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The 4 worst foods for high cholesterol and what to eat instead

The 4 worst foods for high cholesterol and what to eat instead

Dr. Elizabeth Klodas/ Do you want to have a healthy heart and mind? Always check your cholesterol numbers.

LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) accumulates in arteries and forms plaques, which block blood flow to the brain. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol picks up LDL and carries it to the liver to be processed.

As a cardiologist who treats patients with high cholesterol, I always try to use diet as medicine first. Here are the four worst foods for high cholesterol—and what to eat instead to keep your heart healthy:

1. Red meat

If you don't want to cut out red meat altogether, focus on small amounts of lean meat.

Remember that poultry also contains saturated fat, so avoiding red meat doesn't necessarily mean you have to eat chicken.

What to eat instead: Think fish. Shrimp may be high in cholesterol, but as long as you don't slather them with butter, they'll provide you with plenty of protein while keeping your blood cholesterol in check.

2. Anything fried

Frying food usually increases the calorie count because saturated or trans fats and cholesterol are absorbed from foods during the process.

What to eat instead: Bake potatoes, kale or broccoli when you feel like cooking. Or, you can invest in an air fryer, which uses much less fat.

3. Processed meat

The World Health Organization has classified processed meats such as bacon, hot dogs and sausages as carcinogenic. Processed meat is also loaded with sodium and saturated fat.

What to eat instead: Fake bacon is unlikely to satisfy your cravings. My advice? Shorten these products.

4. Baked products

The cookies and cakes you buy are often dense in calories, low in nutrients and contain large amounts of fat (especially saturated fat like butter) and sugar. All of these are major culprits of high cholesterol.

What to eat instead: Bake at home and control the amount and type of fat and sugar you use.

*Dr. Elizabeth Klodas is a Mayo Clinic-trained cardiologist.