The worst foods for cholesterol

The word "cholesterol" carries with it a scary urgency; we have to lower it lest we keel over from a heart attack. However, cholesterol is actually misunderstood (via Healthline). For instance, healthy, cholesterol-rich foods like eggs are good for you and won't increase your risk of heart disease at all.

Cholesterol is also important for producing hormones, vitamin D, and the stomach bile needed to digest fats. It's an essential component of every cell in the body, strengthening them and providing requisite flexibility. Our livers already produce cholesterol, so when we eat more, the body compensates by naturally making less. The problem is what kind we're eating, and in which quantities. These are the worst offenders when it comes to bad cholesterol.

Fried and fast foods

As devastating as it is to hear, those delicious foods we love so much, like cheese sticks and fried chicken, are very high in cholesterol and need to be avoided as much as possible. Kubala notes they also contain trans fats, which increase the risk of heart disease. Likewise, those who frequently eat fast foods are also at risk of developing diabetes and obesity. 

As for fried food fanatics, frying using olive or sunflower oil is suggested as a lower-fat alternative (via Everyday Health). A 2012 study in The BMJ is cited, which found that when these oils are used instead, eating fried foods isn't as readily associated with increased risk of heart disease. 

Processed meats

Processed meats including sausages, bacon, and hot dogs, are all high in cholesterol and linked to increased rates of heart disease and even colon cancer, according to Kubala. A recent study with more than 600,000 participants found that just an additional 50-gram serving of processed meat daily contributed to a 42 percent risk of developing heart disease.

Everyday Health also points out that, in addition to bad dietary cholesterol, meat also tends to include unhealthy saturated fats, which also increase cholesterol levels. Meat with visible fat or skin is particularly dodgy, so if you're a big meat eater, trim it off as best you can and make sure you choose leaner cuts wherever possible.

Full-fat dairy products

We're raised to believe we need to drink our milk or risk our bones breaking, but the truth is dairy products are loaded with saturated fats. Clinical dietitian and wellness coach Meghann Featherstun, RD, told Everyday Health, "Instead, choose dairy products that are fat-free, made with 2 percent milk, or part skim." 

Likewise, indulging in desserts and sweets will have a negative impact on your overall health as these are likely to be high in cholesterol, as well as loaded with added sugar, unhealthy fats, and calories. Kabula warns also that research links eating too much of these nutrient-deficient foods with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cognitive decline, and certain cancers.