Foods to Stay Away From if You’re Watching Your Cholesterol

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Foods to Stay Away From if You’re Watching Your Cholesterol

Cholesterol circulates in your blood, and we’re taught that it’s bad when your cholesterol is high. Well, there are two types of cholesterol: LDL "bad" and HDL "good." These two types matter a lot. Too much bad cholesterol or not enough good cholesterol can cause build up on the inner walls of your arteries. This makes it harder for blood to flow through your body.

Triglycerides linked to cholesterol and are the most common type of fat in the body. This fat is responsible for storing excess energy from your diet. A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol can cause fatty buildups in your artery walls. In turn, this increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. If you’re watching your cholesterol, getting the right amount of good fats can be incredibly essential for your diet.

It’s recommended that your total fat intake should be 25 to 35 percent of your total daily calories. Less than seven percent of those calories should come from saturated or trans fats. The best fats you could eat are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These fats can help your heart and brain function.

Your risk for heart disease and other health problems increases if you have an HDL cholesterol level of 40 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less for men and 50 mg/dL or less for women. Total daily cholesterol intake should be less than 200 mg/dL, and LDL cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dL. Avoiding certain foods can help lower your cholesterol. Foods that contain saturated fat are bad for a low-cholesterol diet. Trans fats are also dangerous because they raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol.

It can be pretty tough trying to eat a low-cholesterol diet, but we’re here to help. These are some foods you should try to avoid if you’re working on lowering your cholesterol levels.

Pastries
Pastries

Most baked goods are loaded with sugar and most likely made with saturated fats or trans fats. Both of these are bad for your diet and heart.

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Surely these sweet treats can be hard to kick, but your body will thank. And they"ll taste even sweeter if you save them for special occasions.

Fruit
Fruit

Yes, you read that right. Fruit is essential for a healthy diet, but consume too much of it and your ability to lower your triglycerides may be impaired. Fruit contains fructose which is a kind of sugar found in some foods. If you have high triglycerides, you should limit your consumption of fructose to about 50-100 grams per days.

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We know, we know-- it seems hard to believe that fruit can cause some health problems, but too much of anything can be bad for you.

Alcohol
Alcohol

Consuming too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure and triglyceride levels, increasing your risk of heart issues. That doesn’t mean you have give up cocktails just yet. Moderate alcohol consumption can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Once again, try to consume alcohol in moderation.

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Cutting back on the sauce will lead to all kinds of health benefits for you, not the least of which will make your heart stronger.  

Canola Oil
Canola Oil

The level of trans fat in canola oil is increased when it undergoes hydrogenation to become a semi-hydrogenated oil. Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol while decreasing HDL cholesterol levels. Some other oils that have fatty acids you want to avoid are corn oil, safflower oil, soy oil, and vegetable oil.

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You can try to use some healthier oils like olive or avocado oil instead, but only sparingly. The best plan is to try and avoid fats like these all together. 

Potato Chips
Potato Chips

Too much snacking is bad for you, especially if the snack is unhealthy. Snack foods like potato chips lead to obesity and high cholesterol because it"s full of saturated fat..

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If you want something to munch on, it"s best to pick something better for your health and remember to snack in moderation.

Cookies
Cookies

Added sugars in packaged foods such as cookies can increase LDL cholesterol, raise triglycerides, and lower HDL cholesterol. Additionally, sugar causes obesity and can lead to sugar addiction. Over 75% of packaged foods contain some form of added sugar.

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There"s nothing like fresh-baked cookies straight from the oven. But we could all use some self-control. Otherwise, we"ll be baking cookies everyday. 

Processed Meats
Processed Meats

Processed meats can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. However, unprocessed meat has little or no risk of cardiovascular disease. Keep in mind that products with “reduced fat” labels are high in calories and saturated fats. Processed meats are also usually high in sodium.

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It shouldn"t be a surprise that something so salty and processed could be harmful in high amounts. Just cut back on the salami and such. Your heart will thank you. 

Milk
Milk

The fatty acids found in milk fat have an adverse effect on cholesterol-rich lipoproteins. The saturated fatty acids raise total plasma cholesterol, especially LDL. Replacing saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids with polyunsaturated fats can lower LDL cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

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These days, there are so many milk alternatives that it"s easier than ever to skip the dairy, at least every once in a while. It"ll be good for you and the environment too!

