Certain high cholesterol foods, including eggs and full-fat yogurt, can benefit your overall health. But others, such as processed meats, may raise your risk for heart disease and other serious health conditions.

Cholesterol in food is often misunderstood. Eating healthy high cholesterol foods is actually not harmful to most people. Some of these foods are even loaded with important nutrients.

This article explains why you should not fear cholesterol and lists 7 healthy food options, as well as 4 to avoid.

Here are 7 high cholesterol foods that are incredibly nutritious.

1. Eggs

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat, especially as a source of protein. They also happen to be high in cholesterol, with 1 large egg (50 grams [g]) delivering 207 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol.

Research suggests that eggs don’t raise cholesterol levels and that eating whole eggs may boost heart-protective high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also known as “good” cholesterol.

There is also some research to suggest that levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (also known as “bad” cholesterol) may increase as egg consumption increases. However, eating 1–2 eggs per day is perfectly safe for generally healthy people.

2. Cheese

A single slice (22 g) of Swiss cheese provides around 20 mg of cholesterol and is a good source of calcium and other nutrients.

One 12-week study in 139 people found that eating 3 ounces (oz), or 80 g, of full-fat cheese per day, which is considered a high intake, didn’t raise LDL cholesterol when compared with the same amount of low fat cheese or an equal number of calories from bread and jam.

3. Shellfish

Shellfish — including clams, crab, and shrimp — are excellent sources of protein, B vitamins, iron, and selenium.

A 3-oz (85-g) serving of canned shrimp provides 214 mg of cholesterol. However, research indicates that people who eat more seafood may experience improved cognitive, visual, and cardiovascular health.

4. Pasture-raised steak

Pasture-raised steak is packed with protein and important vitamins and minerals.

It’s lower in cholesterol than feedlot beef and contains significantly more omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties.

A 4-oz (113-g) serving of pasture-raised steak has about 62 mg of cholesterol.

5. 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. A 1-cup (145-g) serving provides 351 mg of cholesterol.

A 2017 study of more than 9,000 Korean adults found that those with a moderate intake of unprocessed meat, including organ meats, had a lower risk of heart disease than those with the lowest consumption.

6. Sardines

In addition to being loaded with nutrients, sardines are a convenient protein source.

One 3.75-oz (92-g) serving of these tiny fish contains 131 mg of cholesterol. It also provides 63% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin D, 137% of the DV for vitamin B12, and 35% of the DV for calcium.

7. Full-fat yogurt

Full-fat yogurt is a cholesterol-rich food packed with nutrients. One cup (245 g) of full-fat yogurt contains 31.8 mg of cholesterol.

Research associates increased intake of full-fat fermented dairy products with reduced LDL cholesterol and blood pressure and a lower risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.


Eggs, cheese, shellfish, pastured steak, organ meats, sardines, and full-fat yogurt are cholesterol-rich, nutritious foods that make healthy additions to your diet.

While certain cholesterol-rich foods are highly nutritious and can be beneficial to your health, others can be harmful. Here are 4 high cholesterol foods that are best to limit or avoid.

8. Fried foods

Fried foods, such as deep-fried meats and cheese sticks, are high in cholesterol and worth avoiding whenever possible.

That’s because they’re high in calories and may contain trans fats, which can increase heart disease risk and be detrimental to your health in many other ways. High intake of fried foods has also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

9. Fast food

Fast food intake is a major risk factor for numerous chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

People who frequently eat fast food tend to have higher cholesterol, more belly fat, higher levels of inflammation, higher blood pressure, and impaired blood sugar regulation.

10. Processed meats

Processed meats, such as sausages, bacon, and hot dogs, are high cholesterol foods that you should limit in your diet.

A large review involving more than 614,000 participants associated each additional 2-oz (50-g) serving of processed meat per day with a 42% higher chance of heart disease.

11. Desserts

Cookies, cakes, ice cream, pastries, and other sweets tend to be high in cholesterol, added sugars, unhealthy fats, and calories.

Research has linked high added sugar intake to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, mental decline, and certain cancers. Plus, these foods often lack nutrients your body needs to thrive, such as vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats.


It’s best to limit or avoid certain high cholesterol foods, such as fast food, processed meats, fried foods, and sugary desserts.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in our bodies and in animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy. It’s important for hormone production, vitamin D absorption, and production of bile to digest fats.

Your liver produces cholesterol, but you can also get it from eating animal-based foods. HDL (“good”) cholesterol helps your body excrete excess cholesterol, while LDL (“bad”) cholesterol is associated with plaque buildup in arteries.

When you consume extra cholesterol, your body compensates by reducing the amount it naturally makes. In contrast, when dietary cholesterol intake is low, your body increases cholesterol production to ensure that there’s always enough of this vital substance.

Is dietary cholesterol harmful?

Research suggests that dietary cholesterol doesn’t significantly affect cholesterol levels in your body. And research does not support an association between dietary cholesterol and heart disease in the general population.

Though dietary cholesterol may slightly affect cholesterol levels, this isn’t an issue for most people.

In fact, two-thirds of the world’s population experience little or no increase in cholesterol levels after eating cholesterol-rich foods — even in large amounts. A small number of people who are considered cholesterol non-compensators or hyper-responders appear to be more vulnerable to high cholesterol foods.

Dietary cholesterol has also been shown to beneficially affect the LDL-to-HDL ratio, which is considered the best indicator of heart disease risk.

While research shows that it’s unnecessary for most people to avoid dietary cholesterol, keep in mind that not all cholesterol-containing foods are healthy.

Having high levels of LDL cholesterol may lead to cholesterol buildup in your blood vessels, which may increase your risk of heart disease.

Certain lifestyle and dietary changes can lower your LDL levels and create a more favorable LDL-to-HDL ratio.

Here are healthy, evidence-based ways to lower your cholesterol levels:

  • Eat more fiber: Research shows that eating more fiber may help lower LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Increase physical activity: Becoming more physically active is an excellent way to lower your cholesterol levels.
  • Try to lose weight: Losing excess body weight can help lower your LDL levels.
  • Consider quitting smoking, if you smoke: Smoking raises LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Eat more produce: People who eat more fruits and vegetables tend to have lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Increasing your fiber intake, engaging in regular exercise, and quitting smoking are proven ways to lower your cholesterol levels.

Can drinking lots of water reduce cholesterol?

There is some evidence that dehydration may increase cholesterol levels, so making sure you drink enough water daily can certainly help.

Does coffee affect your cholesterol?

There is some evidence that consuming caffeine can help your body clear out LDL cholesterol. You can learn more about the link between coffee and cholesterol.

Do bananas lower cholesterol?

One banana contains about 5.3 g of fiber, and eating more fiber has been shown to help reduce levels of LDL in the blood.

How long does it take for cholesterol to go down?

It will likely take 3–6 months for your cholesterol to go down after you make appropriate diet and lifestyle changes. You can learn more about the time it takes to bring down your cholesterol.

Not all cholesterol-rich foods are created equal. While some, such as eggs and full-fat yogurt, are nutritious, others may harm your health.

Though it’s safe for most people to enjoy the healthy cholesterol-rich foods listed above, everyone should try to limit unhealthy high cholesterol foods such as fried foods, desserts, and processed meats.

Remember, just because a food is high in cholesterol doesn’t mean it can’t fit into a balanced diet.

Just one thing

Try this today: In addition to the tips above, there are numerous ways to effectively lower high cholesterol levels. Check out this article for 10 natural cholesterol-lowering strategies.

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