High Cholesterol: Effect of Food on Cholesterol
Food can affect the amounts of cholesterol in your blood. Some foods raise cholesterol. Other foods help lower cholesterol.
The table below lists different foods and drinks and how they affect your total cholesterol level, your HDL ("good") cholesterol, and your LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
Effects of different foods and drinks on your cholesterol
Found in these foods
Effect on your cholesterol level
- Red wine
- White wine
- Hard liquor
- Moderate consumption (up to 1 glass a day for a woman; 1–2 a day for a man) may raise your HDL. But doctors don't recommend starting to drink alcohol to raise your HDL.
- More than 2 drinks a day may raise triglyceride levels in people who are overweight or who have high triglyceride levels.
- Heavy drinking greatly increases risk of heart and liver damage, addiction, and other serious health problems.
- Egg yolks
- Poultry, especially skin
- Red meat, especially organ meats
- Dairy products that are not low-fat (1%) or nonfat
- Raises total blood cholesterol
- May combine with saturated fat to raise blood cholesterol
- Shrimp and crawfish have more cholesterol than fish but are still lower in total fat and saturated fat than most meats and poultry.
|Dietary fiber (soluble)|
- Dried beans (legumes)
- Citrus fruits
- Proven to reduce total cholesterol and LDL
Dietary fiber (insoluble)
- Whole wheat breads and cereals
- Does not affect cholesterol but promotes healthy bowel movement
- Fatty meats (beef, pork)
- Poultry skin
- Butterfat (in whole milk, cream, ice cream, cheese)
- Tropical oils (coconut, palm)
- Lowers LDL if substituted for saturated fat
- Keeps HDL up
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
- Sesame oil
- Corn oil
- Soybean oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Linoleic acid, found in these oils, can lower LDL if used in moderation.
- All fish, especially fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel
- Plant sources, such as walnuts, canola, and flaxseed oils
- Hydrogenated fats, margarine, vegetable shortening, nondairy creamer, and whipped toppings
- Snack foods (potato chips, cookies, cakes)
- Peanut butter that contains hydrogenated fat (except all-natural varieties)
- Raises LDL
- Little effect on HDL but at high levels can lower HDL
- Soy products such as tofu
- Lowers LDL by a small amount
- No effect on HDL
For information about a diet that helps lower cholesterol, see High Cholesterol: Using the TLC Diet.