Should we avoid high cholesterol foods? Since cholesterol can be found in the food we eat, as well as in the body, it’s easy to assume that foods reportedly high in cholesterol are bad for anyone on a cholesterol-lowering diet – but in fact, the foods to avoid to lower cholesterol in the blood are not necessarily high cholesterol foods.
Elevated cholesterol: Foods to avoid
In the past, foods containing cholesterol like eggs, shellfish (such as prawns, crab or lobster, but not molluscs), or organ meats (kidneys or liver, for example) were indeed thought to be the main source of cholesterol in the blood. Since elevated cholesterol is one of the risk factors of coronary heart disease, at the time it was often advised that people avoid these foods to help manage their cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy heart.
In recent years, however, it has become clear that high cholesterol foods have a far less significant impact on blood cholesterol levels than previously thought, meaning that the dietary advice from health authorities has changed as well.
So, what should you do to get a cholesterol friendly diet? First of all, there is evidence that exchanging saturated fat in your diet with unsaturated fat can help lower LDL-cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol associated with the risk of developing heart disease.* Foods to avoid eating in excess – and to replace with reduced fat or high in unsaturated fat alternatives – therefore include:
- Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, butter, and cream. You could replace these with reduced fat options, like skimmed milk or low fat cheeses, or with alternatives high in unsaturated fat, like a Flora ProActiv soft spread with added plant sterols and high in unsaturated fats.
- Meat and meat products, like beef, sausages, or burgers. When preparing cuts of meat, you can reduce the amount of saturated fat by cutting off the visible fat. When you buy products like sausages and burgers, check the label to find packs with less saturated fat.
- Prepared foods and baked desserts: e.g. pizza, pork pies, cakes, and biscuits. These foods can be hard to resist, but the ProActiv Simple Swaps page is here to help you find alternatives.
So are there any high cholesterol foods to avoid?
Eaten in moderation, eggs, shellfish, and offal could all potentially feature in a healthy diet. In fact, the NHS states no limit on the number of eggs you can eat in a week – but it’s still important to consider how your intake of eggs and other high cholesterol foods will fit in with a varied and balanced diet.
Another thing to consider is that while foods high in cholesterol may have less of an influence on your blood cholesterol level than those that are high in saturated fat, the way you prepare these foods could still have a significant impact.
As a general rule, cooking methods which require little to no cooking fat, such as poaching, boiling, baking, steaming, and grilling, can help you manage your overall fat intake while still enjoying high cholesterol foods. When frying (or using another cooking method that requires oil), choose a vegetable oil as an alternative to butter or oils that are high in saturated fat.
Find out more
We have plenty of resources here on the site to help you understand more about managing cholesterol through diet, from information on the causes of cholesterol to guides on how to create a low cholesterol diet plan. Or download our free Cholesterol Lowering Starter Kit here to start lowering your cholesterol today.
*High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease. There are many risk factors for coronary heart disease and it is important to take care of all of them to reduce the overall risk of it.