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3 Foods That Secretly Raise Your Cholesterol Over Time

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If a doctor has told you that you have high cholesterol, or you know that you are likely to develop high cholesterol in the future, knowing how best to monitor your body’s cholesterol levels can sometimes seem overwhelming. But managing your cholesterol levels is vital because over time, having high cholesterol can lead to other health problems.

“Cholesterol is a naturally occurring and essential substance in the body that is used to make cells and regular hormones, among other tasks,” he says. Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, and Balance One Supplements consultant. “However, too much cholesterol circulating in the body can be dangerous and puts a person at risk for heart disease and stroke.”

So what causes high cholesterol? Unfortunately, there are some unavoidable factors that can play a role in this, such as genetics and age. But research has found that lifestyle can also significantly affect your cholesterol levels.

“It is becoming more clear that genetics play a larger role in how the body processes cholesterol and a person’s risk of high cholesterol,” Best says. “Still, there are certain dietary habits that can worsen cholesterol or lead to high cholesterol.”

One of the most common myths or misconceptions about cholesterol and food is that what you should limit is foods high in cholesterol. However, dietary cholesterol actually has much less of an impact on your body’s cholesterol levels than previously thought. Research from the Mayo Clinic shows that diets high in saturated and trans fats have a greater effect on your cholesterol than the cholesterol found in food.

Check out 7 Ugly Side Effects of Eating Red Meat Every Day to learn more about certain foods that can secretly raise your cholesterol over time, and for healthier eating tips.

fried foods

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Eating fried foods regularly doesn’t just increase your fat and calorie intake; it can also lead to higher cholesterol over time.

“Fried foods contain more fat than if they were prepared differently. They often also contain heart-healthy trans fats,” says Best.

Try grilling or baking your meals to avoid the added fats often used in frying foods.

baked goods

Baked goods, especially prepackaged and processed ones, often contain many ingredients that can raise your cholesterol levels over time.

“These substances are at risk of raising cholesterol because of both their fat content and refined carbohydrates,” Best explains. “The type of carbohydrate used can increase triglycerides in the blood and cause inflammation in the body, which can ultimately put individuals at risk of artery damage and a greater chance of cholesterol buildup. Also, cooking oils such as butter or shortening used can raise blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels.”

It is very important to realize this combination of refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. According to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, one of the biggest factors in your blood cholesterol levels comes from a combination of unhealthy fats and carbohydrates, not the actual cholesterol in your food.

processed red meat

sausage and bacon breakfast
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Processed meats like sausages, deli meats, and bacon are known for being much higher in saturated fat and sodium than many other types of meat, making them particularly challenging for those watching their cholesterol levels.

According to a study published Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular DiseasesRegular consumption of processed meat was associated with a higher risk of higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Overall, research has historically shown that consistent intake of processed meats can negatively affect your heart health beyond raising your cholesterol levels. For example, a published 2021 report Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition They found that daily consumption of processed meat was associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

RELATED: The 4 Best Snacking Habits for Lowering Cholesterol

BONUS: Excessive alcohol use

Some studies have found that light alcohol consumption can benefit your heart health, but drinking alcohol regularly is also linked to potentially elevated cholesterol levels. Overall, heavy alcohol consumption is one of the main factors at increased risk of problems affecting cardiovascular health, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. When drinking alcohol, your entire diet and exercise routine, genetic and medical history, etc. It’s also important to consider other lifestyle factors, such as alcohol, to make sure you drink alcohol responsibly and in moderation.

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While consuming these food and beverage items as a one-time treat on special occasions will not immediately negatively affect your cholesterol, it is clear that long-term and consistent consumption of them can raise your cholesterol over time. However, watching and limiting the amount of fried foods, processed meats, processed baked goods, and alcohol you have each day can help keep your cholesterol levels healthy. Along with other healthy eating habits and regimens that help lead a healthy lifestyle—exercising regularly and following your doctor’s recommendations based on your specific health needs—can positively impact your cholesterol levels as well as your overall health.

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