The healthy Nordic diet has been previously shown to have health beneficial effects among subjects at risk of CVD. However, the extent of food changes needed to achieve these effects is less explored. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of exchanging a few commercially available, regularly consumed key food items (e.g. spread on bread, fat for cooking, cheese, bread and cereals) with improved fat quality on total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and inflammatory markers in a double-blind randomised, controlled trial. In total, 115 moderately hypercholesterolaemic, non-statin-treated adults (25–70 years) were randomly assigned to an experimental diet group (Ex-diet group) or control diet group (C-diet group) for 8 weeks with commercially available food items with different fatty acid composition (replacing SFA with mostly n-6 PUFA). In the Ex-diet group, serum total cholesterol (P<0·001) and LDL-cholesterol (P<0·001) were reduced after 8 weeks, compared with the C-diet group. The difference in change between the two groups at the end of the study was −9 and −11 % in total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol, respectively. No difference in change in plasma levels of inflammatory markers (high-sensitive C-reactive protein, IL-6, soluble TNF receptor 1 and interferon-γ) was observed between the groups. In conclusion, exchanging a few regularly consumed food items with improved fat quality reduces total cholesterol, with no negative effect on levels of inflammatory markers. This shows that an exchange of a few commercially available food items was easy and manageable and led to clinically relevant cholesterol reduction, potentially affecting future CVD risk.