Eggs and cheese may be fine if you have high cholesterol

Eggs and cheese may be fine if you have high cholesterol

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  • High cholesterol is linked to many health risks, including heart disease.
  • The ancient dietary advice about high cholesterol was to limit, if not avoid, certain food groups. However, research has not supported cutting out some foods that contain cholesterol when they are part of an overall heart-healthy diet.
  • If you’re trying to control your cholesterol level, you may not need to avoid foods like eggs and cheese.

Nearly 40% of people living in the United States have high cholesterol levels, which put them at risk of heart attacks and strokes.

If you’re trying to lower your cholesterol, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends focusing on two nutrients: saturated fats and trans fats.

The American Heart Association recommends keeping your saturated fat intake to no more than 6% of your total daily calories and eating as little trans fat as possible. However, the AHA’s dietary recommendations do not state that dietary cholesterol should be avoided.

It has long been thought that people with high cholesterol should avoid foods containing cholesterol, but this may not be the case. There has been insufficient research evidence to support the claim that dietary cholesterol raises levels of “bad” cholesterol.

In fact, 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Removed the recommendation to limit cholesterol intake in the diet to 300 mg/day.

However, there are some foods that get a bad reputation when it comes to cholesterol.

While your provider isn’t likely to say you can eat as many sweet or fried foods as you like, some foods you think you need to avoid to achieve healthy cholesterol levels may be fine in moderation.

Here are four foods you might be surprised to learn that you don’t necessarily have to stop eating if you want to follow a heart-healthy diet to manage your cholesterol.

What makes a diet “heart healthy?”

A heart-healthy diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts, and non-tropical vegetable oils (such as olive oil) and limits red and processed meat, sodium, and sugar-sweetened foods and drinks.

egg

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If you love omelets and focus on maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, you’ll be happy to know that you may not have to give up eggs to achieve this goal.

According to the AHA, “Healthy individuals may include up to a whole egg or its equivalent per day” as part of a heart-healthy dietary pattern.

The American Heart Association warns that people with high cholesterol still need to pay attention to their cholesterol intake.

However, a growing body of evidence suggests that eggs may be part of heart-healthy dietary patterns even in people at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

According to a 2022 study, eating whole eggs along with a vegan diet may be healthier than relying on egg substitutes. This is due to the positive effect on plasma lipids, antioxidant carotenoids and choline.

The study looked at 30 people with metabolic syndrome who were asked to follow a plant-based diet for 13 weeks.

Participants were randomly assigned to eat one of two breakfasts: spinach with two eggs or spinach with egg substitute. About halfway through the study, the groups switched to the other breakfast.

Eating an egg breakfast was associated with higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol compared to eating an egg substitute. The researchers saw no differences in levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar (glucose), insulin, or blood pressure levels.

When you’re preparing a meal with eggs, just be aware of other parts of the meal that may not support your cholesterol goals. For example, bacon and hollandaise sauce are rich in heart-unhealthy fats.

cheese

Accommodations / Pixels included


After years of nutrition guidelines advising people to limit dairy products and prefer low-fat or fat-free dairy products, we’re now learning that moderate consumption of full-fat dairy foods can be part of a healthy, nutritious eating pattern.

While it is true that many types of cheese contain saturated fat, cheese is also an excellent source of calcium, bioactive fats, and peptides — all of which support heart health.

Several studies have found that eating cheese is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke.

A 2017 study found that eating cheese instead of butter may reduce bad LDL cholesterol, even though both types of foods are a source of saturated fat.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans It is recommended that people include three servings of dairy products in their diet each day.

In moderation, a serving of cheese as dairy can be considered part of a heart-healthy diet, especially if it’s low in sodium (such as mozzarella).

beef

Jerry Chung/Pixels


Beef can range from very high in saturated fat to surprisingly fat.

Research has found that when people include appropriate portions of lean cuts of beef in their overall balanced diets, they do not appear to have negative effects on their heart health.

In a 2012 study, researchers found that people maintained healthy cholesterol levels while eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and beans, with lean beef as the primary source of protein.

These people ate 1-5.4 ounces (pre-cook weight) of lean beef daily. The portion provided less than 7% of your daily calories from saturated fat.

Other studies have shown that a Mediterranean-style diet that includes lean beef can help. Lowering bad cholesterol.

When including beef in your diet, choose lean cuts and keep your portions under control.

To find lean cuts, look for the terms pie or loin (for example, sirloin, tenderloin, or eye pie). Reduce your servings of beef to 3 ounces.

Shrimp

Valeria Boltneva / Pixels


While shrimp is high in cholesterol, it doesn’t contain saturated fat – at least, not when eaten normally! Shrimp can be part of a heart-healthy diet as long as they’re not fried or cooked with excessive amounts of butter.

In fact, AHA includes shrimp as a food that people can include to support healthy cholesterol levels.

If you’re trying to control your cholesterol, try making shrimp part of a balanced meal, such as sautéed vegetables with lots of spices and herbs or a drizzle of olive oil on a fresh salad.

Other ways to lower cholesterol

Dietary changes are only one part of preventing or managing high cholesterol if it is higher than what is best for your health.

Being physically active, quitting smoking, and maintaining an optimal body weight are also heart-healthy habits you can work towards.

If you’ve made changes to your diet and lifestyle and are still having trouble controlling your cholesterol levels, talk to your provider. You may need medication to help get your levels in a healthy range and keep them there.

What does this mean for you

You may not need to avoid foods like cheese, beef, eggs, and shrimp if you’re trying to create a heart-healthy diet that supports healthy cholesterol levels.

However, if you’ve made diet and other lifestyle changes and your cholesterol levels are still high, talk to your provider. You may need medication to get (and keep) your cholesterol levels in a healthy range.

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