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9 Surprising Foods That May Raise Your Cholesterol

What you eat affects your cholesterol levels. You probably already know you shouldn't overdo butter or high-fat meats. But some of the foods that you should limit may surprise you.

Ground Turkey

Even when ground turkey is labeled as 85% lean, it has 12.5 grams of fat in a 3-ounce portion, says Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, Georgia State University nutrition professor emerita. Her advice: Ground turkey breast can be a heart-healthy substitute for ground beef, but watch the portion size because of the fat. Choose ground meat -- whether it's turkey or beef -- that's at least 90% lean.

 

Added Sugars

Added sugars, such as table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, are linked to lower levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends getting no more than 100 calories (6 teaspoons) from added sugars per day for women and 150 calories (9 teaspoons) for men.

 

Mashed Potatoes

The potatoes aren't the problem -- it's the other ingredients. "Most mashed potatoes, especially at restaurants, include hefty portions of butter, cream, whole milk, sour cream, and/or cream cheese, turning a perfectly healthy potato into a saturated fat bomb," says nutrition consultant Marisa Moore, RD. Order a plain baked potato and top it with vegetables, salsa, or low-fat sour cream.

Pizza

It's delicious, but cheese and meat toppings add a lot of fat. Stick to one slice, go easy on the cheese, and top it with lots of high-fiber, filling vegetables.

 

Whole-Fat Dairy Products

"Dairy foods are nutrient-rich, loaded with calcium, protein, vitamins, and minerals. But if your choice is full-fat, you could be getting a hefty dose of saturated fat," says nutrition consultant Elizabeth Ward, RD. When you choose nonfat or low-fat, you get all the nutritional benefits without the extra calories or fat. If you love full-fat cheese, "portion control is the answer," Ward says.

Coconut Oil

Coconut, coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, and cocoa butter are plant foods that have saturated fat. "Read labels for these terms, and enjoy them in small doses so they won't sabotage your cholesterol level," says Washington University nutrition director Connie Diekman, RD.

Ghee (Clarified Butter)

Ghee is part of a traditional Indian diet, but it's very high in saturated fat. "It is also high in palmitic acid, which is artery-clogging," says Columbia University nutrition researcher Wahida Karmally, RD. If it works for your recipe, use olive oil or a trans fat-free margarine instead of ghee. If not, limit how much ghee you use.

Pie and Pastries

"Flaky crusts, streusel topping, custard filling, cheese-filled pastries -- these all promise a hefty dose of saturated fat, because they often include butter, shortening, cream, cream cheese, and/or whole milk," Moore says. It's the butter or shortening that makes the crust so nice and flaky. Choose fruit pies and eat mostly filling and only a few bites of the crust for a lower-fat and calorie treat.

 

Movie Theater Tub Popcorn

If it's popped in fats, then topped off with more fat, that's a problem. Shave the fat and calories by skipping the buttery topping, and opt for a smaller portion.

 

3 Cooking Tips

The way you prepare foods can also affect your cholesterol level.

Diekman shares three tips:

  1. Avoid fried foods.
  2. Remove extra fat from meats, and skin from poultry, before cooking.
  3. Use nonstick pans, cooking spray, or small amounts of vegetable oil when you're preparing food.
Reviewed on April 06, 2014

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Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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