A cardiologist shares 4 worst foods for high cholesterol—and what she eats to keep her ‘heart healthy’

Do you want to maintain a healthy heart and brain? Take a close look at your cholesterol numbers.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol builds up in the arteries and forms plaque that blocks blood flow to the brain. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol takes LDL and takes it to the liver for processing.

Optimal levels vary from person to person, so always check with your doctor first.

As a cardiologist who treats patients with high cholesterol, I always try to use diet as medicine first. Here are the four worst foods for high cholesterol and what I eat instead to keep my heart healthy:

1. Red meat

Yes, that includes burgers, ribs, steak and pork chops. If you don’t want to cut out red meat completely, focus on small amounts of lean meat. And by small, I mean a serving size of up to three ounces—and eat red meat no more than once a week.

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Remember that poultry also contains saturated fat, so avoiding red meat doesn’t necessarily mean you should load up on chicken.

When it comes to meat alternatives, I’m often skeptical about processed foods. To me, plants were never created to bleed.

What to eat instead: Think fish and shellfish. Shrimp may be high in cholesterol, but as long as you don’t butter them on top, they will provide you with plenty of protein while leaving your blood cholesterol alone.

Some other tasty lean protein options are tilapia, flounder, cod, and white-fleshed fish like sea bass.

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2. Anything fried

Frying foods typically increases the calorie count because saturated or trans fats and cholesterol are absorbed by the food during processing.

What to eat instead: Cook potatoes, cabbage or broccoli until they are crispy when you crave for crispy food. Or you can invest in an air fryer that uses much less oil.

3. Processed meat

The World Health Organization has classified processed meats such as bacon, hot dogs, and salami as carcinogens. Processed meat is also loaded with sodium and saturated fat.

What to eat instead: Fake bacon will not satisfy your cravings for a BLT. My advice is? Cut down on these items and turn them into special occasion treats.

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4. Baked goods

Mass-produced cookies, cakes, and pastries are often calorie-dense, low in nutrients, and contain large amounts of fat (especially saturated fats such as butter and shortening) and sugar. These are all big culprits of high cholesterol.

What to eat instead: Cook at home and control the amount and type of fat and sugar you use.

Elizabeth Klodas He is a cardiologist and founder. Step One Foods. Trained at Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins, Dr. Klodas has published dozens of scientific papers throughout his career, wrote a book for patients, “Kill the Giant: The Power of Prevention in Beating Heart Disease,” and served as the founding editor-in-chief. cardiosmart.org.

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