The only 4 cholesterol foods you should avoid

Which is worse for your heart: an egg or a hot dog?  

Notice I didn’t ask which is higher in cholesterol. Because the answer to that question is the egg with 187 milligrams or about 60 percent of the recommended daily allowance. But although hot dogs have less overall cholesterol (about 40 mg), they’re still way worse for your heart.

Protein-rich eggs are full of B vitamins and iron while relatively low in calories and saturated fat, making them an OK choice to include in moderation in a primarily plant-based diet.

So, since the amount of cholesterol in a food doesn’t always correlate with raising your cholesterol, which high cholesterol foods are the worst culprits for elevating bad cholesterol levels?

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The list is not surprising

You want to steer clear of foods high in cholesterol AND saturated and/or trans fat. It’s the fat type that’s the bigger issue.  

So, if you want to eat better for your heart and lower your bad cholesterol, eliminate (or drastically limit) these foods:

  • Red meat. Yep, that includes burgers, ribs, steak, pork chops. If you don’t want to cut out red meat altogether, focus on small amounts of lean meat (and by small, I’m talking portion size — 3 ounces) and eat red meat once per week at most. BETTER CHOICE: Think fish and shellfish. Shrimp may be high in cholesterol but so long as you don’t douse it with butter it’ll supply you with plenty of protein while leaving your blood cholesterol alone. Although meat alternatives exist, I’m generally skeptical of engineered foods. To me, plants were never meant to bleed. By the way, poultry also contains saturated fat — so avoiding red meat does not necessarily mean you should just load up on chicken. 
  • Anything fried. Frying ups the calorie count of foods, and what gets soaked up by the foods in the process is often saturated or trans fat and cholesterol. BETTER CHOICE: Bake potatoes, kale, broccoli to a crisp when you’re craving crunch — or invest in an air fryer, which uses much less fat. 
  • Processed meat: The World Health Organization has classified bacon, hot dogs and salami as carcinogens. And processed meat is loaded in sodium and saturated fat. BETTER CHOICE: Fake bacon is unlikely to satisfy your cravings for a BLT. My advice? Cut way back on these products and make them special occasion treats.
  • Baked goods: Unfortunately, cookies, cakes and pastries usually contain butter or shortening, so they’re also high in saturated fat and cholesterol. (Not to mention sugar, which is also a big culprit of high cholesterol). Mass-produced baked goods can be especially calorie dense and nutrient poor and contain outsize amounts of fat, especially trans fat, and sugar.  BETTER CHOICE: Bake at home, and control the amount and type of fat and sugar you use. You can even cook and bake with your favorite Step One Foods products!

Keep in mind that avoiding these foods will come naturally if you just follow my favorite dietary advice: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!

Dr. Elizabeth Klodas MD, FACC

By Dr. Elizabeth Klodas MD, FACC

"Diet is a major driver of high cholesterol, but instead of changing the food, we prescribe medications. This never seemed logical to me.” Dr. Klodas has dedicated her career to preventive cardiology. Trained at Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins, she is the founder and Chief Medical Officer for Step One Foods. Dr. Klodas is a nationally sought out speaker and has an active role at the American College of Cardiology. Her clinical interests include prevention of heart disease and non-invasive cardiac imaging and she has published dozens of scientific articles throughout her career. Dr. Klodas has been featured on CNN Health for her mission to change how heart disease is treated. An independent study performed at leading medical institutions affirmed the ability of Step One Foods to deliver measurable and meaningful cholesterol-reduction benefits in the real world. The results of the trial were presented at the 2018 American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. Dr. Klodas has also authored a book for patients, "Slay the Giant: The Power of Prevention in Defeating Heart Disease," and served as founding Editor-in-Chief of the patient education effort of the American College of Cardiology. In addition to her practice and her duties at Step One Foods, she also serves as medical editor for webMD.