What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your body and in animal products like meat, eggs and dairy. It plays important roles in the production of hormones, vitamin D and the bile necessary for digesting fats.
Cholesterol is an essential component of every cell in your body, giving cell membranes strength and flexibility. Your liver produces all of the cholesterol that your body needs to function, but cholesterol can also be introduced through the consumption of animal products.
Since cholesterol doesn’t mix well with liquids (blood), it’s transported by particles called lipoproteins, including low-density (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL (“bad cholesterol”) is when the plaque builds up in the arteries, while HDL (“good cholesterol”) helps excrete excess cholesterol from your body. When you consume extra cholesterol, your body compensates by reducing the amount of cholesterol that it naturally makes. Only about 25% of cholesterol in your system comes from dietary sources. The rest is produced by your liver.
7 Healthy Foods That Are High in Cholesterol and Incredibly Nutritious
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. They also happen to be high in cholesterol, with 1 large egg delivering 211 mg of cholesterol, or 70% of the RDI. Research shows that eggs don’t negatively impact cholesterol levels and that eating whole eggs can lead to increases in heart-protective HDL.
Aside from being rich in cholesterol, eggs are an excellent source of highly absorbable protein and loaded with beneficial nutrients like B vitamins, selenium and vitamin A. Research has shown that eating 1 – 3 eggs per day is perfectly safe for healthy people.
A 1 oz. serving of cheese provides 27 mg of cholesterol, or about 9% of the RDI.
Although cheese is often associated with increased cholesterol, several studies have shown that full-fat cheese does not negatively impact cholesterol levels.
Different types of cheese vary in nutritional content, but most cheeses provide a good amount of calcium, protein, B vitamins and vitamin A. Since cheese is high in calories, stick to the recommended serving size of 1–2 oz. at a time to keep portions in check.
Shellfish — including clams, crab and shrimp — are an excellent source of protein, B vitamins, iron and selenium.
Populations that consume more seafood have demonstratively lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
4. Pasture-Raised Steak
Pasture-raised steak is packed with protein, as well as important vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, zinc, selenium and iron.
It’s lower in cholesterol than feedlot beef and contains significantly more omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
5. Organ Meats
Cholesterol-rich organ meats, such as: heart, kidney and liver, are highly nutritious.
Sardines are not only loaded with nutrients but also a tasty and convenient protein source that can be added to a wide variety of dishes. What’s more, sardines are an excellent source of iron, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, magnesium and vitamin E.
7. Full-Fat Yogurt
Full-fat yogurt is a cholesterol-rich food packed with nutrients like protein, calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium.
Recent research shows that increased consumption of full-fat fermented dairy products is associated with reductions in “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as lower risks of stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
Plus, fermented dairy products like yogurt benefit intestinal health by positively impacting friendly gut bacteria.
4 high-cholesterol foods that can negatively impact your health
1. Fried Foods
Fried foods are high in cholesterol and should be avoided because they’re loaded with calories and can contain trans fats, which increase heart disease risk and are detrimental to your health in many other ways. Plus, high consumption of fried foods has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
2. Fast Food
Fast food consumption is a major risk factor for numerous chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Eating less processed food and cooking more meals at home is associated with lower body weight, less body fat and reductions in heart disease risk factors like high LDL cholesterol.
3. Processed Meats
Processed meats, such as: sausages, bacon and hot dogs, are high-cholesterol foods that should be limited. High consumption of processed meats has been linked to increased rates of heart disease and certain cancers like colon cancer.
Cookies, ice cream, pastries and other sweets are unhealthy foods that tend to be high in cholesterol, as well as added sugars, unhealthy fats and calories. Frequently indulging in these foods can negatively impact overall health and lead to weight gain over time.
Research has linked added sugar intake to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cognitive decline and certain cancers. Plus, these foods are often devoid of vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats, the nutrients your body needs to thrive.