Make Your Breakfast Lower in Cholesterol With These Simple Swaps

Choosing healthy foods for a low-cholesterol breakfast may be a challenge at first. If your go-to breakfasts include bagels and cream cheese or bacon and eggs, for example, you'll need to make some substitutions to make them suitable for a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Starting your day with a healthy, filling breakfast can help keep your cholesterol levels within a healthy range. It can also prevent cravings for unhealthy foods later in the day.

What you shouldn't do is skip breakfast. Research has shown that skipping breakfast can increase your LDL (aka "bad") cholesterol.

This article will look at some common breakfast foods and offer tips for making them heart-healthy and less likely to increase your cholesterol.

Smoked Salmon Bagel
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Cholesterol and Heart Health

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is made in the liver and circulates in your blood. It is also found in many foods.

Your body needs cholesterol to maintain healthy cells and produce important hormones. However, when you eat foods that are high in saturated and trans fats (such as meat, full-fat dairy products, fried, and processed foods), this can help cause your cholesterol to rise to the point where it is unhealthy.

High cholesterol levels can contribute to the formation of a thick layer of plaque on the inside of the arteries. This can cause the arteries to narrow, a condition known as atherosclerosis, which increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.


High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Cutting back on the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet can help lower your blood cholesterol levels.

Upgrade Your Breakfast Favorites

Here are some of the most popular breakfasts, with tips on how to make them healthier.


Cereal and milk is a classic quick-and-easy breakfast. But it can also add fat and sugar to your diet early on in the day, To prevent this, consider making some of these healthy changes to your morning bowl of cereal:

  • Check the food label. Next time you reach for your favorite cereal, take a look at the nutrition label. An ideal cereal should be low in sugar and fat. If your cereal is high in one or both of these ingredients, consider making the switch to a healthier cereal. Whole grain, low-sugar cereals are best.
  • Use lowfat milk. Switching to lowfat or skim milk can help cut additional fat. You might also choose to consider using soy milk instead of cow’s milk in your cereal. Soy milk has been shown to lower cholesterol.
  • Forgo artificial flavorings. Some cereals add artificial flavors, such as berry or chocolate. As an alternative, consider a plain cereal and add your own flavorings. This can help cut fat and sugar while introducing healthier foods to your diet. For a sweeter flavor, try fresh strawberries or blueberries. Cinnamon can add a little spice and sweetness as well.
  • Switch it out. Cereal isn’t the only quick breakfast in a bowl. There are many other foods that can be just as filling and healthy for your heart. Warm oatmeal is an excellent alternative, especially on a cold day.

Check the fiber content of your cereal. Soluble fiber can modestly lower your LDL cholesterol levels. It can also make this breakfast choice more filling.


Pancakes are a delicious breakfast treat that unfortunately can also add fat and sugar to your diet. Changing some of the ingredients can turn a high-calorie breakfast into one that is heart-healthy:

  • Add fiber to your pancakes. Adding oatmeal or other whole grains to your pancake batter boosts the fiber and bulk to your pancakes without adding too many calories.
  • Scrap the butter and syrup. These two ingredients have the most potential to add fat and sugar to your breakfast. Add a handful of fresh berries or cherries or a dollop of plain, non-fat yogurt instead.
  • Spice it up. Adding cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or other spices to your pancake batter can boost flavor without syrup.


A bagel breakfast can be heart-healthy if you choose the right types of bagels and toppings. If bagels are your favorite breakfast food, consider making a few cholesterol-friendly changes:

  • Select high-fiber bagels. Whole grain or whole wheat bagels are healthier choices than other bagel types. (If you're concerned about carbs and calories, avoid "super-sized" bagels.)
  • Add only healthy toppings. Cream cheese can pack on the fat if not used sparingly. Opt instead for spreads that are low in fat, such as tofu "cream cheese" or sugar-free fruit preserves.
  • Mix it up with muffins. When prepared right, muffins also offer a nutritious, high-fiber alternative to bagels. If you are looking for ideas, there are many delicious, low-fat recipes out there that use heart-healthy ingredients such as oatmeal, bran, fruit, and spices.

Healthy Protein

Protein is an important component of any meal, but many traditional protein-rich breakfast foods are high in cholesterol, fat, and sodium. Here are some tips for making eggs, meats, and cheeses less of a cholesterol-booster.


