Heart health and high cholesterol levels go hand in hand. High cholesterol leads to cardiovascular disease. But keeping a list of high cholesterol foods handy can help keep your cholesterol levels under control.
An easy way to pinpoint foods that will be high in cholesterol is to find the ones that are high in saturated fat and trans fats. Saturated fat can increase your levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol. This can cause blockages to form in your heart’s arteries. The role of saturated fat in heart disease is currently under debate. For that reason, most nutrition experts recommend limiting saturated fat to 7 grams a day (or less).
The FDA banned trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils from the U.S. food supply because they have no nutritional value. Trans fats increase LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while reducing levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Your total cholesterol is one of the vital pieces of information inputted into the heart risk calculator.
If you’d like to try limit these foods in your diet, here’s a high cholesterol foods list you can take with you on your next shopping trip.
Fatty Meat and Meat Products
It’s hard not to put meat at the top of every high cholesterol foods list. In fact, one study found eating meat can be as dangerous as smoking—especially in middle age.
They found middle-aged people who eat lots of proteins from animal sources—including meat, milk and cheese—are more susceptible to cancer and early death in general.
And according to a study published in the journal “Nature Medicine”, a compound found in red meats called carnitine causes atherosclerosis, the hardening or clogging of the arteries.
You should also limit consumption of processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, bologna, salami and hot dogs.
As for how much meat consumption is "safe," many studies show a small rise in the risk of disease at levels of 50 to 100 grams per day.
You’re probably not shocked that our high cholesterol foods list contains butter. While it does contain some fat-soluble vitamins and healthy fats, butter is high in saturated fat—roughly 7 grams in each tablespoon. It also contains casein, which has been linked to things like leaky gut syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome.
Instead of buttering your bread, try dipping it in olive oil. Olive oil will provide you with healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants.
Hard margarine makes the high cholesterol foods list because it’s full of trans fats. Trans fats raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol. LDL is the bad cholesterol that ends up in your tissues, while HDL cholesterol helps “flush” your system—it’s good.
The American Heart Association suggests buying soft, trans-fat-free spreads instead of regular butter or stick margarine.
Full fat cheese, milk, cream and yogurt
You can probably make a separate high cholesterol foods list with this category alone. We’re talking about things like:
- Cream cheese
- Whole Milk
The Dairy Council of California put together this chart to show you how your favorite cheeses stack up:
Remember, too much saturated fat can raise your levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
A glass of whole milk has about 1.5 grams of saturated fat per cup.
Coconut and Palm Oils
You may want to add coconut and palm oils to your high cholesterol foods list. They’ve been branded as unhealthy and high in saturated fats. But recent studies show there could be some health benefits—especially when it comes to coconut oil. The best advice? Talk to you doctor or dietician to find out how they may fit into your diet.
In addition to keeping these foods off your shopping list, you can eat things that help lower your cholesterol naturally. Things like:
You can also download our guide: “Know Your Numbers: Cholesterol.” In it you’ll find three myths about cholesterol and four ways to lower yours right now.