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What Are the Worst Foods for High Cholesterol? What to Avoid

what are the worst foods for high cholesterol
What foods are high in bad cholesterol? Learn about the worst foods to avoid if you have high cholesterol

If you have high cholesterol, you need to be especially careful about what you include in your diet. In general, the worst foods for high cholesterol are those with tons of:

  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Bad fats (trans-fats, hydrogenated fat, or partially hydrogenated fat)
  • Simple carbohydrates (these get broken down into sugar, resulting in a spike of blood sugar levels and bad cholesterol)

Examples of foods to avoid with high cholesterol include:

  • Fried foods: Chicken nuggets, French fries
  • Frozen foods: Frozen hot dogs, sausages, pizza, waffles
  • Hydrogenated oils: Potato chips, cookies, donuts, crackers, margarine, vegetable shortening
  • Saturated fats: Coconut cream, deep-fried foods, cakes, biscuits, pies, pastries, egg yolk, whole milk, butter, and cheese
  • High-fat proteins: Duck, goose, steak
  • Organ meat: Kidney, heart, liver 
  • Shellfish: Oysters, mussels, crab, and lobster
  • Refined carbs: White bread, pasta, rice
  • Sugar: Soda, fruit juices, cakes, donuts, pastries
  • Alcohol: Reduce alcohol intake to no more than 1-2 drinks per day or don't drink at all. Even one drink can increase triglycerides for some people.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body needs to build healthy cells. But there are several different types:

  • Total cholesterol: Total amount of cholesterol in the blood, which includes low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol: Transports cholesterol particles throughout the body and can build up in the walls of the arteries, making them hard and narrow.
  • HDL (good) cholesterol: Picks up excess cholesterol in your blood and takes it back to your liver.
  • Non-HDL: Total cholesterol minus HDL. Non-HDL includes LDL and other types of cholesterol such as VLDL.
  • Triglycerides: Another form of fat in the blood that can increase your risk of heart disease, especially in women.

Too much of bad (LDL) cholesterol or not enough of good (HDL) cholesterol increases the risk of cholesterol buildup o in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain.

What causes high cholesterol?

Apart from an unhealthy diet, causes of high cholesterol may include:

  • Heredity: Cholesterol or heart disease may run in the family.
  • Comorbid diseases: Conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, and thyroid disease can increase your risk of having high cholesterol.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them more prone to accumulating fatty deposits. Smoking can also lower your level of HDL or good cholesterol.
  • Age: Liver function may reduce with age and become less able to remove LDL or bad cholesterol.
  • Obesity: Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher puts you at a risk of high cholesterol. 
  • Lack of exercise: Lack of physical activity and exercise can increase bad cholesterol deposits in the arteries.

What foods can lower cholesterol levels?

To lower your cholesterol, try building meals and snacks around whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. Here are examples of what to include in your diet:

  • Whole grains: Oats, barley, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, farro
  • High-fiber, nutrient-dense vegetables: Leafy greens, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes
  • High-fiber, antioxidant-rich fruits: Berries, citrus fruits, bananas, apples, pears, peaches, melon
  • Fatty fish: Salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, anchovies
  • Lean protein: Chicken, turkey, beans, nuts, lentils, tofu, edamame
  • Dairy: Yogurt, kefir, milk, (occasionally) cheese
  • Anti-inflammatory spices: Ginger, garlic, turmeric, basil

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