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Eating Habits to Avoid If You Have High Cholesterol, Say Dietitians

If your cholesterol levels are out of whack, you need to change these eating habits.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Having high cholesterol is quite common in the US. In fact, nearly 1 in 3 adult Americans have this condition – making it a popular condition that people are focused on improving.

Unfortunately, while many people know the risks associated with having high cholesterol, including an increased risk of stroke, many people do not know how to lower or manage their levels, keeping them at risk for some unsavory outcomes.

While medication and exercise can certainly help improve cholesterol levels in some cases, dietary choices can have a profound impact as well. And while many people know that living off of fast food burgers and fries isn't the best thing to do when they are managing high cholesterol, there are some less-obvious eating habits that may be negatively impacting their cholesterol levels that they may be doing every day.

If you are trying to manage your cholesterol level via dietary choices, here are seven eating habits to avoid if you have high cholesterol, according to registered dietitians. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

You focus on the amount of cholesterol on the food label.

woman reading nutrition label

It may sound intuitive to eat low cholesterol foods when you are trying to reduce your cholesterol level, but according to Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN, CSCS, owner of Sarah Pflugradt Nutrition. "There isn't enough evidence to support that [reducing] dietary cholesterol affects blood cholesterol." In fact, the data is so weak surrounding this link that this recommendation is no longer included in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Instead, she suggests people focus on reducing saturated fat and increasing fiber intake to reduce cholesterol levels.

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You weight cycle and yo-yo diet.

feet on scale

Losing weight, regaining it, and repeating this pattern over and over again can have adverse effects on cardiovascular risk factors, Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD of Street Smart Nutrition, explains. "Adults, especially women, who weight cycle through dieting tend to have worse HDL and LDL profiles (even in 'normal' BMI categories) according to NHANES data when compared to adults who remained weight stable even at higher weights."

Your best bet is to follow a sustainable weight management plan and stick with it.

You eat fatty meats.

grilled steak

While different meats can be a natural source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, certain cuts can contain large amounts of saturated fat. And when saturated fat is "consumed in excess, this can adversely affect cholesterol levels," Jinan Banna, PhD, RD explains.

If you happen to be a carnivore and skipping meat is not an option, sticking to leaner choices like flank steak is your best bet.

You eat a diet rich in added sugars.

cake and coffee

"Eating too many added sugars can lower your 'good' HDL cholesterol," Anya Rosen, MS, RD, LD, CPT explains. From candies to cakes to even the sugar you add to your coffee, this ingredient can add up over the day and can play a negative role on your overall health. Opt for fresh fruit if you need the taste of sweetness with no added sugars.

You skip fiber in your diet.

oatmeal with apples

A staggering 95% of Americans are not taking in the recommended amount of fiber, so clearly skimping on this nutrient is not uncommon.

But skipping fiber, especially soluble fiber, can make lowering cholesterol challenging, explains Elysia Cartlidge, MAN, RD, highlighting that the soluble variety can help lower the LDL "bad" cholesterol in many people.

"Be sure to regularly include foods like oats, barley, apples, beans, flaxseed, and chia seeds to ensure that you're getting sufficient amounts of soluble fiber to keep those cholesterol levels in check," Cartlidge advises.

You avoid eating fat.

nut mix

While eating a diet rich in saturated fat isn't the best idea when it comes to cholesterol management, there are other fats that can actually be important additions to your diet. Foods that are rich in healthy fats, including nuts, avocados, seeds, and fish should be encouraged

You don't eat your veggies.

pushing broccoli plate away

Your mom wasn't wrong when she encouraged you to eat your vegetables every day. Eating a diet rich in certain vegetables, especially cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, has been linked to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Perhaps there actually is something to the cauliflower trend after all!

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Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT
Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian, book author, and recipe developer who has been in practice for almost 20 years. Read more about Lauren