  • Don't use the yolk. Eggs contain a lot of protein and other nutrients but they are also high in cholesterol—most of which is contained in the yolk. If you’re looking to cut the cholesterol content, try removing the yolk from the egg white during preparation. If your recipe calls for more than one egg, you may be able to use one whole egg along with the white from another egg.
  • Use an egg substitute. Egg substitutes will not contribute added cholesterol to your meal.
  • Consider what you add to the eggs. Don’t forget to watch the other ingredients you add to your eggs, either. Cheese, whole milk, and butter all add extra fat.

Breakfast meats

  • Eat bacon and sausages in moderation. Pork bacon and sausages are high in cholesterol, fat, and sodium—all bad news for your heart. Save these for an occasional treat, not a regular breakfast food. Turkey varieties are somewhat better, but still only have about 20% less cholesterol than pork.
  • Switch sides. Instead of meat products, slice up some avocado or have some smoked salmon with your egg (whites).


  • Know your cheeses. American, cheddar, and cream cheese are at the top of the list when it comes to high cholesterol content. Try substituting low-fat versions of your favorites. Cottage cheese and ricotta are much lower in cholesterol. (You might even give plant-based cheeses a try.)
  • Use smaller portions: If you love cheese omelets, try using a smaller amount of cheese and adding vegetables.

Low Cholesterol Beverages

Breakfast-friendly beverages that are low in cholesterol or have been found to actually lower cholesterol include:

  • Orange juice
  • Green tea
  • Black coffee and tea (or with soy milk or lowfat dairy milk)
  • Smoothies made with lowfat dairy products and containing heart-healthy fruits and vegetables


Many typical breakfast foods, such as eggs, bacon, and pancakes, are high in saturated fats or cholesterol and can raise your risk of heart disease. Therefore, if you have been told to switch to a low-cholesterol diet, you will want to replace foods that are known to raise cholesterol levels with healthier ones.

A Word from Verywell

Making a lifestyle change isn't always easy. If you've always started your day with a cheese omelet and buttered toast, it may be hard to believe egg whites with a slice of avocado is going to satisfy you.

It can take a while to get used to eating different things than you're used to, but lowering your cholesterol levels and your risk of heart disease is worth it. Your doctor or a nutritionist can help you come up with tasty and heart-healthy breakfast ideas.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are pancakes high in cholesterol?

    It depends on what you make them with. Topping pancakes with fruit and spices like cinnamon instead of butter and syrup will cut down on fat and sugar. Using whole wheat pancake batter makes them healthier as well.

  • Do oats lower cholesterol?

    Yes. Oats contain soluble fiber, which can prevent cholesterol in foods from entering the bloodstream.

  • Are bananas good for cholesterol?

    Bananas are an excellent fruit choice if you have high cholesterol. They contain no cholesterol, fat, or sodium, and have a high fiber content.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Maugeri A, Kunzova S, Medina-Inojosa JR, et al. Association between eating time interval and frequency with ideal cardiovascular health: Results from a random sample Czech urban population. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2018;28(8):847-855. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2018.04.002

  3. American Heart Association. What is cholesterol?

  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. How to understand and use the nutrition facts label.

  5. Blanco Mejia S, Messina M, Li SS, et al. A meta-analysis of 46 studies identified by the FDA demonstrates that soy protein decreases circulating LDL and total cholesterol concentrations in adultsThe Journal of Nutrition. 2019;149(6):968–981. doi:10.1093/jn/nxz020

  6. Maki KC, Phillips-Eakley AK, Smith KN. The effects of breakfast consumption and composition on metabolic wellness with a focus on carbohydrate metabolism. Adv Nutr. 2016;7(3):613S-21S. doi:10.3945/an.115.010314

  7. Cleveland Clinic. What you should know about bacon and cholesterol.

  8. Aptekmann NP, Cesar TB. Long-term orange juice consumption is associated with low LDL-cholesterol and apolipoprotein B in normal and moderately hypercholesterolemic subjects. Lipids Health Dis. 2013 Aug 6;12:119. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-12-119

  9. Xin-Xin Zheng, Yan-Lu Xu, Shao-Hua Li, Xu-Xia Liu, Rutai Hui, Xiao-Hong Huang, Green tea intake lowers fasting serum total and LDL cholesterol in adults: a meta-analysis of 14 randomized controlled trialsThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011;94(2):601–610, doi:10.3945/ajcn.110.010926

  10. Harvard Health Publishing. 11 foods that lower cholesterol.

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By Jennifer Moll, PharmD
Jennifer Moll, MS, PharmD, is a pharmacist actively involved in educating patients about the importance of heart disease prevention.