20 Foods That Are High In Cholesterol

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Not all foods rich in cholesterol are harmful. Some high-cholesterol foods, like eggs and shellfish, can actually improve your overall health. However, you should be careful with certain ones, like processed meats, as they can increase your risk of heart disease and other serious health issues.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like, naturally produced substance found in every cell of the body. When our diet provides cholesterol, our bodies adjust production to maintain balanced levels. If you're at risk of heart disease, it's advisable to limit your daily cholesterol intake to 200 milligrams (mg). For those without heart disease risk factors, the recommended limit is 300 milligrams per day.

1. Shrimp

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  • Serving size: 100 grams (steamed or boiled)
  • Cholesterol: 161 mg (54% DV)

Shrimp and other shellfish are cholesterol-rich, with a mere 100-gram serving of cooked shrimp providing 54% of the Daily Value (DV) for cholesterol. However, they are low in total and saturated fat. To maintain healthy cholesterol levels, the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests reducing saturated fat intake.

Shrimp is a healthier protein choice compared to options with higher saturated fat content. While being low in calories, shrimp is packed with essential nutrients such as vitamin B12, which supports red blood cell formation, and selenium, a mineral that guards against cellular damage.

2. Organ Meats

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Organ meats, particularly the heart and liver, are rich in cholesterol and offer exceptional nutritional value. Consuming them in moderation has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, enhanced immune function, and increased energy levels.

Here's the cholesterol content breakdown in a 100-gram serving of different organ meats:

  • Chicken heart (cooked): 242 mg (81% DV)
  • Chicken liver (cooked, simmered): 563 mg (188% DV)
  • Beef liver (braised): 393 mg (131% DV)
  • Beef kidney (cooked, simmered): 716 mg (239% DV)
  • Beef brain (cooked, simmered): 3100 mg (1033% DV)

3. Chicken Breast

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  • Serving size: 170 grams (6 ounces, cooked)
  • Cholesterol: 197.2 mg (66% DV)

A 6-ounce serving of cooked chicken breast contains 66% of the daily value for cholesterol but only 9% of the saturated fat daily value. To maintain a healthy diet, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines advise limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of your daily calorie intake.

Given that chicken is lower in saturated fat compared to red meats, AHA recommends opting for chicken over beef, pork, and lamb. Furthermore, the low-fat protein found in chicken breast offers numerous significant benefits, making it a valuable addition to various dietary plans.

4. Eggs

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  • Serving size: 50 grams (1 large, hard-boiled)
  • Cholesterol: 186 mg (62% DV)

One large hard-boiled egg provides 62% of the daily value for cholesterol. Many dietitians agree that eggs can be part of a healthy and nutritious diet plan. They can help raise your HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels, known as good cholesterol, which is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

In addition, eggs are rich in antioxidants, such as zeaxanthin and lutein, both of which play a key role in lowering the risk of certain eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Studies indicate these vital antioxidants are better absorbed by the body from eggs compared to alternate plant sources.

5. Turkey Breast

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  • Serving size: 170 grams (6 ounces, cooked, roasted)
  • Cholesterol: 136 mg (45% DV)

A mere 6-ounce portion of roasted turkey breast offers a substantial 45% of the daily recommended intake for cholesterol. It contains just 1 gram of saturated fat, equivalent to 5% of the DV, making it a preferable and healthy choice for meat lovers, given that saturated fat is the type of fat best kept in moderation.

Moreover, turkey breast is abundant in B-complex vitamins B6, B12, and niacin and the essential nutrient choline. It's a rich source of the minerals phosphorus and magnesium and provides iron, zinc, and potassium. It's also high in selenium, which may help boost your immune system.

6. Sardines

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  • Serving size: 100 grams (canned sardines)
  • Cholesterol: 142 mg (47% DV)

Just 100 grams of canned sardines provide 44% of the daily value for cholesterol. By including these little fish in your diet, you not only boost your cholesterol intake but also elevate your consumption of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Sardines contain just under 1.5 grams of omega-3 per 100 grams.

Additionally, these nutritional powerhouses are rich sources of essential nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and selenium. When enjoyed in moderation, sardines can play a role in reducing inflammation, enhancing blood vessel function, and positively affecting lipid and lipoprotein levels.

