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Cholesterol and Diet

Sources of Cholesterol

  • Some of your cholesterol is made by your body.
  • The food you eat is responsible for the rest.

Food Products Containing Cholesterol

Food products from animals contain cholesterol including:

  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Whole or 2 percent milk

Cholesterol, Saturated Fats and Trans Fats

Any type of food that contains saturated fats and trans fats causes your body to make more cholesterol.

Recommended Daily Intake of Fat

The American Heart Association recommends that you keep your intake of:

  • Total fat to between 25 percent and 35 percent of your total daily calories
  • Saturated fat consumption to less than 7 percent of your total daily calories
  • Trans fat to less than 1 percent of your total daily calories

Recommended Daily Intake of Cholesterol

Limit your intake of cholesterol from food to less than 300 mg per day.

People with high LDL (bad) blood cholesterol levels or who are taking cholesterol medication should consume less than 200 mg of cholesterol per day.

Tips on Lowering Cholesterol in Your Diet

Here are some tips on lowering cholesterol in the diet.

Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat.

Most meats have about the same amount of cholesterol, roughly 70 milligrams in each three-ounce cooked serving (about the size of a deck of cards). The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than six ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, fish or seafood a day.

  • The leanest beef cuts usually include sirloin, chuck, loin and round. Choose "choice" or "select" grades rather than "prime." Select lean or extra lean ground meats.
  • Lean pork cuts include tenderloin or loin chops.
  • The leanest lamb cuts come from the leg, arm and loin.
  • Remove all visible fat from meat and poultry before cooking.
  • Remove skin from poultry before eating.
  • Choose white meat most often when eating poultry.
  • Duck and goose are higher in fat than chicken and turkey.
  • Grill, bake or broil meats and poultry.
  • Organ meats - such as liver, sweetbread, kidneys and brains - are very high in cholesterol.
  • Cut back on processed meats that are high in saturated fat and sodium.

Eat at least two servings of fish each week.

  • Fish can be fatty or lean, but it's still low in saturated fat.
  • Recent research shows that eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, trout and herring) may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease.
  • Prepare fish baked, broiled, grilled or boiled rather than breaded and fried.

Select fat-free, 1 percent fat, and low-fat dairy products.

  • Minimize your intake of whole-fat dairy products such as butter and whole milk or 2 percent full-fat dairy products (yogurt, cheeses).
  • If you drink whole or 2 percent milk, or use full-fat dairy products, gradually switch to fat-free, low-fat or reduced-fat dairy products.
  • Look for fat-free or low-fat cottage cheese, part-skim milk mozzarella, ricotta and other fat-free or low-fat cheeses.

Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.

  • Use liquid vegetable oils and soft margarines in place of hard margarine or shortening.
  • Limit cakes, cookies, crackers, pastries, pies, muffins, doughnuts and French fries made with partially hydrogenated or saturated fats.

Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol.

  • Try to eat less than 300 mg of cholesterol each day.
  • Some commonly eaten cholesterol-containing foods include whole eggs (about 200 mg per yolk), shellfish (50 to 100 mg per ½ cup), "organ" meats such as liver (375 mg per 3 oz), and whole milk (30 mg per cup).
  • Egg whites don't contain cholesterol and are good protein sources. In fact, you can substitute two egg whites for each egg yolk in many recipes that call for eggs.

Cholesterol, Fiber and Oat Bran

Soluble Fiber Lowers Blood Cholestrol

Fiber is classified as either soluble or insoluble. When regularly eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, soluble fiber has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol and may also help reduce the risk of diabetes and colon and rectal cancer.

Recommended Daily Intake of Fiber

The American Heart Association recommends that you eat at least 25-30 grams of dietary fiber - in both soluble and insoluble forms - every day. The more calories you require to meet your daily needs, the more dietary fiber you need. Try to eat at least 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories you consume.

Foods High in Soluble Fiber

Foods high in soluble fiber include:

  • Oat bran
  • Oatmeal
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Rice bran
  • Barley
  • Citrus fruits
  • Srawberries
  • Apple pulp

Foods High in Insoluble Fiber

Foods high in insoluble fiber include:

  • Whole-wheat breads
  • Wheat cereals
  • Wheat bran
  • Cabbage
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Turnips
  • Cauliflower
  • Apple skin

Tips on Increasing Fiber in Your Diet

  • Replace low-fiber foods (white bread, white rice, candy and chips) with fiber-containing foods (whole-grain bread, brown rice, fruits and vegetables).
  • Try to eat more raw vegetables and fresh fruit, including the skins when appropriate. Cooking vegetables can reduce their fiber content, and skins are a good source of fiber.
  • Eat high-fiber foods at every meal. Bran cereal for breakfast is a good start, but try to include some fruits, vegetables, whole-grains and beans in your diet, too.
  • Be sure to increase your fiber intake gradually, giving your body time to adjust, and drink at least six to eight 8-oz. glasses of fluids a day.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts label on all packaged foods that claim to contain oat bran or wheat bran. Many of these products actually contain very little fiber and may also be high in sodium, calories and saturated or trans fat.

Above content provided by The American Heart Association in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Contact Information

CardioVascular Institute at
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

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