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Knowing that fried foods and saturated fats are bad for you doesn't require a medical degree, but understanding their role in raising cholesterol levels is a different story. While some cholesterol is necessary for hormone and vitamin D production, your body makes all that it needs to function. A diet rich in high-cholesterol foods can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries, which in turn increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
On the bright side, "A few simple tweaks to your diet … along with exercise and other heart-healthy habits might help you lower your cholesterol," writes the Mayo Clinic staff of this common health condition. Elsewhere, they continue, "Trans fat is considered by many doctors to be the worst type of fat you can eat. … It both raises your LDL ('bad') cholesterol and lowers your HDL ('good') cholesterol." The staff recommends avoiding the following five foods to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level:
Baked goods: Most cakes, cookies, pies, pie crusts, crackers, and some ready-made frosting contain shortening, which is "usually made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil."
Processed snacks: Culprits include potato chips, corn chips, tortilla chips, and microwaveable popcorn. Trans fats are often used in the cooking process to preserve the shelf life.
Fried food: French fries, doughnuts, and fried chicken can all contain trans fat from the oil used in the cooking process. Some restaurants use partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in their deep fryers because it doesn't need to be changed as often.
Refrigerator dough: Canned biscuits, cinnamon rolls, frozen pizza crusts, and the like often contain trans fats.
Creamer and margarine. Nondairy coffee creamer and stick margarines are another source of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
It's also worth noting that some meat and dairy products contain small amounts of naturally occuring trans fats. It's best to consume meats like corned beef, pastrami, ribs, steak, ground meat, hot dogs, sausage, and bacon, in moderation. If you're a true carnivore at heart, WedMD recommends swapping them with skinless chicken or turkey, lean beef, veal, pork, lamb, and fish.
For more, pick up this low-cholesterol cookbook with more than 500 heart-healthy recipes.