8 Worst Foods for Your Cholesterol, According to Health Experts

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If there’s one number from your last health checkup that tends to stick with you, it’s likely your cholesterol level. And if it turns out to be higher than what’s considered healthy, rest assured, you’re in good company. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two in five American adults deal with high cholesterol, defined as above 200 mg/dL.  

So what is cholesterol, and why are doctors worried when it is on the higher side? 

Cholesterol — a waxy substance found in the blood — isn’t inherently dangerous on its own; in fact, your body needs it to build cells and produce certain hormones. However, too much of it causes problems. Excess cholesterol in the blood is the main factor in the creation of atherosclerosis — the buildup of the junk inside your blood vessels, which increases the risk of various heart diseases and stroke. 

There are two main types of lipoproteins that transport cholesterol, creating a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario: low-density lipoprotein (LDL), labeled as “bad” cholesterol because elevated levels can lead to artery plaque buildup; and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is known as “good” cholesterol.

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Worst Foods for High Cholesterol

When blood tests reveal high cholesterol levels, doctors typically recommend medications and dietary changes. We are what we eat, right? And when it comes to your cholesterol, not all foods are created equal. Sure, indulging in that extra slice of cheesecake or reaching for those crispy fries might seem harmless at the moment, but some of your favorite comfort foods could be silently sabotaging your health goals. 

Here are eight foods that you should avoid if you are keeping an eye on your cholesterol levels.

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1. Red Meat

That juicy steak you just can’t resist is more than a treat for your tastebuds — it’s a threat to your waistline. According to health experts, red meat — such as beef, lamb, and pork — is high in saturated fat and leads to an increase in the (LDL) cholesterol. A study from the University of Oxford revealed that eating just a bit more than 50g of red meat daily can up your heart disease risk by 9%. While this doesn’t mean you should swear off ribs forever, if you already have high cholesterol, then you should better look for a healthier alternative. 

Beth Auguste, a registered dietician in Philadelphia, told the HuffingtonPost that you should use meat as a side: “In general, you should be using your meat more as the garnish with the meals and then having beans as another way of getting protein, having high-protein grains, like quinoa or lentils … as a way of supplementing the protein and the iron and the fiber in your meal.”  

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2. Fried Food

We get it: Fried food is always better, but only for the tastebuds. Your french fries, your fried chicken, and other fried favorites not only up the calorie count but are also notoriously bad for cholesterol levels and heart health. Since they’re drenched in oil, fried foods are high in trans fats, which wreak havoc on cholesterol by raising LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and lowering HDL (“good” cholesterol). Additionally, the frying process itself can cause fats to oxidize, producing harmful compounds that damage cells and contribute to inflammation and atherosclerosis, the hardening and narrowing of arteries. If you are already struggling with high cholesterol, you should probably ditch the deep fryer and opt for the oven or the air fryer.

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3. Butter

Everything’s better with butter — except, maybe, your heart health. According to the American Heart Association, we should limit our intake of saturated fats to less than 7% of our total daily calories to keep our cholesterol levels in check. For someone consuming about 2,000 calories a day, that’s about 14 grams of saturated fat, or roughly one tablespoon of butter. It’s not exactly great news for those watching their cholesterol. But hey, this doesn’t mean your toast has to suffer in silence every morning. You can still enjoy butter from time to time.

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4. Coconut Oil

While the debate rages on about coconut oil’s impact on heart health, if you’re watching your cholesterol, you might want to steer clear for now. Coconut oil is loaded with saturated fats — about 90% of its fat content, to be exact. 

But here’s where it gets tricky: Coconut oil is packed with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which our bodies handle differently than other fats. These MCTs head straight to the liver and can be quickly turned into energy, sparking some debate about whether coconut oil is really all that bad for your cholesterol. That said, the evidence isn’t all in coconut oil’s favor; it can bump up both your HDL and LDL levels. For those keeping an eye on their cholesterol, swapping in oils rich in unsaturated fats, like olive or avocado oil, might be the safer bet.

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5. Cheese

If your cholesterol levels are on the higher side, then you should ease up on that grilled cheese sandwich and mountain of parmesan on your pasta. Cheese, while a great source of protein and calcium, can be notoriously high in saturated fats and sodium, depending on the type. Cheeses like American cheese, parmesan, and cheddar are packed with both and aren’t great for people trying to maintain cholesterol levels. But the good news is that not all cheeses are created equal, and you can still chomp on cheeses lower in saturated fat, like mozzarella, ricotta, and certain goat cheeses.

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6. Baked Goods

If your guilty pleasures include devouring cookies, cakes, and all things pastry, here’s a bit of a bummer: These sweet treats are often high cholesterol’s best friends. Baked goods are usually loaded with butter and shortening, making them high in saturated and trans fats. For instance, a medium-sized chocolate chip cookie contains 1.7 grams of saturated fat, and a mini croissant packs 5 grams of saturated fat. But hey, no need to swear off desserts for good. With a few smart swaps — like baking at home instead of buying store-made and swapping in applesauce or bananas for butter — you can still indulge that sweet tooth.

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7. Processed Meats

If you’re working on keeping your cholesterol levels healthy, it’s best to steer clear of the deli meat section at the supermarket. 

“The World Health Organization has classified processed meats such as bacon, hot dogs and salami as carcinogens,” Dr. Elizabeth Klodas shared with CNBC. Foods like hot dogs, sausage, and bacon are made from the fattiest parts of red meat, making them high in both cholesterol and saturated fat. They are also high in salt and unhealthy fats, and low in fiber, vitamins and minerals, which is a detrimental combination.

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8. Fast Food

Watching your cholesterol doesn’t have to mean waving goodbye to all fast-food joys, but a heads-up on what goes into those meals might make you rethink your favorites. Fast-food restaurants often rely on hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, which are vegetable oils that have been chemically modified to remain solid or semi-solid at room temperature to extends the oils’ shelf life. These oils are high in trans fats, and 

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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