What Is Cholesterol?
Your liver makes a waxy substance called cholesterol. It helps your body build cells, protect your nerve cells, make vitamins, and produce hormones. Your body can also get cholesterol from animal-based foods like dairy, meat, and eggs.
There are two main types of cholesterol — high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
- LDL cholesterol is also called bad cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can negatively impact your health by increasing your risk of heart problems or stroke.
- HDL cholesterol is known as good cholesterol. It carries the bad cholesterol from your blood to the liver and gets rid of it. HDL cholesterol protects your body from health problems.
Why High Cholesterol Is Bad for You
Cholesterol flows through your blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol can form a buildup of plaque on the walls of your blood vessels. This blocks your blood vessels and prevents healthy blood circulation. It can affect your heart and increase your risk of heart problems or stroke.
LDL cholesterol levels can increase due to risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, or a high-fat diet. Your body contains fats known as triglycerides. High triglycerides with high LDL and low HDL cholesterol levels can increase the chances of plaque buildup in your blood vessels.
Also, eating foods with saturated fats can increase your blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are unhealthy fats that are solid at room temperature. These fats increase the levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol can result in blockages in blood vessels, heart problems, or stroke.
The American Heart Association suggests that only 5% to 6% of your calories should come from saturated fats in your diet.
10 Surprising Foods That May Raise Your Cholesterol
To maintain your cholesterol levels, you should reduce the amount of saturated fats in your diet. You may be surprised to find that many commonly eaten foods are high in saturated fats. They can increase your bad cholesterol levels, which can have negative health effects.
The following 10 foods are worst for cholesterol:
1. Chocolate and Chocolate Spreads
Commercially available chocolate spreads contain added sugar and a lot of saturated fats. Milk and white chocolate also have high levels of saturated fats. They are bad for cholesterol.
Don’t forget to check the label before you buy chocolates and chocolate spreads. Meanwhile, dark chocolate can be a better alternative to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Cheese is high in saturated fats, especially those made with whole milk. Though a small portion of cheese isn’t harmful, eating too much can increase your cholesterol levels.
3. Coconut Oil
Made up of almost 90% saturated fats, coconut oil can be worse than butter or lard. Coconut oil is known to increase both HDL and LDL levels. Too much coconut oil can be unhealthy for your heart.
More research is needed to study the effects of coconut oil on cholesterol levels. Until then, use coconut oil sparingly in your diet.
4. Liver and Offal
Offal or organ meats like the liver are great sources of nutrients, but their cholesterol content is extremely high. Beef liver and lamb liver, kidney, and heart have high levels of saturated fats and cholesterol.
If you’re trying to reduce your cholesterol, avoid eating liver or other offal.
5. Fried Fast Food
Deep-fried fast foods like french fries or fried chicken are loaded with saturated fats, salt, and high calories. They are bad for your cholesterol levels. Regular and high consumption of fried fast food can reduce your HDL cholesterol and increase LDL cholesterol levels. Limit your intake of fast food to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
6. Butter and Lard
Animal fats like butter and lard contain high amounts of saturated fat, which can increase your bad cholesterol levels.
Replace butter with healthy vegetable oils like olive oil.
7. Red Meat
Red meat like beef and lamb is high in saturated fats and cholesterol.
Choose lean meats like chicken or alternative protein sources if you’re trying to decrease your cholesterol levels.
8. Processed Meat
Processed meats like bacon or sausages are high in salts and fat. Canned, salted, smoked, dried, or cured meats are also high in saturated fats, which can increase your bad cholesterol levels.
Foods like salami, ham, corned beef, and beef jerky can be bad for you if you are trying to reduce your cholesterol.
Heavy cream made with whole milk is usually loaded with saturated fats. Commercially available whipped cream can also be bad for you. Along with high calories, it can give you high cholesterol levels.
10. Packaged Foods
Packaged snacks and sweets like chips, donuts, cakes, biscuits, and cookies have high levels of saturated fats and calories. If you eat a lot of these regularly, your cholesterol levels can increase drastically.
Foods That Lower Your Cholesterol
Instead of consuming high-fat and cholesterol-rich foods, try adding the following to your diet to maintain your cholesterol levels: