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Drinking Habits to Avoid If You Don't Want High Cholesterol, Says Dietitian

You may think bacon and butter are the cholesterol culprits, but there’s more to the story!

It's true that foods high in saturated fat can raise cholesterol, but they aren't the only foods to blame.

Surprisingly, there is a strong body of evidence that suggests foods high in cholesterol do not directly raise cholesterol levels. In fact, there are a host of lifestyle factors and genetics at play when it comes to elevated cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol levels are influenced by:

  • Healthy nutrition
  • Alcohol
  • Exercise habits
  • Stress
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Weight management
  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Medications
  • Smoking

Improving your cholesterol likely will be the result of both what you choose to eat and what you practice limiting. Let's dive into the exact drinking habits to change in order to start improving your cholesterol levels!

Kick the soda habit.

soda dispenser

Added sugars can raise LDL cholesterol, also known as the "bad" cholesterol. One of the ways in which this happens is via the liver. Excess sugar signals the liver to make more of the bad stuff, and less good cholesterol.

Drinking less soda is hard. Wean yourself off slowly, and find alternatives that you enjoy. Consider this personal account of How I Stopped Drinking Soda.

Cocktails are out, mocktails are in.

three purple pig mocktails carrot mocktail recipe
Courtesy of The Purple Pig

Sober-curious living is trending—and for good reasons! Beyond the mental health benefits, drinking less alcohol is good for your heart. In fact, the health benefits of even moderate alcohol consumption—defined as one standard drink per day for women and two drinks a day for men—is now up for debate.

When in doubt, it might be wise to drink more mindfully. Make a mocktail at home if you're feeling fancy, and enjoy the health benefits of less alcohol!

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Sweet tea, sour benefits.

Iced tea

If you live in the south, this one might sting. Sweet tea is both high in calories and added sugars, which we already know tend to raise "bad" cholesterol.

Sweet tea is often consumed habitually. Meaning, we drink it out of habit with each meal or as a pick-me-up. These daily habits add up and the empty calories from sugar-sweetened beverages aren't helping either.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are known to have a negative effect on our weight over time leading to a greater incidence of obesity. Weight gain and obesity are both related to increased cholesterol levels.

For more, we've got you covered with the Best & Worst Bottled Teas in America.

Check your creamer.

coffee creamer

Coffee creamers are uber delicious, but this "extra" adds significant sugar and fat to your cup of choice. Creamers also tend to be dairy-based which have a significant amount of saturated fat—one type of fat that might raise cholesterol for some people more than others.

Consider measuring out a serving or two in your coffee to see how much you're really drinking. Choose a creamer with less added sugar and fat, and see if you can manage with a portioned serving!

Choose dairy intentionally.

conventional dairy milk

Whether you're drinking milk, coffee creamer, or a new kefir option, be conscious of the added calories from saturated fat. Choose options that are low fat, 1%, or 2% fat the majority of the time.

For an added cholesterol bonus, focus on combining foods with saturated fat in them with high-fiber options to "bind" excess cholesterol that is produced by your body. A high-fiber diet has been shown to reduce "bad" cholesterol levels!

For more tips regarding cholesterol, read these next:

Caroline Thomason, RDN
Caroline is a women's health Registered Dietitian and diabetes educator based in Northern Virginia. Read more about Caroline