High cholesterol is a significant risk factor for heart disease. High cholesterol levels are one of the controllable risk factors for heart attack (myocardial Infarction)
So if you know you have high cholesterol and want to lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, then you must know what foods are bad for your health—and which are good.
Health issues linked to high cholesterol
High cholesterol has been linked to several health issues, including cardiovascular diseases, kidney disease and diabetes. Cardiovascular diseases are an umbrella term which includes coronary vascular disease (heart attack), stroke, peripheral arterial disease and transient ischemic attack. High cholesterol is a significant risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
There’s also some evidence that suggests that high cholesterol can cause erectile dysfunction (ED). According to researchers, “Erectile dysfunction is considered an early marker for coronary artery disease.”
Here’s the list of high-cholesterol foods you need to know and avoid.
1. Pastries and desserts
Pastries and desserts are energy-dense food. They are high in added sugar, trans fats and salt. When the body has excess calories than required, they are converted to fats, thus increasing LDL (bad cholesterol) and decreasing HDL (good cholesterol).
Excess sugar intake also causes weight gain and leads to obesity. So it’s best to avoid these foods if you’re trying to lose or maintain a healthy body weight.
2. Fried food
Fried food is high in saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol. It also contains a lot of added sodium from salt, which can raise blood pressure. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are two leading causes of heart disease.
Most of the time, palm oils are used for deep frying. Consumption of palm oils causes high LDL (bad cholesterol) in the blood. Moreover, most of the time, reusing the same oil for deep frying occurs, raising the risk further.
3. Trans fat-containing food like margarine
Trans fat can be found in many processed foods, including margarine, shortening and other spreads. Unfortunately, it’s also added to some foods such as baked goods, microwave popcorn and frozen pizza.
You should avoid these foods because they contain high levels of saturated fats, which are bad for your health and increases the risk of heart disease.
4. Processed foods like hot dogs, bacon, sausage
Processed meat is also high in saturated fat and sodium, raising your LDL, triglycerides (bad cholesterol), and blood pressure, thus raising the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Research has linked eating processed meats to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. However, all evidence suggests that avoiding processed foods is a healthy choice.
5. Whole milk, cheese and full cream
Whole milk is rich in saturated fat and energy than skim milk products, which causes raised cholesterol levels.
Dairy foods, including milk, cheese and yoghurt, are among the five food groups recommended daily in most health guidelines. But when you take these dairy products, try to use reduced-fat varieties.
Adults aged 19-50 years are recommended to take 2.5 servings of milk, cheese, yoghurt and/or alternatives daily. However, recommendations vary, depending on your age and gender. For example, older adults need additional serves to help maintain muscle mass and bone strength.
6. Palm oil
Palm oil has more saturated fats than other vegetable oils, like olive and canola. While it does contain some beneficial nutrients, palm oil has been linked to health problems such as cardiovascular disease.
Palm kernel oil is both high in saturated fat and low in omega-3s. Palm oil is used to make margarine, shortening and other processed foods. You’ll often find them labelled as hydrogenated vegetable oils on food labels because they’ve been chemically modified at high temperatures (which also makes them trans fats).
7. Sweetened beverages
Sugar-sweetened beverages are a leading source of added sugar in the diet.
These beverages also have no nutritional value: no protein, vitamins or minerals—they provide energy from rapidly digested carbohydrate calories (primarily high fructose corn syrup).
This adds extra calories, which are converted to fat in the body.
8. Red meat
Red meat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can raise your “bad” LDL cholesterol. A high level of LDL cholesterol can increase the risk of dying from heart attack and stroke.
If you add red meat such as beef, pork or lamb to your diet, choose lean cuts (without visible fat) with less saturated fat than others. Lean red meat is also a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, niacin, zinc and iron.
- Whole grains and whole-grain products, vegetables (dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli and spinach) and fruit (apples, pears).
- Nuts and seeds: All nuts are good for you in moderation, but almond has high levels of monounsaturated fats such as omega 3.
- Beans and legumes: Try black beans or lentils in your soup recipes. They’re not only rich sources of fibre but also taste great!
- Olive oil is one of the best heart-healthy food. It is rich in omega -3 fats, which reduce the bad LDL cholesterol and increase the good HDL cholesterol lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Unsaturated fats found in fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are also good for lowering your risk of heart disease.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, your cholesterol levels are a product of your lifestyle and genetic makeup. While you can’t change your genes, you can do plenty of things to lower cholesterol by choosing a healthy lifestyle.
Start by avoiding these high-cholesterol foods in your diet, and you’ll see positive changes in your health.