According to post in Healthline, cholesterol is arguably one of the most misunderstood substances. For decades, people avoided healthy yet cholesterol-rich foods like eggs due to the fear that these foods would increase their risk of heart disease.
However, recent research shows that — for most people — consuming healthy foods that are high in cholesterol won’t harm your health.
What’s more, some cholesterol-rich foods are loaded with important nutrients that are lacking in many people’s diets.
This article explains why cholesterol in foods should not be feared and lists healthy high-cholesterol foods and some that should be avoided.
7 Healthy Foods That Are High in Cholesterol
Here are 7 high-cholesterol foods that are incredibly nutritious.
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. They also happen to be high in cholesterol, with one large egg delivering 211 mg of cholesterol, or 70% of the RDI.
People often avoid eggs out of fear that they may cause cholesterol to skyrocket. However, research shows that eggs don’t negatively impact cholesterol levels and that eating whole eggs can lead to increases in heart-protective HDL.
Aside from being rich in cholesterol, eggs are an excellent source of highly absorbable protein and loaded with beneficial nutrients like B vitamins, selenium and vitamin A.
Research has shown that eating 1–3 eggs per day is perfectly safe for healthy people.
A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of cheese provides 27 mg of cholesterol, or about 9% of the RDI.
Although cheese is often associated with increased cholesterol, several studies have shown that full-fat cheese does not negatively impact cholesterol levels.
One 12-week study in 162 people found that a high intake of 80 grams or about 3 ounces of full-fat cheese per day did not raise “bad” LDL cholesterol, compared to the same amount of low-fat cheese or the equal number of calories from bread and jam.
Different types of cheese vary in nutritional content, but most cheeses provide a good amount of calcium, protein, B vitamins and vitamin A.
Since cheese is high in calories, stick to the recommended serving size of 1–2 ounces at a time to keep portions in check.
Shellfish — including clams, crab and shrimp — are an excellent source of protein, B vitamins, iron and selenium.
They’re also high in cholesterol. For example, a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of shrimp provides 166 mg of cholesterol — which is over 50% of the RDI.
Additionally, shellfish contain bioactive components — such as carotenoid antioxidants and the amino acid taurine — that help prevent heart disease and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Populations that consume more seafood have demonstratively lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
- Pasture-Raised Steak
Pasture-raised steak is packed with protein, as well as important vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, zinc, selenium and iron.
It’s lower in cholesterol than feedlot beef and contains significantly more omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
A 4-ounce (112-gram) serving of pasture-raised steak packs about 62 mg of cholesterol, or 20% of the RDI.
Though processed meat has a clear association with heart disease, several large population studies have found no association between red meat intake and heart disease risk.
- Organ Meats
Cholesterol-rich organ meats — such as heart, kidney and liver — are highly nutritious.
For example, chicken heart is an excellent source of the powerful antioxidant CoQ10, as well as vitamin B12, iron and zinc.
It’s also high in cholesterol, with a 2-ounce (56-gram) serving providing 105 mg of cholesterol, or 36% of the RDI.
One study in over 9,000 Korean adults found that those with a moderate intake of unprocessed meat — including organ meats — had a lower risk of developing heart disease than those with the lowest consumption.
Sardines are not only loaded with nutrients but also a tasty and convenient protein source that can be added to a wide variety of dishes.
One 3.75-ounce (92-gram) serving of these tiny fish contains 131 mg of cholesterol, or 44% of the RDI, but it also packs 63% of the RDI for vitamin D, 137% of the RDI for B12 and 35% of the RDI for calcium.
What’s more, sardines are an excellent source of iron, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, magnesium and vitamin E.
- Full-Fat Yogurt
Full-fat yogurt is a cholesterol-rich food packed with nutrients like protein, calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium.
One cup (245 grams) of full-fat yogurt contains 31.9 mg of cholesterol, or 11% of the RDI.
Recent research shows that increased consumption of full-fat fermented dairy products is associated with reductions in “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as lower risks of stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
Plus, fermented dairy products like yogurt benefit intestinal health by positively impacting friendly gut bacteria.
4 High-Cholesterol Foods You Should Avoid
While certain cholesterol-rich foods are highly nutritious and beneficial to your health, others can be harmful.
Here are 4 high-cholesterol foods that can negatively impact your health.
- Fried Foods
Fried foods — such as deep-fried meats and cheese sticks — are high-cholesterol and should be avoided whenever possible.
That’s because they’re loaded with calories and can contain trans fats, which increase heart disease risk and are detrimental to your health in many other ways.
Plus, high consumption of fried foods has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
- Fast Food
Fast food consumption is a major risk factor for numerous chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Those who frequently consume fast food tend to have higher cholesterol, more belly fat, higher levels of inflammation and impaired blood sugar regulation.
Eating less processed food and cooking more meals at home is associated with lower body weight, less body fat and reductions in heart disease risk factors like high LDL cholesterol.
- Processed Meats
Processed meats, such as sausages, bacon and hot dogs, are high-cholesterol foods that should be limited.
High consumption of processed meats has been linked to increased rates of heart disease and certain cancers like colon cancer.
A large review that included over 614,000 participants found that each additional 50-gram serving of processed meat per day was associated with a 42% higher risk of developing heart disease (43).
Cookies, cakes, ice cream, pastries and other sweets are unhealthy foods that tend to be high in cholesterol, as well as added sugars, unhealthy fats and calories.
Frequently indulging in these foods can negatively impact overall health and lead to weight gain over time.
Research has linked added sugar intake to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cognitive decline and certain cancers.
Plus, these foods are often devoid of the nutrients your body needs to thrive. These include vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats.