High cholesterol may seem harmless as there are no signs or symptoms, but if left unchecked, this condition can be dangerous.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, up to 38% of Americans have high cholesterol, putting them at risk for heart disease and stroke. While some people inherit high cholesterol, it is often a result of lifestyle choices.
Smoking, drinking alcohol, eating an unhealthy diet and having a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of high cholesterol. Taking action and changing your habits is often the first line of defense for lowering cholesterol naturally. If lifestyle changes alone don’t lower your cholesterol enough, your doctor may recommend medication to keep you in a safe zone.
Not smoking, cutting down on alcohol, and getting up and moving around is pretty easy to understand (although it really can be difficult). One of the most confusing lifestyle changes is changing the way you eat. With all the diet myths and ever-changing research, you might not know where to start when it comes to lowering cholesterol with diet.
Fortunately, you can help lower your cholesterol with your first meal of the day. Nutritionists recommend that you avoid these four worst breakfast habits if you have high cholesterol. Read on to learn more, and to continue to eat healthily, don’t miss out on these eating habits you should follow if high cholesterol runs in your family.
You roll out of bed, put on some clothes and run out the door. Who has time to do anything in the morning, let alone eat? Skipping breakfast does more than lead to ravenous mid-morning food cravings — it can also raise your cholesterol levels.
“Breakfast has been shown to lower total cholesterol and LDL (our bad cholesterol),” he says. Kathryn Piper RDN, LD, NBC-HWC of the age-defying dietitian. In a 2020 meta-analysis, researchers found that the LDL cholesterol of people who skipped breakfast was on average 9.24 mg/dL higher than those who started their day with a meal.
And, no, coffee doesn’t count as breakfast. Patricia Kolesa, MS, RDN, recommends having a small snack like a yogurt or oatmeal parfait overnight with your coffee if the idea of a big meal first thing in the morning doesn’t appeal to you.
If carbs are stealing the show at breakfast, you could be missing out on an essential nutrient: protein.
“Stabilizing your blood sugar keeps you fuller for longer, avoids random and late-night snacking, and supports healthy cholesterol levels by nourishing your adrenal glands and thyroid hormones,” he says. Lacey Dunn, MS, RD, LD, CPTauthor of The Female Guide to Hormonal Harmony and owner of Nutrir Bem Nutrição.
Traditional breakfast foods tend to be high in carbs: toast, oatmeal, pancakes, fruit, yogurt, waffles… but there are plenty of opportunities to cram in a serving or two of protein.
Add eggs or egg whites to toast, mix collagen powder into your coffee, sprinkle protein powder over your oatmeal, or whip up a turkey breast concoction to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, Dunn encourages.
“Choosing breakfast foods high in refined carbohydrates is one of the worst things you can do for your cholesterol, and one of the easiest traps to fall into, as many popular breakfast items fit this bill,” he says. Sharon Puello, MA, RD, CDN, CDCES.
A diet high in refined carbohydrates can increase your triglycerides and the number of small LDL particles in your blood, which increase your risk of heart disease, explains Puello.
Starting your morning with sugary cereal, donuts, candy, pancakes, bagels, or any other refined carbohydrate can significantly affect your risk of heart disease. Researchers have found that just one or two extra servings of refined carbohydrates a day can increase the risk of coronary heart disease by 10 to 20%. But, adding one to two servings of whole grains can lower your risk by the same amount.
Choose whole grains and fruits over refined carbs and add a healthy serving of protein and fat to your breakfast to keep you full and satisfied.
While breakfast meats like bacon and sausage are good every now and then, they shouldn’t routinely grace your breakfast plate.
Processed meats are full of sodium and saturated fat that can raise blood pressure and cholesterol and increase the risk of certain cancers, he explains. Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Owner of Sound Bites Nutrition.
Choosing a plant-based processed meat alternative is not the solution. Many plant-based meat alternatives are high in saturated fat and sodium, just like their meaty counterparts.
To enjoy these foods without raising your cholesterol, watch your portion size and try to enjoy them just a few times a month instead of weekly.