Foods That Cause High Cholesterol

Medical scientists are now investigating particular foods that cause high cholesterol, rather than deeming all foods that contain cholesterol as being bad or unhealthy. It seems maintaining a healthy balance is the key.

Food of the Devil--with frosting!

Foods that cause high cholesterol include rich desserts like this cake.

Scientists are still working to establish the link between whole foods that naturally contain cholesterol and heart disease. While early researchers thought that eggs, meat and dairy caused unhealthy cholesterol levels, new research is pointing to entirely different conclusions.

While some whole foods naturally contain high amounts of cholesterol, such as eggs, other cholesterol-free foods may still cause cholesterol to form and accumulate in your arteries. Some of the more famous culprits include foods high in carbohydrates and sugar. This is even though their labels may claim they are a low cholesterol food or that they contain no cholesterol at all.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance, or lipid, that does not dissolve into water so it cannot travel through the bloodstream by itself. Cholesterol moves through the body by hitching a ride on special proteins, creating a lipoprotein. These lipoproteins can be quite small and dense, known as high-density lipoproteins or HDLs.

HDL is considered "good" cholesterol because it scrapes excess cholesterol from arterial walls and transports it to the liver for disposal. At a minimum, doctors like to see HDL levels above 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women.

The lipoproteins may also be LDLs, or low-density lipoproteins. LDL carries cholesterol in the bloodstream from the gut to whatever body part needs it. Excess cholesterol may be deposited along artery walls. Doctors generally describe LDL as "bad" because it introduces more cholesterol into the blood stream. Doctors consider LDL levels above 160 mg/dL as high.

The most current medical data suggests the actual LDL and HDL levels are not nearly as important as the ratio between the two numbers. Anyone can calculate his ratio by dividing the LDL into HDL.

For example, someone with an LDL of 150 and an HDL of 45 has a ratio of 3.33. What you need to know is that anything at 3.33 or higher is where we see a significant increase in cardiovascular disease. New research recommends an LDL/HDL ratio of 2.5 or lower.

It should be noted here that you may also see this ratio stated as the inverse … or HDL divided by LDL. It's the same ratio just stated a different way. If that's the case, you want your HDL/LDL ratio to be at least 0.40 or higher to reduce your heart risk. Regardless of how the ratio is stated, you want more HDL per LDL.

Foods That Cause High Cholesterol

Some foods disrupt the body's natural cholesterol balance between LDL and HDL cholesterol. Trans fats, for example, reduce HDL and increase LDL, disturbing the healthy ratio.

Trans fat is the common name for unsaturated fat with trans-isomer fatty acids. Trans fats can be natural or man-made. However, the natural ones found in foods like beef and dairy products contain small amounts of trans fats that are entirely different and nowhere near the threat of the man-made, artificial trans fats.

In fact, many believe natural trans fats have some health benefits, while there is no safe amount of man-made trans fats consumption in your diet.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center…

About 80 percent of the trans fat in the typical American diet comes from factory-produced food that contains partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Food manufacturers create trans fats by pumping hydrogen into vegetable oil under pressure. The result is a stiff, consistent stabilizer that gives food a palatable flavor and texture. Foods containing trans fats include:

  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Icing
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Chips
  • Margarine

Sugar and Cholesterol

The consumption of refined sugar raises cholesterol indirectly. Added sugar provides empty calories that lead to weight gain, and carrying excess body weight can increase cholesterol levels.

Refined sugar contains almost no vitamins or minerals, yet the typical American gets 18.6 percent of his energy from sugar. Most people consume this sugar by adding it to snack foods that usually contain high levels of trans fat and other unhealthy substances. This means folks are getting more than one-fifth of their energy from unhealthy snacks rather than from nutritious food packed with vitamins and minerals.

Do Carbohydrates Cause High Cholesterol?

Foods containing large amounts of carbohydrates raise cholesterol levels indirectly by causing high blood sugar levels. The glycemic index is a numerical system that rates food according to how much of a rise in blood sugar the carbohydrate triggers: the higher the number, the greater the rise in blood sugar and the more it affects your body.

A serving of carrots, for example, has a glycemic index of 35 while a plain white baguette sports a stunning glycemic index of 95. The baguette will cause your blood glucose levels to rise more rapidly and stay higher than will a serving of carrots.

It can be hard to spot foods that cause high cholesterol, even when you read the nutrition labels.

High cholesterol foods can hide as easily in the health food aisle as they can in a candy wrapper. And who could have guessed that salad dressing is often just cholesterol in a creamy disguise?

Avoid accidental consumption by creating a high cholesterol foods list. Keep this list in your purse or wallet and use it to review your selections while you stand in line at the grocery store. Learn how to avoid the foods that cause high cholesterol to keep your heart beating happily for years to come. To get a start on creating this list, you might want to signup for our daily tips below to find out some surprising foods you might not have considered.

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