Find Out Which Foods Cause High Cholesterol (and What to Eat Instead)

It's easy to eat your way to an alarmingly high cholesterol level. However, it's also easy to make adjustments to your diet for a healthier heart to prevent issues from arising down the line. We know the word "diet" can be a turnoff for those of us who don't like to put restrictions on our eating habits, but the good news is that there are plenty of delicious options if you know where to find them. But first, let's go through the list of foods that cause high cholesterol to get the tough part out of the way.

Foods such as full-fat dairy products, beef, chicken with the skin left on, and egg yolks are all high in cholesterol. Eating processed grains, which have a higher glycemic index than unrefined carbs, is also associated with higher cholesterol levels. Eating for a healthier cardiovascular system is by no means a zero-tolerance policy, though. In other words, you can eat the aforementioned high-cholesterol foods in moderation if they come from organic farms and aren't prepared with loads of saturated fats or tossed in a fryer.

So while we wouldn't recommend you go down a gallon of egg yolks for an afternoon snack, it's okay to eat an egg for breakfast—just don't overdo it with over high-cholesterol foods throughout the day. Now that you know what to avoid, let's head to the kitchen, and start whipping up some healthy options. Scroll through the list of six low-cholesterol recipes for a satisfied post-meal glow.

For a Hearty Breakfast:

Earl Grey Chia Seed Oatmeal

Half Baked Harvest

Earl Grey tea and oatmeal is a breakfast duo that's pretty impossible to beat both flavor-wise and in terms of filling you up with healthy nutrients. Oats are a much better breakfast option when you've been indulging in too many eggs because they're packed with soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol. It's also extremely easy to make, so it'll be a busy weekday staple. Add some nuts for a crunch, and blueberries and a hint of vanilla extract if you want to sweeten things up.

For a Light Lunch:

Citrus Ginger Avocado and Edamame Salad

Healthy Lunch Ideas
The First Mess

This citrus ginger and black sesame–dressed salad from The First Mess is a perfect meal to enjoy if you're looking for a light lunch that's easy on your cholesterol. It's full of avocado, which is rich in healthy fats that can lower cholesterol levels, as well as edamame, which contain heart-healthy omega-3s. It's the perfect vegetarian-friendly lunch, or simply enjoy it as a side dish to go alongside your meal.

For a Filling Lunch:

Turkey Meatballs With Brown Rice

Healthy Meal
From the Kitchen

Quinoa and brown rice are a great alternative to processed grains like pasta or white rice. From the Kitchen brings us this brown rice bowl with meatballs that will satisfy a meat lover's craving. We recommend using lean turkey to prepare the meatballs instead of beef for lower cholesterol levels, but in moderation, it's okay to indulge every once in a while. Add citrusy slaw, filling brown rice, delicious meatballs, and a flavorful peanut sauce to top it all off.

For a Snack:

Blueberry Flaxseed Smoothie

Flaxseed Benefits
The Minimalist Baker

If you find yourself getting hungry between meals, a protein-packed smoothie is a great way to satisfy your hunger and your taste buds. This blueberry, banana, and almond butter smoothie from the Minimalist Baker is the way to go. This recipe also calls for flax seed and chia seeds, which are particularly great for cholesterol.

For a Pescetarian Dinner:

Roasted Salmon Stacked with Veggies

Fish Recipes
Spoon Fork Bacon

This salmon fillet from Spoon Fork Bacon is almost too pretty to eat. Who are we kidding? We're obviously going to eat it. Salmon is an amazing source of omega-3, which as we've mentioned, are essential for healthy cholesterol levels. And then it's stacked high with fennel, lemon, cherry tomatoes, radishes, and a dash of olive oil, which is also always a better option for heart-healthy cooking.

For a Meaty Dinner Option:

Minced Meat Lettuce Cups

Healthy Dinner Ideas
From the Kitchen

Instead of going for a hamburger or steak sandwich, opt for some lettuce cups; they taste just as good as burgers while it's pretty much the equivalent of eating a salad. The only difference is that you'll be tricking yourself into enjoying it more if you're craving a dinner that's heartier than a salad. This From the Kitchen recipe calls for pork, but you can always opt for a leaner meat, like chicken, or even a vegetarian-friendly filling if you're cooking for lower cholesterol.

For more heart-conscious cooking ideas, check out a nutritionist's guide to eating for cardiovascular health.

Article Sources
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  1. 11 Foods that Lower Cholesterol. Harvard Health Publishing. February 6, 2019

  2. Heart Healthy Eating to Help Lower Cholesterol Levels. Cleveland Clinic. February 16, 2018

  3. Feng R, Du S, Chen Y, et al. High Carbohydrate Intake from Starchy Foods is Positively Associated with Metabolic Disorders: A Cohort Study from a Chinese PopulationSci Rep. 2015;5:16919. doi:10.1038/srep16919

  4. Średnicka-Tober D, Barański M, Seal C, et al. Composition Differences Between Organic and Conventional Meat: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-AnalysisBr J Nutr. 2016;115(6):994-1011. doi:10.1017/S0007114515005073

  5. Why Avocados Are a Healthy — and Delicious — Addition to Your Diet. Cleveland Clinic. September 15, 2020.

  6. Kristensen M, Jensen MG, Aarestrup J, et al. Flaxseed Dietary Fibers Lower Cholesterol and Increase Fecal Fat Excretion, but Magnitude of Effect Depends on Food TypeNutr Metab (Lond). 2012;9(1):8. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-9-8

  7. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Cleveland Clinic. January 2, 2019

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