Following a high-protein diet can lead to high cholesterol if you consume the wrong types of protein foods. However, you don't have to eat all animal protein while following this type of diet. Many varieties of plant foods provide high amounts of protein. Talk with your physician before you make drastic changes in your diet to ensure you are healthy enough for a new diet plan.
Protein in the Diet
Between 10 percent and 35 percent of your total daily calories should come from protein for a healthy balanced diet, reports the McKinley Health Center. Protein provides 4 calories per gram. If you consume about 2,000 calories per day, 200 to 700 calories should come from protein. This is equivalent to 50 to 175 g of protein daily. High-protein diets encourage you to consume the higher end of the recommended intake, and sometimes more.
Types of Cholesterol
Your body needs some cholesterol to give structure to cell walls and produce certain hormones; however, your liver produces all the cholesterol you need. Having high cholesterol or consuming large amounts of foods high in cholesterol can increase your risk for heart disease. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol, is the bad cholesterol that clogs arteries when it builds up. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol, is the good cholesterol that helps transport LDL to the liver, where it is broken down. For optimal heart health, your total cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dL, LDL should be below 100 mg/dL and HDL should stay above 60 mg/dL.
Fats in a High-Protein Diet
Following a high-protein diet may mean that you consume a large amount of unhealthy fats. High-protein foods such as beef, eggs, dairy and poultry contain saturated and transfats. Both of these fats are harmful and can raise your cholesterol levels, but transfats are especially bad for your health. Transfats not only raise your bad LDL cholesterol, but also lower your good HDL cholesterol, thus increasing your risk for heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Saturated fat should not make up more than 10 percent of your total calories, and transfat should be limited to 1 percent. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, you can have a maximum of 22 g of saturated fat and 2 g of transfat per day.
Healthy Protein Sources
Avoid consuming too much unhealthy fat by filling your high-protein diet with healthy, lean protein foods. While poultry does contain some saturated and transfats, eating chicken breast or light turkey meat limits your intake of these bad fats. Replace whole eggs with egg whites, and switch to a low-fat milk. Plant-based proteins are naturally free of saturated and transfats, so fill up on beans, lentils, tofu and whole grains to get the protein you need without all of the excessive fat. Making these few simple changes can help you avoid skyrocketing cholesterol levels from your high-protein diet.