High Cholesterol Foods

Seems like high cholesterol foods have been under attack from the medical community for decades.

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Are you eating too many high cholesterol foods like this?

Now scientists are re-thinking that strategy, turning their attention from food that contains cholesterol to foods that cause high cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.

High Cholesterol Foods Defined

High cholesterol foods can mean one of two things…

  • Foods that contain high levels of cholesterol
  • Foods that causes the formation and accumulation of high cholesterol levels in the bloodstream

Scientists have been trying to establish a clear link between eating foods high in cholesterol and the risk for heart disease; the road to understanding has been a long one and scientists are still unraveling the mysterious relationship between atherosclerosis and cholesterol.

Early Cholesterol Research

Researcher Adolf Windaus was the first to focus on cholesterol, beginning his research around 1903. Windaus demonstrated that the plaque inside human arteries contained high levels of cholesterol.

This discovery caused doctors to issue a blanket statement recommending patients avoid eating all food containing cholesterol. Food scientists scrambled to offer alternatives to natural foods containing cholesterol, including replacing butter with margarine and the development of trans fats.

In 1950, University of California at Berkeley biophysicist John Gofman was the first to realize there were different types of cholesterol in the bloodstream, and that each had its own role in how the cholesterol in the foods you eat accumulate inside your arteries. In the 60 years since then, scientists are still investigating exactly how the food you eat increases your risk for heart disease.

How Cholesterol Moves Around Your Body

Your liver produces most of the cholesterol in your body. You get the rest through the food you eat. Cholesterol is important to cell membrane structure, metabolism of vitamins A, D, E and K, production of digestive enzymes and the manufacture of certain hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. Cholesterol moves around your body through the bloodstream. This system works well except for one thing … cholesterol is a lipid, which is an oily, wax-like substance that does not dissolve in the watery plasma of blood.

The body overcomes this by packaging lipids onto special proteins to create lipoproteins. Lipoproteins come in a variety of sizes and densities, and various lipoproteins carry out different jobs in the body. Low-density lipoproteins, or LDLs, carry cholesterol from your gut to the awaiting cells. If no cells need the cholesterol, LDL just dumps it along the walls of arteries. There, excess cholesterol accumulates, injures arterial walls and prevents blood from flowing to vital organs like the brain and heart.

High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, scrapes cholesterol from arterial walls and deliver it back to the liver where it is processed and recycled or eliminated from the body. High levels of HDL work to offset and negate LDL levels and improve heart health.

All animal products contain cholesterol but some of these natural foods do not raise LDL cholesterol. Some animal products actually lower LDL and raise HDL, including some types of fish containing omega-3 fatty acids. Scientists are now investigating how some foods that do not contain cholesterol actually raise cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.

Foods That Cause High Cholesterol

While whole foods made from animal products contain high cholesterol, other foods raise cholesterol levels in the bloodstream and increase the risk for heart disease. Foods that cause high cholesterol can lurk unmarked in the grocer's aisle. Certain ingredients, such as trans fat and processed sugar, do not contain cholesterol but act in a way that raises cholesterol levels.

Food manufacturers create trans fat by injecting hydrogen into vegetable oil under pressure. Trans fats extend a product's shelf life and improve food texture. You can find trans fats in cookies, cakes, donuts and fries.

Processed sugar raises blood cholesterol indirectly by producing weight gain. Scientists have confirmed a strong link between obesity and high cholesterol. Look for processed sugar in almost everything, from cookies and cakes to spaghetti sauce and soda pop.

Foods with high glycemic values increase blood cholesterol levels indirectly. Consuming carbohydrates makes blood sugar levels increase, which in turn leads to obesity and high cholesterol. Certain foods cause more of a spike in blood sugar levels than do others.

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. For example, a regular serving of carrots has a 35 glycemic index rating. Meanwhile, a french bread baguette has a much higher rating of 95. So what happens is that the baguette is going to cause your blood glucose levels to spike more rapidly and then stay higher longer as compared to the carrots.

High Cholesterol Foods List

It can be intimidating to understand what foods are high in cholesterol and which ones cause the development of cholesterol, so it may be helpful to create a list of high cholesterol foods to avoid.

Animals manufacture cholesterol in their liver; all animal products contain cholesterol. Whole foods containing natural dietary cholesterol that might be on a normal high cholesterol foods list include…

  • Beef liver
  • Cheese
  • Chicken giblets
  • Duck
  • Egg yolks
  • Sardines
  • Shrimp
  • Turkey giblets

But again, to emphasize … while these foods contain cholesterol, for most people, eating them does not create a cholesterol problem in the bloodstream that leads to atherosclerosis or heart problems.

Meanwhile, highly processed and sugar-sweetened foods that are high on the glycemic index, raise blood sugar and increase cholesterol levels indirectly are what lead to the plaque build-up you want to avoid. Some examples of processed foods that raise cholesterol levels:

  • Stick or tub margarine
  • Cake mix
  • Ramen noodles and soup cups
  • Fast food
  • Frozen food
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages

Choosing healthy food makes a difference but it is also important to prepare food in a healthful manner if you want to lower cholesterol naturally. Avoid adding sweeteners (including artificial) to otherwise healthy foods. Stay away from breaded, battered and deep fried food, choosing instead skinless meats that are roasted, stewed or baked.

For more on high cholesterol foods and simple, easy-to-implement tips that really make a difference, signup for our daily tips below. Your arteries and heart will sure be glad you did.


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