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, which puts 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 unhealthy foods and living a sedentary lifestyle can all increase your risk of high cholesterol. Taking action and changing your habits is often the first line of defense to lower cholesterol naturally. If lifestyle changes alone don’t lower your cholesterol enough, your doctor may recommend medications to keep it in a safe zone.
Not smoking, cutting down on alcohol, and getting up and moving is easy enough to understand (although it can be really hard to do). One of the most confusing lifestyle changes is changing how you eat. With all the diet myths and evolving research, you may not even know where to start when it comes to lowering your cholesterol with diet.
Fortunately, having your first meal of the day can help lower your cholesterol. Dietitians recommend that you: Avoid These Four Worst Breakfast Habits If You Have High Cholesterol† Read on to learn more and to stay healthy, don’t miss these eating habits to 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 in the morning to make anything, let alone eat it? Skipping breakfast doesn’t just lead to mid-morning food cravings — it can also raise your cholesterol levels.
“Eating breakfast has been shown to lower total and LDL (our bad cholesterol) cholesterol,” says Kathryn Piper RDN, LD, NBC-HWC from 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 does not count as breakfast. Patricia Kolesa, MS, RDN, recommends having a small snack like a yogurt parfait or overnight oats with your coffee if the idea of a big meal in the morning doesn’t appeal to you.
If carbs steal the show at breakfast, you may be missing out on an essential nutrient: protein.
“Stabilizing your blood sugar keeps you feeling full longer, prevents random and late night snacking, and supports healthy cholesterol levels by nourishing your adrenal glands and thyroid hormones,” says Lacey Dunn, MS, RD, LD, CPTauthor of The Women’s Guide to Hormonal Harmony and owner of Nourish Well Nutrition.
Traditional breakfast foods are often carbohydrate-rich: toast, oatmeal, pancakes, fruit, yogurt, waffles… but there are plenty of options to fit in a serving of protein.
Add eggs or egg whites for roasting, stir collagen powder into your coffee, sprinkle protein powder over your oatmeal, or make scrambled eggs with turkey breast to support 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 pitfalls to fall into, considering so many popular breakfast foods fit this bill,” says Sharon Puello, MA, RD, CDN, CDCES†
A diet high in refined carbohydrates can raise your triglycerides and the number of small LDL particles in your blood, both of which increase your risk of heart disease, explains Puello.
Starting your morning with sugary cereals, donuts, pastries, pancakes, bagels or other refined carbohydrates can significantly affect your risk of heart disease. Researchers found that just one to two extra servings of refined carbohydrates per day can increase the risk of coronary heart disease by 10 to 20 percent. But adding one to two servings of whole grains can reduce the risk by the same amount.
Choose whole grains and fruits over refined carbohydrates and add a healthy portion of protein and fat to your breakfast to help you feel full and satisfied.
While breakfast meats like bacon and sausage are okay once in a while, they shouldn’t be on your breakfast plate routinely.
Processed meat is full of sodium and saturated fat that can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol and increase your risk of certain cancers, explains Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Owner of Sound Bites Nutrition.
Opting for a processed plant-based 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, pay attention to portion size and try to enjoy them only a few times a month rather than weekly.