Which High Cholesterol Foods Should I Avoid?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Most red meat is high in cholesterol and fat.
Most red meat is high in cholesterol and fat.

Many people believe that they should automatically avoid high cholesterol foods. However, medical research on this topic suggests that most people do not need to be too concerned with consumption of cholesterol, but need to be especially concerned with consumption of certain types of fats. People who have conditions like heart disease or diabetes are cautioned by the medical community to avoid especially high cholesterol foods, but they also must watch their intake of saturated fats and trans fats. In particular, trans fats are the most damaging and raise bad cholesterol (LDL or low-density lipoproteins) blood levels while lowering good cholesterol (HDL or high-density lipoproteins) levels, and these should be a minimal part of any diet or completely eliminated.

Unsaturated fats are better than saturated fats.
Unsaturated fats are better than saturated fats.

Some people do seem to have a nearly automatic response when they eat high cholesterol foods. These folks are called responders, and they should avoid foods high in dietary cholesterol. For most people though, eating something like an egg a day is not going to greatly affect cholesterol levels, and they should be more mindful of reducing saturated and trans fats in the diet.

A list of high cholesterol foods that some people should avoid include the following:

  • Eggs contain about 225 mg of cholesterol per egg.
  • Beef liver has 300 mg of cholesterol per a 3.5 oz (99.22 g) serving.
  • Beef kidney contains 375 mg of cholesterol in a 3.5 oz serving.
  • Sponge cake made with egg yolks can have 260 mg of cholesterol per a serving of 3.5 ounces.
  • Butter has 250 mg of cholesterol in 1 oz (28.35g).
High levels of bad cholesterol can cause a fatty buildup on blood vessel linings.
High levels of bad cholesterol can cause a fatty buildup on blood vessel linings.

Other high cholesterol foods include hard and soft cheeses, though an ounce serving of these may only contain about 25-30 grams of cholesterol. 3.5 ounces of ice cream has about 45 mg of cholesterol, and lower fat versions may contain even less. The same amount serving of foods like lamb, beef and chicken provides 60-70 mg of cholesterol.

Most people are asked to keep cholesterol limits to 300 mg a day. It is possible to have small steak and a serving of ice cream without reaching 300 mg. However, two eggs can easily put someone over their cholesterol limit for the day, as can toast or a baked potato heaped with butter.

Eggs, toast and butter can all significantly raise cholesterol levels.
Eggs, toast and butter can all significantly raise cholesterol levels.

Those who are responders or who have known heart conditions and diabetes may be asked to limit cholesterol intake to 100 mg a day, and this can cut out some foods. With some careful planning though, people may be able to have some of their favorites. Skipping cholesterol for two days in a row could mean they could have an egg on the third day and stay in these limits. Alternately, many people will have egg whites because the yolk contains most of the egg’s cholesterol.

What Is Cholesterol?

A large egg can contain about 225 mg of cholesterol, or most of the average person's daily allowance.
A large egg can contain about 225 mg of cholesterol, or most of the average person's daily allowance.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that’s used to make cells, vitamins and hormones. Your liver automatically creates all the cholesterol you need for the proper functioning of your body. The rest of the cholesterol in your system comes from the food you eat, specifically foods from animals. Meat, dairy, and poultry products all have cholesterol in them.

Food from animals also contains high saturated and trans fats. This is important to know because these types of fats make your liver produce more cholesterol than your body needs. Trans fats in particular can decrease your good cholesterol (HDL, or high-density lipoproteins) and increase your bad cholesterol (LDL, or low-density lipoproteins). Current guidelines recommend eating no more than 200-300 mg of cholesterol daily.

Why Does Cholesterol Matter?

Too much cholesterol circulating in your blood can lead to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. If you eat a diet heavy on meat, dairy, eggs and poultry, you should have your doctor check your cholesterol levels so you know where you stand.

Too much LDL can lead to a cholesterol buildup in your arteries that supply blood to your heart and brain. It then forms a hard lining of these arteries, which continues to increase in volume, making the arteries narrower and narrower.

If a blood clot got stuck in an artery that was narrowed by this cholesterol buildup, which is called atherosclerosis, you could have a heart attack or a stroke. HDL can remove LDL from your artery walls and carry it back to your liver where it will be processed.

There’s a third component of cholesterol, called triglycerides. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in your body. They store extra fat from your diet. High triglycerides can also be a factor in heart disease or stroke.

What Is Considered High Cholesterol?

