Cholesterol is a type of fat that circulates in your blood that is necessary for proper functioning. However, elevated cholesterol levels can have a negative impact on your health. Start a search to learn about the best and worst foods for your cholesterol today.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat that circulates across your bloodstream. While your liver naturally produces adequate amounts of cholesterol, it is also found in animal-based foods. Normal cholesterol levels are integral for the proper functioning of cell membranes and absorption of substances that are vital to your health, including Vitamin D, steroid hormones, and bile acids.
On average, healthy cholesterol levels lie anywhere below 200mg/dL in adults above 20 and below 170mg/dL in teens under 19. Levels above these limits are considered borderline, but any number beyond 200mg/dL is high.
Foods like eggs, shellfish, sardines, cheese, and yogurt are considered healthy sources of cholesterol. This is because they provide adequate cholesterol along with other essential nutrients your body needs. However, many food groups have dangerously high levels of cholesterol. They are also deficient in other nutrients and are best avoided.
1. Deep Fried Meats
We all love to savor deep fried meats. Unfortunately, they belong to some of the worst food groups on earth. Loaded with high cholesterol and trans fats, deep fried meats are incredibly high in calories.
Not only do they raise your cholesterol and add up those extra pounds on your scale, but deep fried foods are also associated with severe risks of heart disease and other adverse health effects. For instance, a 2015 study published in the Journal of American Heart Association revealed that eating deep fried foods carries a high risk for heart failure.
2. Fast Food
Another go-to meal option is fast food. In fact, the CDC estimates around 36.6 percent of adult Americans eat fast food. That is a huge figure owing to the health risks of fast food.
Several studies have revealed that fast food messes up our metabolism, exposing us to a high risk of heart diseases and obesity. Other health outcomes of eating too much fast food are higher rates of inflammation, insulin resistance, and diabetes.
Next in order is America’s favorite breakfast meal that is well known for having empty calories. According to the USDA, a medium-sized sausage contains up to 19.6g of fat. While no processed meat is considered healthy, sausages are super high in cholesterol, salt, and cancer-causing nitrates.
Moreover, overeating processed food — such as sausages — increase your risk of heart disease and colon cancer.
Bacon is another highly popular processed food associated with serious health risks. You might wonder if eating a single strip of bacon is healthy. Well, a recent study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology states that the consumption of processed meat — even at the recommended levels — is associated with colon cancer.
The key is to limit your intake of processed foods and cook more meals at home. As a result, they have fewer calories, are lower in cholesterol, and are preservative-free.
5. Poultry with Skin
While red meat is known for its high cholesterol content, poultry with skin isn’t healthy either. In fact, chicken wings with skin have 16 percent more fat than skinless, white meat. What’s worse, deep fried poultry with skin is excessively high in cholesterol. So much that a single deep-fried chicken leg with skin carries more fat than a hamburger.
The best way to cut down calories and minimize cholesterol consumption from poultry is by using skinless, white meat.
6. Organ Meats
Organ meats are delicious and highly nutritious. They are rich sources of protein, B vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, folate, and minerals. However, they are extremely high in cholesterol, contributing to up to 50 percent of your body’s cholesterol dietary limit.
The best way to eat organ meats is to watch your portions. If you already suffer from high cholesterol, you should avoid eating organ meats altogether.
Unless your cholesterol levels are already balanced, you should avoid butter as it increases both total cholesterol and bad cholesterol in your body. That means not just avoiding butter on toast, but also foods that are cooked and baked in butter.
If you can’t avoid fats altogether, try substituting butter with olive oil. In fact, extra virgin olive oil consumption is proven to protect overall health, including your heart health.
8. Baked Goods
Although beloved baked goodies like muffins, cookies, and cupcakes are a treat for the palate, they are loaded with artery-clogging trans fats, sugars, and refined flour — none of which have nutritional value. While you might think having a few on the go won’t do any harm, baked goods significantly increase your cholesterol levels and are associated with cardiovascular risk.
9. Canned Shrimp
Shrimp is popular nutrient-dense seafood with a very high cholesterol content. In fact, a 300g portion of shrimp provides around 590mg of cholesterol.
While moderate consumption of shrimp is healthy for you, going overboard can significantly raise your cholesterol levels. Still, if you already suffer from high cholesterol, it’s best to avoid it altogether. Furthermore, canned seafoods contain high amounts of heavy metals, which can be detrimental for young children, women of childbearing age, and older adults.
10. Desserts and Sweet Beverages
Although we’ve almost exclusively talked about animal-based foods with a high risk of increasing your cholesterol, do you know sugar is as bad as saturated fats and cholesterol?
That’s right. Scientists have discovered that sugar and sugary drinks can dramatically increase cholesterol in your blood. For example, a 2010 study published in the JAMA Network reported that increased food intake with added sugars significantly lowers good cholesterol and raises bad cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart disease.
Your liver produces adequate cholesterol needed for your body. When you consume healthy sources of cholesterol in moderate amounts, your liver reduces the amount of cholesterol it makes. Unfortunately, unhealthy food choices mess up this balance by elevating bad cholesterol levels in your blood while lowering good cholesterol.
If you’re already suffering from high cholesterol, avoid foods that increase cholesterol levels in your body. Instead, add plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber to your diet and improve your physical activity.