates and two grams of fiber.
Eat antioxidant-rich fruits like raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries. These berries have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol, as well as being keto-friendly foods.
100 grams (3.5 ounces) of blackberries, raspberries or strawberries contain about five net grams of carbohydrates.
Blueberries are also helpful for lowering cholesterol, but they contain 12 grams of net carbs per 100 grams (3.5 ounces), so eat them carefully.
Take water-soluble fiber supplements every day. Fiber supplements (such as Metamucil) have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol over time without affecting HDL cholesterol. The fiber obtained through supplementation will make up for the lack of carbohydrate-rich whole grains and beans in your diet.
Take a fiber supplement up to three times a day. Remember to read the instructions on the package.
Fiber supplements can interact with some medications (such as antidepressants, insulin, and drugs that prevent blood clots), so be sure to check with your doctor first.
Drink Tulsi tea throughout the day or up to five times a day. Tulsi (or holy basil) tea is a powerful herb that has been shown to help normalize cholesterol levels. Pour boiling water into a tea bag and steep for three to five minutes (the longer the better).
Tulsi tea can also stabilize blood pressure while calming anxiety and depression.
Exercise to lower cholesterol
Get at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity five times a week. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise has been shown to be the most effective form of exercise for lowering cholesterol levels. Try prolonged moderate-intensity exercises like slow jogging and brisk walking uphill for 30 minutes or more.
If you don’t currently follow an exercise regimen, start with brisk walks or jogs for 10 minutes twice a day until you can do 30 minutes.
Always talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise plan.
Incorporate moderate resistance training three times a week. Moderate resistance training is more effective at lowering cholesterol than other high-intensity resistance training over time. Therefore, lift moderate to light weights and do more reps instead of lifting heavy weights for fewer reps.
If you have limited physical mobility due to age or physical restrictions, focus on the larger muscle groups (such as the glutes, hamstrings, quads, abs, or core, chest muscles, and back muscles).
Incorporate yoga into your daily routine. Yoga is considered a form of resistance training that can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as improve your mood. People who practice yoga alone or in conjunction with other forms of exercise are less likely to have cardiovascular problems.
Do a few moves right when you wake up in the morning to loosen up your body for the day.
Take a class or follow yoga videos online.
Do circuit training to work your heart and gain muscle mass. If you’re short on time or can’t get to the gym, circuit training is a great way to combine aerobic and resistance exercises into one. High-intensity circuit training is more effective at lowering cholesterol than low-intensity resistance training.
For example, do the following exercises for 30 to 60 seconds at a time (and complete a few rounds of the entire sequence):
Rest for only 20-30 seconds between exercises (and take longer breaks depending on your current fitness level).
change your lifestyle
Quit smoking cigarettes to lower your LDL cholesterol over time. Quitting this habit can raise your HDL (good) cholesterol and lower your LDL over time. By abstaining, you will feel better and your overall cardiovascular health will improve.
Quit naturally by modifying your diet and making lifestyle changes to reduce cravings.
Mind-body mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga can also help.
Try tobacco replacement products (such as gum, patches, lozenges, or sprays) to gradually detoxify your body from tobacco. However, some of these can interfere with medications, so talk to your doctor first.
If a friend smokes and wants to quit too, kick the habit together and hold each other accountable.
Practice intermittent fasting for a few days of the week. This form of fasting has been shown to lower cholesterol while giving the body a chance to recover and digest the last meal completely. Use an eight-hour window and do intermittent fasting one to four days a week.
For example, some people only eat between 10 am and 6 pm or 11 am and 7 pm Pay attention to how you feel during and after intermittent fasting, and adjust the time window and frequency accordingly.
Prepare more meals at home. Cooking at home is the only way to know exactly what you eat. People who eat home-cooked meals at least three to five times a week have lower body fat percentages and a lower risk of developing high cholesterol.
When you do eat out, choose wisely to adhere to your keto lifestyle and not increase your LDL cholesterol level. For example, choose grilled lean proteins instead of fried meats.
Avoid fast food restaurants. As much as some fast foods can be made ketogenic, many foods are high in sodium, sugars (carbohydrates), and trans fats.