Cholesterol levels will naturally increase with age. As your body needs to create more cells, your liver will produce more cholesterol. However, it’s important that you not let your cholesterol get too high, especially when you are younger. Years of high cholesterol make it harder to treat.

Men tend to have higher cholesterol levels as they age, while women see an increase in cholesterol after menopause. Here is a listing from Medical News Today of healthy cholesterol levels by age and gender, measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl).

  • In anyone aged 19 and under, total cholesterol should be less than 170 mg/dl. Non-HDL less than 120 mg/dl. LDL less than 100 mg/dl. HDL higher than 40 mg/dl.
  • In men aged 20 and over, total cholesterol should be 125-200 mg/dl. Non-HDL less than 130 mg/dl. LDL less than 100 mg/dl. HDL higher than 40 mg/dl.
  • In women aged 20 and over, total cholesterol should be 125-200 mg/dl. Non-HDL less than 130 mg/dl. LDL less than 100 mg/dl. HDL higher than 50 mg/dl.

Total cholesterol levels between 200 and 239 mg/dl are borderline-high, with high cholesterol being treated at 240 mg/dl and above. LDL levels of 160-189 mg/dl are considered high. HDL levels are low at 40 mg/dl or less. The ideal level of HDL is 60 mg/dl and above.

Is Shrimp High in Cholesterol?

Shrimp are high in cholesterol. If you eat 12 jumbo shrimp, you’ll be consuming around 130 ml of it — that’s 52% of your average recommended daily allowance of cholesterol. However, shrimp are low-fat, and full of B vitamins, the nutrients selenium, sodium and zinc, and protein. They’re also high in unsaturated omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which can increase your HDL levels.

Other seafood that’s higher in cholesterol but still healthy in many other ways includes crabs, lobsters, crayfish, octopus and many fish. For lower levels of cholesterol in your seafood, look to clams, mollusks, scallops and oysters.

Are Eggs High in Cholesterol?

Eggs contain about 187 mg of cholesterol, or 75% of your recommended daily allowance. However, they contain a lot of health benefits, including protein, choline to aid in brain development and carotenoids, which can decrease the risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly. All that, and they’re only 75 calories each.

If you decide to enjoy an egg or two one morning with breakfast, you may want to lighten up on your cholesterol intake on the day before or the day after to balance things out. That’s what a healthy diet is all about: balance.

Cholesterol can be either harmful or helpful, depending on the type of foods you consume. You want to boost your HDL numbers while reducing the amount of LDL you take in. You’ll find that a healthy diet low in fatty animal products can keep your overall cholesterol right where it belongs.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

Bhutan

Subway11-I also hear that oatmeal is a great food for lowering your cholesterol. Getting plenty of daily exercise also makes a dramatic difference in your cholesterol levels.

Walking daily for thirty minutes everyday is great for your heart and overall mental health.

subway11

Sunny27-Foods to avoid high cholesterol are butter, ice cream and cheese.

These foods if used sparingly don’t usually create a cholesterol problem. But eating too many of these foods too often can raise the cholesterol to dangerous levels.

Foods causing high cholesterol include anything fried or made with Tran’s fats. Foods that contain hydrogenated oil also contain Tran’s fat even though the label does not note it.

Foods for people with high cholesterol should include salads and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

In addition, whole grains and foods rich in fiber are also beneficial. Beans for example, not only lower your cholesterol, but stabilize your blood sugar which allows you the opportunity to avoid a dip in energy that usually occurs in the afternoon.

Sunny27

Some of the worst foods for high cholesterol include cheeseburger and French fries. A typical or average size cheeseburger has cholesterol of over 150, which is 50% of the maximum daily cholesterol limit.

If you add French fries along with a milkshake you have exceeded your cholesterol limit for the day. Eating this meal repeatedly can cause high levels of bad cholesterol.

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    • Most red meat is high in cholesterol and fat.
      By: Artyshot
      Most red meat is high in cholesterol and fat.
    • Unsaturated fats are better than saturated fats.
      By: chungking
      Unsaturated fats are better than saturated fats.
    • High levels of bad cholesterol can cause a fatty buildup on blood vessel linings.
      By: Alexandr Mitiuc
      High levels of bad cholesterol can cause a fatty buildup on blood vessel linings.
    • Eggs, toast and butter can all significantly raise cholesterol levels.
      By: PhotoEd
      Eggs, toast and butter can all significantly raise cholesterol levels.
    • A large egg can contain about 225 mg of cholesterol, or most of the average person's daily allowance.
      By: Brent Hofacker
      A large egg can contain about 225 mg of cholesterol, or most of the average person's daily allowance.