Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in both developed and developing countries. High LDL cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations in conjunction with low HDL cholesterol concentrations increase a person’s risk for developing heart disease.
To have good heart health, you should consume cholesterol-lowering foods while also avoiding high-cholesterol foods that lead to inflammation and weight gain.
Research shows that increased body weight is associated with high cholesterol and increased risk for heart disease. Therefore, losing weight and cutting out foods that contribute to weight gain and inflammation can help you lower your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.
The truth is that not all high-cholesterol foods are bad for you. As a matter of fact, some can even increase HDL cholesterol levels and improve your heart health. To distinguish between high-cholesterol foods that you should avoid and high-cholesterol foods that you can still eat, the most important factor to look at is if they cause inflammation.
The foods that lead to weight gain and inflammation are the ones that you should eliminate from your diet in order to promote optimal cardiovascular health.
Here are 8 high-cholesterol categories of food to eliminate from your diet:
- Processed vegetable oils
Oils that contain trans fatty acids including canola, corn, safflower, soy and vegetable oils.
- Ultra-processed snacks
Studies show that 66 percent of calories (in the U.S.) comes from packaged foods and beverages with over 75 percent of these foods containing some form of added sugar. Avoid packaged potato chips, Cheetos, doughnuts, Pop-Tarts, and other unhealthy packaged foods.
- Packaged baked goods
This list includes cookies, snack cakes, muffins, pastries, and all packaged baked goods that contain added sugars.
- Sweetened beverages
Eliminate soda, juices with added sugar, and energy drinks which can lead to sugar addiction. Drinking 100% fruit juice is fine in small amounts.
- Processed meats
Limit consumption of processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, bologna, salami and hot dogs. In addition to being unhealthy, they are often high in sodium. Even those with “reduced fat” labels are high in calories and saturated fats.
Too much alcohol raises your blood pressure and triglyceride levels, while moderate alcohol consumption (up to five grams per day) may decrease your risk of heart disease. Therefore, consume alcoholic beverages in small amounts.
- Dairy products
Milk fat contains a broad range of fatty acids, and some have a negative impact on cholesterol-rich lipoproteins. The saturated fatty acids, such as lauric acid and myristic acid, increase total plasma cholesterol, especially LDL.
- Refined grains
A diet high in refined carbohydrate has a negative effect on your HDL cholesterol level. Foods like white bread, tortillas, bagels and pasta should be avoided.
Avoiding these high-cholesterol foods alone will not necessarily decrease your risk of developing heart disease. It’s also important to exercise 150 minutes per week, lose weight (if overweight) and quit smoking (if applicable). You should eat a healthy diet that includes:
- a variety of fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- low-fat dairy products
- skinless poultry and non-fried (omega-3 fatty acid rich fish
- nuts and legumes
- non-tropical vegetable oils
If you have a history of heart disease and/or high-cholesterol in your family, you should get your blood checked at your annual physical each year. Since there aren’t any symptoms for high-cholesterol, you will need to have a blood test to check your levels. However, even if you don’t have high-cholesterol levels, for your best overall health, you should avoid these type of foods.