Cholesterol, a waxy substance found in some foods and manufactured in the body, is necessary for the production of certain hormones, bile and vitamin D. Too much cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol, can lead to a buildup of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries and interfere with blood flow to the heart. According to the American Heart Association, dietary cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat all work to raise cholesterol levels in the body. High blood cholesterol levels increase the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that less than 10 percent of daily calories come from saturated fat, and that adults with healthy cholesterol levels consume no more than 300mg of dietary cholesterol per day.
Eggs and Oils
Egg yolks are the highest source of dietary cholesterol, and consuming oils high in saturated and trans fat, such as palm and coconut oils, can significantly increase blood cholesterol levels. Exchange egg yolks for egg whites or egg substitutes, and use olive or canola oil when cooking or preparing salad dressings.
Meat and Poultry
Meat and poultry are major sources of cholesterol, with a single serving containing as much as 70 milligrams of cholesterol. Organ meats -- heart, liver, brain -- are even higher in cholesterol and contain about 350 milligrams of cholesterol per serving. Removing the skin from poultry will reduce cholesterol intake, and replacing red meat with 6 ounces servings of white meat or fish will help keep cholesterol levels in check, according to the American Heart Association.
Dairy products, including cheese, ice cream,and milk, are one of the primary sources of saturated fat and cholesterol in the U.S. diet, according to Harvard School of Public Health. Just 1 tablespoon of butter contains 10 percent of the daily value for cholesterol, and 1 cup of whole milk provides as much as 12 percent of the daily value, according to the FDA. Opting for low fat milk and dairy products, choosing frozen yogurt over ice cream, and using butter sparingly when cooking and eating can all help reduce cholesterol intake.
Snack Foods and Processed Foods
Commercially prepared baked goods and processed foods are typically high in trans fat, which raise levels of LDL while decreasing levels of HDL, the good cholesterol. Harvard School of Public Health states that eliminating trans fat from the diet can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and death. The FDA states that a single doughnut contains 8 percent of the daily value of cholesterol.
- USDA: Dietary Sources of Cholesterol Listed in Decreasing Order
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good
- American Heart Association: Fat
- Center for Young Women's Health: The Importance of Dietary Fat and Cholesterol:
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Revealing Trans Fats
- Northwestern University: Nutrition Fact Sheet on Dietary Cholesterol