Rib Eye Steak
Rib Eye Steak

Say it ain"t so! Yes, rib eye steak is the worst type of red meat you can eat. It contains the highest amount of saturated fat compared to every other cut. Instead, aim for sirloin tip steaks, which have far less fat.

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Even this picture has some mouths watering, so we know it"ll be hard to cut out the ribeye completely, but just try to save them for special occasions. It"ll be easier on your arteries as well as your wallet. 

Fast-Food Burgers
Fast-Food Burgers

Sorry to disappoint, but your favorite fast food burger isn"t good for you. Fast-food restaurants use lower quality ingredients and unhealthy cooking methods. High-quality burgers such as grass-fed beef consumed in moderation are okay and may even have heart-healthy benefits. Keep in mind that saturated fats from animals combined with carbohydrates are generally bad for your heart.

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Is anyone really shocked to hear that fast food isn"t particularly healthy? We doubt it. Still, it can be too cheap and tasty to resist. We won"t judge you for your guilty pleasures, but try to cut back if you can. 

Deep-Fried Foods
Deep-Fried Foods

Fried foods increase your risk of heart disease because conventional frying methods create trans fats. If you want fried food, make it at home and avoid the kind you don’t prepare yourself.

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Fried foods are a staple of the American diet. Maybe that"s why we have such an issue with obesity. Don"t let yourself be so susceptible to the the flaky goodness. We know it"s hard, but you"ll feel better, we promise. 

Candy
Candy

Fat was once considered the primary cause of heart disease. Now, however, it is believed that diets high in added sugar can be another significant cause. Added sugar leads to increased risk for heart disease by contributing to obesity, inflammation, high cholesterol, and diabetes. It’s hard to stay away from candy, but if you’re at risk for heart disease, you should avoid sugar.

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How can something so sweet be so hurtful at the same time? Candy, we trusted you. A little bit here and there won"t be too bad, just make sure you know your limits. 

Diet Soda
Diet Soda

We already established that soft drinks are bad for you, but diet soft drinks can be even worse. Diet soda is linked to obesity, diabetes,  and more. After a 10-year Harvard study, scientists found that those who drank diet soda regularly were at an increased risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, stroke, and heart disease. 

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Researchers have a difficult time pinpointing the cause, but most suspect that the chemicals in diet soda might alter gastrointestinal bacteria and make people more prone to weight gain.

Margarine
Margarine

Diets high in trans fats increase your risk of heart disease. Trans fats are found in sticks of margarine that are solid at room temperature. They are often marketed as a healthier alternative to butter but should be avoided. Go with soft, spreadable margarine that contains no partially hydrogenated oils or use olive oil instead.

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If it looks like butter and tastes like butter, it probably acts like butter once you eat it too. We all wish it were a healthier alternative, but there"s a reason we can"t believe it. 

Microwave Popcorn
Microwave Popcorn

Microwave popcorn loaded with butter, oil, and salt is not healthy.  The snack can increase your cholesterol levels. It doesn’t mean you have to give up popcorn altogether. A bowl of unsalted, butter-free popcorn is a good way to lower your cholesterol.

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Popcorn is also a snack that"s too easy to keep eating. Before you know it, you can end up with more butter and salt than your body can handle. 

Coconut
Coconut

Coconut is high in saturated fat. Not only do coconut products increase triglycerides, but they also raise total cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol. Coconut oil is a no-no, too. It actually contains more saturated fat than butter! You don"t have to avoid this delicious food, but it"s best to eat it sparingly. 

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Not coconut! Isn"t it a fruit? How can plants be so fatty? We don"t know, but we all have to face it if we want to feel and be healthier. 

Soft Drinks
Soft Drinks

Whether you call it soda, coke, or pop, the beverage is one to avoid. Believe it or not, the main source of added sugar for Americans is found in beverages, not food. This means you should consider switching out soft drinks for water.

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Considering the amount of sugar, you should really think about sodas as a kind of desert rather than a beverage. Your body certainly treats them that way. 

Sugary Cereals
Sugary Cereals

Sorry, even your favorite breakfast cereal is probably packed with sugar. You don’t want to eat sugars and refined carbohydrates, especially not in the morning. Not only does this cause inflammation, but also makes blood sugar go up and down, so you’ll crave more sugar as the day goes on.

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Cereals may have some health benefits, such as fiber, but try to stick with less sugary cereals with increased attention on your heart. 

