5 Foods That Don’t Benefit Your Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that circulates in your blood. Cholesterol is not always harmful – we need cholesterol to help us build cells and make hormones. But too much can cause problems. Excess cholesterol in the blood, for example, is a major factor in the creation of atherosclerosis, said Dr. Eleonora Avenatti, preventive cardiologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, that is “waste buildup in your blood vessels.”

“If you think of your blood vessels as pipes that have to carry blood to your internal organs – your heart, your brain, your kidneys – over time, (cholesterol) can create waste in those pipes so that the blood doesn’t flow as well as it does. must. “That can then lead to situations like heart attacks and strokes as well as kidney dysfunction,” Avenatti said.

Your cholesterol is measured through a blood test (known as a lipid panel), ordered by your doctor. If your cholesterol is high, you may be prescribed medication or lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise.

One of the most natural changes starts with food. Experts say certain foods can affect your cholesterol levels, putting you at risk for the adverse events mentioned above.

Below, experts share the foods you should avoid if you have high cholesterol, as well as share some factors that may be more important than the foods you eat.

Full fat dairy products

Full-fat dairy products are high in saturated fat, so they are not good for your LDL, which is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol.

“Saturated fats can actually decrease your body’s ability to clear…bad cholesterol,” explains Beth Auguste, a registered dietitian in Philadelphia and owner of Be Well with Beth. “Your bad cholesterol goes to your liver to be cleaned out and that’s how you get rid of some of the cholesterol in your body. Saturated fat impacts your liver because it makes you unable to break down as much bad cholesterol.”

Dairy products do have some health benefits, so you can reduce this problem by including low-fat dairy products in your diet whenever possible.

“Choose fat-free dairy products like yogurt and kefir to reduce your intake of saturated fat while still getting important heart-healthy nutrients like magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D,” Michelle Routhenstein, preventative cardiology dietitian at EntirelyNourished.com, told Talk News in an email .

Additionally, Auguste says you can add healthy, unsaturated fats to fat-free dairy products by adding ingredients like fat-free yogurt or cottage cheese with almonds or chia seeds. “It gives you healthy fats combined with milk protein,” says Auguste.

Red meat

You probably know that red meat – such as beef, pork or lamb – is not good for people with high cholesterol. Why? Red meat is rich in saturated fat, which as mentioned above, makes it difficult for your body to break down cholesterol, says Auguste.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat red meat, but those with high cholesterol should consider their intake carefully.

“Honestly, in general, you should be using meat more as a garnish and then eating beans as another way to get protein, eating high-protein grains, like quinoa or lentils… as a way to supplement protein. and iron and fiber in your diet,” says Auguste.

Skin on flesh

Saturated fat is also high in the skin of the meat, according to Auguste. That applies to all meat skins, whether it’s chicken skin, turkey skin, pork skin (pork skin) or something else, he said.

“Choose lean protein sources such as skinless poultry, fish, nuts (beans, lentils, chickpeas) and tofu. “This protein source is lower in saturated fat and can help maintain muscle mass while improving heart health,” said Routhenstein.

What’s more, Auguste says, it’s also important to look for skinless ground beef.

Sausages, hot dogs and other processed meats are not ideal choices for your heart health.

Svetlana Repnitskaya via Getty Images

Sausages, hot dogs and other processed meats are not ideal choices for your heart health.

Highly processed foods

“What we’re increasingly learning is that staying away from processed foods may be the best way,” Avenatti says.

Although many foods are processed in some form, minimally processed foods (such as packaged salads and bagged dried beans) are not the cause. On the other hand, processed foods, such as smoked sausages and chips, will give you pause.

“They are also usually high in unhealthy fats and salt and low in fiber, vitamins and minerals, which is a detrimental combination from a heart health perspective,” according to Avenatti.

“If my patient craves the taste of meat, please choose the steak. “But something that’s been processed, like sausages, which really don’t have the nutritional balance anymore that ancient meats have, that’s something you should probably avoid,” Avenatti said.

“For this reason, a diet rich in ultra-processed foods is not recommended by all major (cardiovascular) societies that recommend a ‘whole foods’ approach,” he says.

Fried food

Likewise, fried foods are a good thing to avoid if you have high cholesterol, according to Routhenstein. Fried foods also contain trans fats, which can increase bad cholesterol levels, along with the overall risk of heart disease.

This includes both sweet and non-sweet fried foods, such as fried chicken, donuts, and french fries, according to the Mayo Clinic. To determine whether the food you eat contains trans fats, look for partially hydrogenated oils listed on the ingredient label.

Another way you can prioritize your heart health

“I would love to tell you that it all depends on the food we eat,” Avenatti says. “But, unfortunately, this is not the case… the food we eat contains cholesterol, but most of that cholesterol flows in our blood, and it… is actually produced by our own bodies.”

Variability from one person to another depends more on genetics and how our bodies handle cholesterol than food choices, explains Avenatti.

“We prefer to talk about patterns simply because there are no foods that are truly detrimental. I think eating in moderation… is still the key,” he said.

What you eat often is more important than burgers or steaks. Additionally, as long as you don’t eat a diet that only contains fried and processed foods, you’re likely fine.

“(One-off food choices) are less impactful than people think as long as you stick to a reasonable diet,” he said.

But for people with high triglycerides, food choices are very important. According to Avenatti, high triglycerides, which are also measured when your cholesterol is checked, are more related to the food you eat.

“Processed foods, fried foods, butter, any kind of butter, full-fat dairy, cheese – those are all things that will definitely impact your triglyceride levels, and we’re seeing more and more things that are directly affected by diet ,” he says.

High triglycerides can also be influenced by refined carbohydrates, adds Auguste. “So, if you’re eating a lot of white bread, white pasta, crackers that don’t have fiber, you need to think about how to add fiber to your meals because that will help you avoid high triglycerides. ”

This could mean mixing white beans with your pasta or switching to chickpea pasta or lentil pasta, adds Auguste.

For some people, treatment may also be needed to lower cholesterol. As mentioned, genetics plays a major role in your cholesterol levels, and changing your diet will only have a bigger impact

Although many people complain about the side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins, Avenatti emphasizes that there are other medical options available. If you’ve been prescribed medication for high cholesterol and aren’t taking it or don’t like the effects, Avenatti says you should go to your doctor and ask why they prescribed the medication and ask about alternatives.

Overall, living a heart-healthy lifestyle supplemented with exercise, nutritious food, adequate sleep, and medication management (if necessary) is important.

Avenatti recommends the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8 guidelines to help keep your heart healthy. These guidelines incorporate a range of healthy lifestyle interventions, including diet, sleep, exercise, smoking cessation, and more.

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