7. Mackerel

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  • Serving size: 100 grams (cooked, dry heat)
  • Cholesterol: 75 mg (25% DV)

Mackerel, like sardines, holds significance as a globally consumed food fish. It has a noteworthy cholesterol content, with just 100 grams of cooked Atlantic mackerel delivering 25% of the DV. Being an oily fish, it ranks as a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, renowned for their ability to lower blood pressure.

However, it's crucial to note that mackerel flesh is highly perishable, especially in tropical climates, and mishandling can lead to scombroid food poisoning. Therefore, it is advisable to consume mackerel on the same day it's caught unless it's properly refrigerated or cured to ensure its freshness and safety.

8. Blue Crab

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  • Serving size: 100 grams (cooked, moist heat)
  • Cholesterol: 97 mg (32% DV)

A 100-gram serving of cooked blue crab provides 32% of the DV for cholesterol, while it boasts less than 1% of the DV for saturated fat. Blue crabs are an excellent addition to your seafood repertoire, offering a wealth of health benefits. They are rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and vitamin B12, making them a nutritious choice.

Crabs stand out as an exceptional source of vitamin B12 and provide rich amounts of phosphorus, zinc, and potassium. The diverse array of nutrients found in crabs supports a steady metabolism and reduces the risk of heart disease, making them an ideal dietary choice.

9. Cheese

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  • Serving size: 100 grams (Swiss)
  • Cholesterol: 93 mg (31% DV)

Just 100 grams of Swiss cheese provides 31% of the daily recommended value for cholesterol. Beyond its cholesterol content, Swiss cheese is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in essential minerals such as zinc and phosphorus, as well as vitamins A and B12.

It serves as a great source of protein and calcium, both are crucial minerals closely linked to the maintenance of strong and healthy bones and teeth. Protein contributes to bone development and formation. Adequate calcium intake promotes bone health and further supports proper blood circulation and muscle function.

10. Salmon

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  • Serving size: 170 grams (6 ounces, Atlantic, farmed, cooked)
  • Cholesterol: 107 mg (36% DV)

Despite being a high-cholesterol food, salmon is considered one of the healthiest proteins. 6 ounces of cooked salmon delivers 36% of the DV for cholesterol and 108% of the DV for omega-3 fatty acids. This fatty fish is an excellent source of vitamin D, protein, selenium, and various B vitamins.

According to AHA, incorporating two 3.5-ounce servings of fatty fish, such as salmon, into your weekly diet is advised. Furthermore, it's worth noting that salmon holds a prominent position as one of the most beloved seafood options and a key ingredient in sushi throughout the United States.

11. Full-Fat Yogurt

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  • Serving size: 245 grams (1 cup, 8 fluid ounces)
  • Cholesterol: 31.8 mg (11% DV)

A 245-gram cup of plain whole-milk yogurt supplies 11% of the DV for cholesterol and is also a rich source of calcium and vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is vital for nerve function and red blood cell production, while calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, as well as blood clotting, enzyme activity, and blood pressure regulation.

Many full-fat yogurts are also rich in probiotics, which promotes a balanced and healthy gut. Yogurt, known for its versatility and delectable flavor, makes a wholesome addition to any meal or snack. Its creamy texture can effortlessly enhance dressings, sauces, or dips, elevating your culinary creations.

12. Whole Milk

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  • Serving size: 244 grams (1 cup)
  • Cholesterol: 29.3 mg (10% DV)

Whole milk is rich in both cholesterol and saturated fat, providing 10% of the DV for cholesterol and 23% of the DV for saturated fat in a 244-gram cup serving. However, it's important to note that all types of milk, including whole milk, offer 13 essential nutrients.

These include protein, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, pantothenic acid, zinc, selenium, iodine, and potassium. These nutrients play diverse roles, from promoting the development of strong bones and supporting a healthy immune system to regulating metabolism and ensuring the health of your skin.

13. Fast Food

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It comes as no surprise that fast food ranks at the top of the list of cholesterol-rich foods you should avoid. Fast food is high in saturated fat, 'trans fat, refined carbohydrates, added sugars, and excess salt, precisely the elements one should restrict when looking for a heart-healthy diet.