Meat-Lovers Pizza
Meat-Lovers Pizza

This type of pizza is second on the American Heart Association’s list of “salty six” foods. The sodium and saturated fat increase significantly when topping like extra-cheese and meat are added to the pizza.  Limit yourself to one or two slices of pizza or go for veggie toppings.

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Everybody"s favorite peperoni and sausage are processed meats to avoid on their own, but adding that much grease and cheese can only make it worse. 

Fish Canned in Oil
Fish Canned in Oil

Fish is a heart-healthy food, but canned fish in oil isn’t the best choice. The added oil makes the flavor better but also adds to the "bad" fats like trans fats and saturated fats. For this reason, it is a good idea to buy canned fish that is packed in water.

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Fish oils are actually known to improve health in most folks, but this kind of oil isn"t helping anyone. Canned foods generally should just be avoided if possible. 

Pasta
Pasta

If you have high triglycerides, it is essential to monitor your consumption of starchy foods like pasta. This is because your body turns excess carbohydrates into triglycerides if the calories are not used for energy. A diet high in carbohydrates, especially simple carbs, is bad for your blood sugar and lowers good HDL cholesterol.

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We know this will be a tough one for a lot of people, but just try to remember how bloated you"ll get when you eat too much pasta. That should help you steer clear.

Refined Grain Products
Refined Grain Products

Eating a lot of refined carbohydrates can have a negative effect on your HDL cholesterol level. Refined grains have a high glycemic index, and a diet high in these kinds of carbs can lead to higher risks of high cholesterol. Try sprouted bread instead.

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Breads like these are generally so processed, too, that it can be hard for your body to digest the chemicals therein. There are plenty of better breads that taste better too. 

Syrup
Syrup

Think twice before drowning your pancakes in syrup. Maple syrup can increase your triglyceride levels. Opt for using less syrup or start using low-calorie or sugar-free maple syrup. 

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Watch out for brown sugar, corn syrup, corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrate, fructose sweetener, glucose, invert sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, lactose, malt syrup, molasses, sucrose, turbinado sugar, and trehalose.

Muffins
Muffins

Depending on how the muffin is made, it has the potential to be a healthy food. A low-fat bran muffin that is made with whole wheat flour is good for you. However, muffins with whole milk, eggs, and filled with something extra like chocolate chips, can have as much as eight grams of fat in just one serving.

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Do you know the muffin man? Well tell him to stay on Drury Lane until he starts bringing some healthier pastries for us. 

Mac & Cheese
Mac & Cheese

No doubt you"ve enjoyed a bowl of Mac & Cheese at some point in your childhood. If you still enjoy it now, we"re sorry to say that you may want to avoid it. The dish is made with milk, butter, and cheese which are ingredients packed with saturated fats.

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It should seem obvious that a dish with nothing but carbohydrates and dairy fats would be bad for you. So why does it have to taste so good? Life can be cruel. 

French Fries
French Fries

French Fries are a high cholesterol food because they"re made with hydrogenated vegetable oils. Partially hydrogenated oils are ideal for frying fast foods, but, unfortunately, foods made with partially hydrogenated oils tend to have large amounts of trans fats.

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Try making some fries at home with less, healthier oil if you really want to enjoy some fries every once and a while. Just remember, oil or not, they"re still potatoes which are nothing but starch. 

Cream Cheese
Cream Cheese

Think twice before slathering cream cheese on your morning bagel because it"s high in saturated fat. That"s bad news for those of us that love a bagel and schmear. 

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We know this will be tough for breakfast lovers. Try to ration out your cream cheese consumption where you"ll still eat some, just a smaller schmear. 

Ice Cream
Ice Cream

It may be your favorite dessert on a summer day, but it’s one that should be avoided. Ice cream is basically milk or cream and sugar. Both of these things have been linked to high cholesterol. Frozen yogurt may be a better option for those that need a sweet treat on a hot day.

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I scream. You scream. Or at least you will scream when you see what too much sugar and dairy like this can do to your heart health. 

Whipping Cream
Whipping Cream

Whipping cream is two things: sugar and heavy whipping cream. Both of these ingredients increase "bad" cholesterol while lowering "good" cholesterol. It breaks our hearts too, but anyone following a low-cholesterol diet should avoid this food.

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When you think about whipped cream though, you"re usually adding it to something that"s already sweet. We know it"s tough to lose it, but you"ll still have some of dessert to enjoy. 

