9 Surprising Foods That May Raise Your Cholesterol
9 Surprising Foods That Do Increase Cholesterol
- 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 it's not without fat."
- Added sugars (such as table sugar or high fructose corn syrup). One of the biggest surprises is that added sugars in processed and prepared foods are associated with decreased HDL levels. A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in April 2010 found an association between added sugars and blood lipid levels and discovered adults averaged 21 teaspoons of added sugars daily. "Increased added sugars are associated with blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk," says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, author of Guide to Better Digestion. Everyone would benefit by reducing the amount of added sugars in the diet because they can also lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes, Bonci says. The AHA recommends getting no more than 100 calories from added sugars on a 2,000 calories-per-day diet.
- Mashed potatoes. "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 American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Marissa Moore, MBA, RD. Order a plain baked potato and top it with vegetables, salsa, or low-fat sour cream. Another option: Enjoy the natural sweetness of a vitamin A-rich plain baked sweet potato.
- Pizza. Just one slice of plain pizza has 10 grams of fat and 4.4 grams of saturated fat -- and we all know that one slice without any pepperoni is not the usual order. Stick to one slice 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 and author Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD. For example, one cup of Fage Total Plain Classic Greek yogurt has 18g saturated fat, but if you choose their 0% variety, it has no fat. 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.
- Plant foods from the tropics. Coconut, coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, and cocoa butter all sound healthy but they are the only plant foods that contain saturated fat, says Connie Diekman, Med, RD, Washington University nutrition director. "Read labels for these terms and enjoy them in small doses so they won't sabotage your cholesterol level," she says. Karmally calls pina coladas "heart attack in a glass -- there are 602 calories and 20 grams saturated fat in a 12-ounce glass." And Moore says, "Don't forget about chocolate, when eaten in excess can lead to increased cholesterol levels."
- Ghee (clarified butter). In India, ghee is associated with healthful eating and honoring your guests but it is very high in saturated fat, just like butter, says Karmally. "It is also high in palmitic acid which is artery clogging." Use heart healthy olive oil or a trans fat-free margarine instead of ghee.
- 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 is 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. Regal Cinema's medium-sized popcorn has a whopping 60 grams of saturated fat and 1,200 calories. Why? Because it is popped in fats, then topped off with more fat, earning it a spot on foods that can wreck your cholesterol level. Shave the fat and calories by skipping the buttery topping and opt for a smaller portion.
Read the Label
Reading food labels can help you avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats. To limit trans fat, avoid fried foods, foods with vegetable shortening, margarine, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
When reading labels, keep these numbers in mind: Saturated fat should not exceed 7% of calories and trans fats less than 1%, according to the AHA. That's less than 16 grams saturated fat and 2 grams trans fat on a 2,000-calorie diet.