Common menu items at fast food outlets such as burgers, fried chicken, french fries, onion rings, sandwiches, hot dogs, and tacos, often feature excessive amounts of fried fats and frequently contain animal products. This combination can be harmful to your cholesterol levels and overall cardiovascular health.

14. Fried Foods

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Fried foods, including deep-fried cheese sticks and meats, are notable for their high cholesterol content and are advisable to avoid whenever possible. Let's delve into the cholesterol levels of some fried foods.

  • Fried calamari, 3-ounce serving: 221 mg (74% DV)
  • One KFC fried chicken breast with skin: 161 mg (54% DV)

Fried foods not only pack a calorie punch but may also contain 'trans fats, which can elevate the risk of heart disease and pose various other health risks. Consuming a significant amount of fried foods has been associated with an elevated risk of heart disease.

15. Mozzarella Sticks

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  • Serving size: 245 grams (1 serving)
  • Cholesterol: 88.2 mg (29% DV)

A restaurant serving of mozzarella sticks delivers a substantial 29% of the DV for cholesterol and a whopping 84% of the DV for saturated fat. Additionally, it contains approximately 1 gram of 'trans fats, which are known to be detrimental to heart health.

While mozzarella sticks may offer a tempting combination of crispiness on the outside and gooey cheese on the inside, similar to other fried foods mentioned, it's generally a wiser choice to opt for something else due to their unfavorable impact on health.

16. Processed Meats

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Processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and sausages are typically high in cholesterol and should be consumed in moderation. These meats, often derived from fatty beef or pork cuts, are not only cholesterol-rich but also contain excessive sodium and offer limited nutritional value.

Let's examine the cholesterol content of the following processed meats per 100 grams:

  • Smoked link sausage, pork and beef: 58 mg (19% DV)
  • Bacon (rendered fat, cooked): 97 mg (32% DV)
  • Frankfurter or hot dog, beef: 61 mg (20% DV)

17. Butter

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  • Serving size: 14.2 grams (1 tablespoon)
  • Cholesterol: 30.5 mg (10% DV)

A single tablespoon of salted butter contains 10 percent of the DV for cholesterol and a substantial 36 percent of the DV for saturated fats.

For individuals with elevated cholesterol levels seeking to reduce them, the AHA recommends limiting saturated fat intake to less than 6% of your total daily caloric intake. To achieve this goal, consider adopting healthier cooking oils like olive or avocado oil when meal prepping as a means to reduce saturated fat consumption.

18. Pork Chops

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  • Serving size: 206 grams (1 chop)
  • Cholesterol: 177 mg (59% DV)

Fatty red meats such as pork chops are rich in the type of fat that should be restricted: saturated fat. A single pork chop with its fat content supplies 59% of the DV for cholesterol and 46% of the DV for saturated fat. Opting for a lean pork chop with the fat removed reduces the saturated fat content to 20 percent of the DV.

Similarly, beef and lamb, like pork, are high in saturated fat, so it's best to eat them in moderation if you're watching your cholesterol. You don't have to give up meat completely; just have it occasionally. When you do, choose lean cuts like sirloin or pork loin and stick to the recommended 3-ounce portion size to reduce saturated fat intake.

19. Desserts

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Desserts like cakes, cookies, 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.

Let's explore the cholesterol content of several sugary desserts per 100-gram serving:

  • Chocolate cake (without frosting): 58 mg (19% DV)
  • Chocolate chip cookies (made with butter): 70 mg (23% DV)
  • Ice creams, vanilla: 44 mg (15% DV)
  • Ice creams, chocolate: 34 mg (11% DV)

These foods often lack the essential nutrients necessary for your body to thrive, including vitamins, minerals, protein, and beneficial fats.

20. Whipped Cream

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  • Serving size: 120 grams (1 cup)
  • Cholesterol: 136 mg (45% DV)

A single cup of heavy whipping cream (fluid) supplies 45% of the DV for cholesterol. Typically, whole milk heavy cream is rich in saturated fats, which can lead to elevated cholesterol levels and increased calorie intake.

However, it's worth noting that heavy cream also contains vital nutrients such as calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D. While incorporating heavy cream in moderation can complement a well-rounded diet, excessive consumption may contribute to weight gain and heighten the risk of heart disease.

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