Foods to Limit or Avoid on a Low-Cholesterol Diet

Cholesteral
Still Images Collection/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

If you're just starting a low-cholesterol diet, it's helpful to refer to a list of high-cholesterol and high-saturated fat foods to avoid and limit. Remember, it's never too late to adopt healthier eating habits.

Why Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Should Be Limited

Diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol can contribute to high total cholesterol and a high low-density lipoprotein (LDL—the "bad" cholesterol) level in the body, increasing your risk for coronary artery disease caused by atherosclerosis, which is plaque build-up in the arteries.

Here's a list of foods that are high in cholesterol or saturated fat that you need to limit or avoid:

Eggs and Meat

  • Limit whole eggs since the yolk is what contains the cholesterol and saturated fats. Use egg whites or egg substitute for recipes calling for more than one whole egg. Note that you don't have to eliminate eggs entirely, particularly egg whites, which are high in protein.
  • Limit high-fat cuts of beef like top loin, T-bone, tenderloin, porterhouse, brisket, rib-eye, and flank steak. Choose meats labeled "choice," "select," and "lean."
  • Avoid so-called "organ" meats such as liver and sweetbreads, which have as much as 375 mg of cholesterol per 3-ounce serving.
  • Limit processed and luncheon meats such as bologna, ham, hot dogs, sausage, and packaged lunch meats. They're high in saturated fats and sodium.
  • Avoid duck and goose, though note that lean, skinless breast or leg are lower-fat choices. Avoid frying anything in duck or goose fat.

    Dairy

    • Limit your intake of whole-fat dairy products such as butter and whole milk, as well as 2 percent fat dairy products, such as yogurt and cheeses.
    • If you are used to drinking whole milk or using full-fat dairy products, try switching to low-fat or 1 percent milk and dairy products. Once you feel comfortable with low-fat or 1 percent, try skim milk and non-fat dairy products.

      Oils

      • Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet. Check the food labels of packaged foods for the terms "hydrogenated" or "partially-hydrogenated oil." If these terms appear as one of the first five ingredients, it would be advisable to avoid or limit those products.

      Sides

      • Limit French fries and other fried dishes made with partially hydrogenated or saturated fats. Try baked sweet potato fries or fruit for a healthier alternative.

      Desserts

      • Limit cakes, cookies, crackers, pastries, pies, muffins, and doughnuts, especially those made with partially hydrogenated or saturated fats. When baking at home, consider low-fat recipes to make your desserts more cholesterol-friendly.

      A Low-Cholesterol Diet Can Be Creative

      Keep in mind that your new cholesterol-friendly diet doesn't have to be as restricted as you might have expected it to be. Although it does involve limiting or avoiding the foods listed above, there are plenty of new foods and recipes to add in as well. You can change up old favorite recipes by substituting more heart-healthy choices and find creative ways to prepare new foods you may not have tried before that help lower cholesterol, such as black, navy, or kidney beans, eggplant, okra, oats, soy, and fatty fish.

      Sources:

      Harvard Heart Letter. 11 Foods That Lower Cholesterol. Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. Updated August 12, 2017.

      Heart and Vascular Team. How Many Eggs Can You Eat to Stay Heart-Healthy? Cleveland Clinic. Published January 23, 2015.

      Continue Reading