Some foods that cause high cholesterol include:
- Coconut oil
- Tortilla wraps
- Dairy products
- Certain meats
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that is produced in the liver and circulated in the bloodstream.
We are all born with cholesterol in our bodies and we need it to live a healthy and happy life.
Cholesterol is commonly divided into “good” and “bad” cholesterol. You can find out more about good and bad cholesterol here.
Let’s take an indepth look at 6 surprising foods that are said to cause high cholesterol.
- 1. Coconut oil
- 2. Tortilla wraps
- 3. Granola
- 4. Dairy products
- 5. Certain meats
- Is All Cholesterol Bad?
Coconut oil has been hailed as the new essential superfood or super oil in the last decade, promoted as the best alternative to add to cooking, coffee and even facemasks for a healthy glow.
Oils are generally categorized by the highest volume of fat they contain. Coconut oil contains saturated, monosaturated and polysaturated fatty acids.
As we outlined earlier, saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature.
Eating too much saturated fat is one of the leading causes of high cholesterol. Coconut oil contains 92% of saturated fat.
Saturated fats is fat that is solid at room temperature. Saturated fat can be found in meat, lard and dairy products. Saturated fat will increase the level of cholesterol in the blood, most notably LDL, which is also known as "bad cholesterol".
Unsaturated fat is fat that are liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fat can be found in plant based oils like olive oil. Unsaturated fat can also be found in peanut, rape, cotton seed, sunflower, and soybean oil. Unsaturated fat does not increase the level of cholesterol in the blood.
Tip: Although, coconut oil is most most commonly available to purchase in a solid form, when you use it in your cooking, try to imagine it as a liquid. That way, you will be better able to control your portion size and really savour the flavour of the oil. Coconut oil is not a "better alternative" to other options. It should be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
2. Tortilla wraps
For those who are trying to lower their cholesterol levels or lose weight, it might seem like flour tortillas are the obvious choice instead of doughy bread at lunchtime. Surprisingly, this is not the case!
While tortillas may seem like a smart swap for other carbohydrates, the average wrap contains upto 10% of your daily fat intake excluding the condiments and fillings.
There is also very little difference between a white and brown tortilla, other than food dye. If you're out enjoying some Mexican food, opt for corn tortillas which have a higher fiber content for healthy digestion.
Tip: Try not to buy into products that might be labelled as diet foods. The only way you can know more about your nutritional intake is by reading food labels and understanding what they mean. We recently talk you through how to read food labels when it comes to fats, and that article is not to be missed.
In one study it was found that a bowl of granola has a higher sugar content than a can of coke and a higher fat content than a small portion of McDonalds chips.
While granola may seem like an innocent diet food, or an alternative to the deserts you are trying to avoid, it is full of preservatives, preservatives which may make it delicious but deadly!
The same can be said for a host of energy and protein bars that hide refined sugars in carbohydrates and saturated fat under the general heading of fat.
Tip: If you want a healthy, balanced breakfast, go for some avocado (which is full of HDL, or “good cholesterol”) and eggs (just the whites if you are trying to lower your cholesterol levels.)
4. Dairy Products
There is a lot of fear mongering around dairy products in the media. Some have said that going dairy-free can cure digestion issues, combat acne and even lower your likelihood of receiving a cancer diagnosis. In truth, it really does just come down to personal and physiological preference.
Dairy should not be feared, milk, cheese, and yoghurts are rich in calcium which are essential for healthy bone development. However, you should bear in mind that 1 single cup of milk contains 5 grams of saturated fat, or 24 milligrams of cholesterol.
Tip: Swap lattes for americanos with a splash of milk instead to ensure that you're keeping your cholesterol in check. When it comes to cheese, keep it to a match box portion a day.
5. Certain Meats
Meat is a great source of energy dense protein, however depending on how it is cooked and whether or not it has skin, it may cause high cholesterol.
Avoid meats that have the skin on, such as chicken wings or crispy duck. Organ meats such as liver also contain high cholesterol content, in fact a mere 3oz of liver contains 419 milligrams of cholesterol, which is 140% of your daily recommended value.
Tip: Go for lean cuts of meat such as a breast of chicken as opposed to a leg or thigh of the chicken. Cut the fat off your portions of meat, take the skin off and try to have one or two vegetarian days a week if you want to lower your lipids!
Prawns or shrimp are high in omega 3 and 6, but they are also contain the highest cholesterol of any other shellfish. Objectively, fish and shellfish are very heart healthy but you should bear in mind that one cup of shrimp contains 323 milligrams of cholesterol which is 108% of your daily cholesterol intake.
Tip: If you are eating shellfish, try to go for steamed or baked versions to ensure get your essential healthy fats in the cleanest way possible.
Is All Cholesterol Bad?
Not all cholesterol is bad and dietary fat should not be feared, fat plays a very important role in your physiological function. While there may be many fear-mongering fat-free diets on the market, you should never consider cutting it from your diet, unless a certified medical professional has suggested you do so for health reasons.
Circulating cholesterol plays a very important role in your body. Fat provides the body with energy, supports cell growth, protects your organs, and insulates your body.
If you are underweight, cell growth is slowed, your immune system is weakened and you have an increased sensitivity to the cold among a whole other host of health issues.
If you are overweight, you are at risk of "over-insulating" the organs, as the arteries which carry blood to vital organs become clogged leading to an increased risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
If you are overweight or obese, you increase your risk of developing type two diabetes which is another leading cause of death in the U.S. right now.
Is all cholesterol bad?
No, we need cholesterol to function, we just need to be picky about the type of cholesterol that we want to be high in our blood stream.
You want to have a high level of “good cholesterol”, also known as HDL or high-density lipoprotein, and a low level of “bad cholesterol”, also known as LDL or low-density lipoprotein.
There are no symptoms when it comes to high cholesterol, and often the health conditions caused by high cholesterol can take years to become obvious to those who are living with it.
Whether you're trying to improve your cholesterol levels or you simply want to eat a little healthier, eating healthily does not have to be boring, be creative in the foods you want to incorporate into your daily meal routine.
Why not test your cholesterol levels today? With LetsGetChecked, you can test both your good and bad cholesterol levels and receive results in just one week.
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Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically Approved by Dr. Dominic Rowley