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4 foods not to eat if you have high cholesterol
These foods are notorious for raising levels of LDL cholesterol.
More than 90 million adults in the United States have high cholesterol — which means their levels of these blood fats exceed 200 milligrams per deciliter (200 mg/dL). Soaring cholesterol levels are serious because they put you at higher risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Certain foods, like oatmeal, nuts, and fatty fish, help to keep your cholesterol levels in check. And not all high cholesterol foods are bad for you. For example, eggs are high in cholesterol, but they’re also packed with protein and other nutrients. It’s the foods that are high in saturated fat that you need to worry about, because they can raise your cholesterol levels AND make you gain weight.
What are the worst foods for high cholesterol? Red meat, fried foods, and baked goods are notorious for raising levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the sticky kind that builds up in artery walls.
Here are 4 foods you’ll want to avoid if you have high cholesterol:
1. Red meat. Beef, pork, and lamb are generally high in saturated fat. Cut of meat like hamburger, ribs, pork chops, and roasts are highest in fat. You don’t have to avoid meat entirely, just eat it only on occasion. Limit yourself to the recommended 3-ounce portion size and stick to leaner cuts like sirloin, pork loin, or filet mignon. Better yet, replace meat with proteins that are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, like skinless chicken or turkey breast, fish, and beans.
2. Fried foods. Foods that have taken a dip in the deep fryer, like chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, and onion rings are among the worst when it comes to cholesterol. Frying increases the energy density, or calorie count of foods. If you love the crunch of fried food, use an air fryer and toss your food in a little bit of olive oil. Or bake foods like potato wedges and chicken at a high temperature until they’re golden brown.
3. Processed meats. Hot dogs, sausage, and bacon use the fattiest cuts of red meat, and therefore tend to be high in cholesterol and saturated fat. Bacon and sausage made with turkey or chicken might seem healthier, and they are somewhat lower in cholesterol than the red meat versions, but they’re not cholesterol-free.
4. Baked goods. Cookies, cakes, and pastry are often made with large quantities of butter and shortening, making them high in cholesterol. You don’t have to give up dessert entirely, just make a few substitutions. When you bake, use applesauce or bananas in place of butter. Or have low-fat frozen yogurt topped with berries for dessert.
Image: sergeyskleznev/Getty Images
About the Author
Stephanie Watson, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch
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No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
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Managing Your Cholesterol
Managing Your Cholesterol offers up-to-date information to help you or a loved one keep cholesterol in check. The report spells out what are healthy and unhealthy cholesterol levels, and offers specific ways to keep cholesterol in line. It covers cholesterol tests and the genetics of cholesterol. The report also focuses on treatments based on the latest scientific evidence, including the pros and cons of statins and other medications, and provides the lowdown on other substances advertised to lower cholesterol. Managing Your Cholesterol can also help you work with your doctor to individualize your treatment.
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