Dietary Cholesterol: Foods to Avoid

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Of all the information on the nutrition facts panel on food labels, cholesterol may be the most misunderstood.

Part of the confusion comes from the fact that LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels and lower HDL, the “good cholesterol” at the same time.

Fortunately, trans fats, which are found in partially hydrogenated oils, are being phased out of many packaged foods, so they pose less of a danger. Still, if you eat a lot of processed foods, you may still be consuming more than you should.

Foods can call themselves “trans-free” as long as they contain less than half a gram of trans fats per serving. To find out whether a food has trans fats, check the ingredient label for partially hydrogenated oils.

Lowering Cholesterol With Weight Loss

If you could stand to lose a few pounds, probably the most important number to check on the label is calories per serving.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Surrey in England showed that when volunteers cut back on calories, it didn’t matter how much dietary cholesterol they consumed. Even when their diets contained up to 582 milligrams of cholesterol a day — far over the recommended amount — their blood cholesterol levels remained unchanged as long as they cut back on calories and lost weight.

“Cholesterol in packaged foods really isn’t a big issue,” says McManus. “Three much more important numbers on the nutrition facts panel are serving size, calories per serving, and the type of fats,” says McManus. “If you keep track of those, you don’t have to worry about how much cholesterol a packaged food contains.”