Salad Dressing
Salad Dressing

Store-bought salad dressing is especially bad, even the low-fat versions. Looking at the nutrition facts reveals that it"s full of sugar and fat. Both of these will cause high "bad" cholesterol and lower "good" cholesterol. 

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Your best bet? Make your own. Not time effective, but the next best thing is a dry salad. Who wants that?

Mashed Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes

Potatoes are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. However, dressing them up too much can make them very unhealthy. The butter, salt, and sometimes cheese that is added to mashed potatoes all add on too much for those with cholesterol worries to safely ingest.

The way most people enjoy mashed potatoes turns them more into butter and salt than anything else. We"ll be honest, that"s why they taste so good. But you"ve got to cut that out if you want to stay healthy. 

Added Sugars
Added Sugars

Added sugars aren’t a good idea for anyone to consume, but those with high cholesterol are at an especially high risk. Try to drink and eat things that don’t have added sugar and your cholesterol will thank you—and so will your waistline.

You don"t need all that excess sugar in your diet. It can slow down all of your body"s processes and for what? Drinks that are too sweet in the first place? 

Full-Fat Yogurt
Full-Fat Yogurt

Full-fat yogurt spells disaster for those with high cholesterol. If you just can’t let go of your precious yogurt, try better alternatives. Look for the kinds that are high in protein and low in carbs, like greek or low-fat yogurt.

Remember: fats are what we"re trying to avoid to keep our hearts healthy. Anything with "full-fat" in the name is not going to help you in that category. 

Ghee
Ghee

You might think ghee is a better alternative than regular butter. However, clarified butters aren"t a healthy option for those watching their cholesterol. Use olive oil in your recipes instead and your arteries will last longer.

Clarified or not, ghee still has the heart-stopping powers of regular butter. It will also keep you craving butter and other fatty foods unlike healthier oil options. 

Poultry Skin
Poultry Skin

Who doesn’t love a good crispy skin on a nice piece of fried chicken? Unfortunately, this crunchy treat is also full of grease and sodium. This is nothing but disaster for your cholesterol levels, so it’s best to avoid poultry skin—especially if it’s fried.

We know, we know. It"s your favorite part. We won"t judge if you sneak a piece here and there. But what should really excite you about chicken is all the lean protein you"ll get from the meat. 

Refried Beans
Refried Beans

While beans and other legumes are actually really good at helping lower your cholesterol levels, refried beans can be a sneaky danger. The kind you get in a can is packed with salt, carbs, and fats, which all spell disaster for those concerned with their cholesterol.

Stick with regular pinto or, better yet, black beans. They"ll give you almost the same flavor with less of a toll on your heart. You can even mash "em up if the texture is what you"re after. 

Packaged Frosting
Packaged Frosting

If you make your frosting yourself, it can actually be pretty low in sugar, carbs, and fats. The packaged frosting on the shelves at your grocery store, however, are a different story. Those little containers are hiding a sinful amount of sugar and fat that are just waiting to clog your arteries.

Besides, you don"t even want to know about the preservatives and other chemicals that companies use to keep those on the shelves. You can feel better mentally and physically knowing where all the ingredients came from when you make it yourself. 

Lamb
Lamb

Lamb can be a great addition to your diet if you cook it properly and stick to a lean cut. However, it’s also full of saturated fats and bad cholesterol. When you think about how lamb is often cooked in butter and served with potatoes, your cholesterol levels are in danger.

There are plenty of healthy recipes that involve the rich taste of lean lamb without the added artery-clogging agents we"re trying to avoid. Keep the whole meal in context when thinking about what you eat. 

Steak
Steak

Just like with lamb, steak is good in moderation. Unfortunately, it’s often cooked in butter and served with a salty side item that will quickly clog your arteries. Stick to lean cuts served with steamed vegetables if you can’t live without your steak.

This whole list seems like bad news for the carnivores among us, and we"re sorry. But you can still enjoy a nice steak every once in a while. Just be thoughtful about what you"re eating with it. 

Pork Chops
Pork Chops

There are high-fat and lean cuts of pork, but it really depends on how you cook it. Pork chops are a higher-fat cut and they’re often fried or cooked in oil or butter, which makes them dangerous for those with high cholesterol. Stick to the pork loin for a healthier cut.

Pork chops are so savory and delicious, we know. But it"s generally not a good sign for your health if it"s a favorite food for Homer Simpson. Cut back and feel better. 

Author Alot Health Team Last Updated: May 05, 2020

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