High Cholesterol Foods To Watch Out For
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
LDL cholesterol is known as “bad” cholesterol, while HDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol.
Foods worth avoiding in your journey to better cholesterol levels include fast food, fried foods, and processed foods.
An essential fatty acid called C15:0 has been shown to help support cholesterol homeostasis at a cellular level.
Your healthcare provider might have told you that a statin is in your future, especially if your cholesterol levels aren’t within a healthy range. While no one likes an unfavorable lab report, you can take steps to help lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol.
In addition to getting enough exercise, avoiding smoking, and eating more antioxidant-rich foods, you can make a mental note to avoid foods high in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Let’s talk about the difference between LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol, what foods you can avoid to help lower cholesterol levels, and how a higher circulating level of a certain healthy fat can help support healthy blood cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is often thought of as the villain, opposite of every heart-healthy hero. However, that’s not entirely the case. Cholesterol is a vital molecule in our bodies, helping create hormones and assisting with the creation of new cells.
However, there are two different types of cholesterol, and maintaining a healthy level of each is important to lowering your risk of heart disease and getting a better lipid panel report at your next appointment.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). This type of cholesterol is often called your “bad” cholesterol. LDL cholesterol molecules are responsible for causing a buildup in your blood vessels that can make it harder for your heart to pump blood. This condition can lead to cardiovascular disease.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL). Opposite of LDL cholesterol is HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol. These molecules help remove cholesterol from your blood and carry it back to your liver, effectively lowering your LDL cholesterol levels.
Your risk of developing heart disease is lower when your cholesterol levels measure within a healthy range. You can ensure your cholesterol levels are healthy by avoiding excess dietary cholesterol, which naturally increases your LDL cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol-Raising Foods To Avoid
Your body makes much the cholesterol you need, so we don’t require a lot of cholesterol from our diet. Unfortunately, some of our favorite go-to foods contain higher cholesterol levels than others, raising our unhealthy LDL levels and causing unhealthy cholesterol numbers.
Here, we cover five foods that don’t support a heart-healthy diet, and may be worth avoiding or minimizing if your cholesterol levels are higher than you’d like them to be.
1. Red Meat
If you love a great steak, it’s best to enjoy it as an occasional treat instead of a nightly dinner. Ribs, steak, roast, ground beef, and organ meats contain higher levels of ‘bad’ fats and cholesterol than chicken or fish.
Choose red meat occasionally and fill in the gaps with fatty fish like salmon, and lean meat, like chicken.
2. Sweets and Snacks
If a baked good is in a package, it’s probably full of trans fats. Baked goods like cookies and cakes contain high levels of vegetable oils or full-fat butter that can cause you to rack up calories and unhealthy fats.
When you’re in the mood for something sweet, opt for berries, apples, or other fruits that deliver natural sugar packed with heart-healthy fiber. The American Heart Association recommends fiber (along with whole grains) as an essential part of healthy eating.
3. Fast Food
Although we’ve come a long way in making fast food “healthy,” much of it is still packed with sodium, sugar, and trans fats. Although the convenience of the drive-through is often a godsend, it could cost you more than a couple of bucks in the future.
Fast food, on average, packs in more than 1,000 calories per meal, which can lead to weight gain. Weight gain that leads to obesity is a risk factor for high cholesterol.
4. Fried Food
Who doesn’t love the crispy crunch of a beer-battered fish filet next to a bucket of fries? That greasy goodness makes your taste buds tingle, but it can send your cholesterol levels to dangerous levels.
Instead of deep-frying your food, opt for baking or air-frying; two methods of preparing foods that help you avoid ‘bad’ fats and calories.
5. Full-Fat Dairy (With a Catch)
Whole-fat dairy products, like full-fat milk and butter, are high in calories, sugars, and unhealthy, even-chain, saturated fats. This combination makes whole-fat dairy products not ideal for someone looking to make lifestyle changes that support healthy cholesterol levels.
Before you stock your fridge with margarine instead, it’s worth knowing that there’s an important ingredient in full-fat dairy that actually supports healthy cholesterol levels.
Pentadecanoic acid, known as C15:0 for short, is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that research shows could help support your cardiometabolic health better than omega-3 fatty acids.
C15:0 How a Saturated Fatty Acid Helps Support Your Health
The foundation of our health begins in our cells. When our cells aren’t healthy, we experience negative health impacts, some of which are incredibly common.
This can lead to Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity make up a condition called metabolic syndrome and can place you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
C15:0 is an essential fatty acid that science supports can promote our cellular health.
Where C15:0 Is Found
Found in trace amounts in whole-fat dairy products and some fish and plants, our levels of C15:0 have been declining since the dietary guidelines in the 1970s that told us to avoid dietary fat.
Although we have been told that all saturated fats are bad for us, science now supports that is not the case.
An important class of fatty acids called odd-chain saturated fatty acids includes C15:0. Recently, C15:0 has been identified as an essential fatty acid, which means our bodies don't make it, but we need it to support our health, so we must get it through our diets.
Further, higher levels of odd-chain saturated fatty acids are associated with better heart health. There are now calls to action to update current dietary guidelines to differentiate between good and bad saturated fats.
What C15:0 Does
C15:0 naturally binds to receptors found throughout our bodies, called PPARs (pronounced pee-pars), that help to regulate our metabolism, mood, sleep and appetite, as well as promoting cholesterol and glucose homeostasis.
In fewer words, C15:0 can help to promote healthy cholesterol and triglyceride homeostasis.*
In addition, C15:0 has other cellular benefits:*
- Our mitochondria don't function as well as we age, affecting how well our cells can do the jobs needed to keep us healthy every day. Restoring some of that mitochondrial function means helping our cells do their jobs. A proposed mechanism for repairing mitochondrial function is through C15:0s metabolism to propionyl-CoA, which increases succinate production. In turn, succinate serves as a “rescue” compound that can enter the mitochondrial electron transport chain, effectively bypassing mitochondrial dysfunctions.
- Aging cells have cell membranes that are flimsy and brittle, leaving cells susceptible to outside stressors which could cause cell apoptosis. C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that integrates into cell membranes to help support cellular integrity.
Bottom line: C15:0 is a fatty acid that your body needs, and that helps support numerous cellular functions that are important for your overall health and wellness.*
How To Get C15:0 in Your Body
Our low-fat diets include some healthy foods and important unsaturated fats, but they’ve left our bodies without enough C15:0. In addition, a trend toward plant-based milks, which are devoid of C15:0, could mean that those of us following a plant-first lifestyle have a C15:0 deficiency.
A supplement worth considering to combat this deficiency is fatty15.
Fatty15 To Support Healthy Cholesterol Homeostasis
Fatty15 is a breakthrough supplement, born from scientific discovery, containing FA15™, a pure-powder, vegan-friendly, sustainably-produced, award-winning C15:0 ingredient.
Fatty15 is available in a simple, easy-to-take, once-a-day supplement. In addition to physical activity and a healthy diet, it can help you maintain your cellular health and support healthy glucose and cholesterol levels.*
Looking for more helpful info to guide you on your journey to improved heart health and wellness? Explore the rest of the fatty15 blog here!
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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