High cholesterol may seem harmless, as there are no signs or symptoms, but 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’s often a result of lifestyle choices.
Smoking, drinking alcohol, eating an unhealthy diet, and having a sedentary lifestyle can all increase your risk for high cholesterol. Taking action and changing your habits is often the first line of defense to lowering cholesterol naturally. If lifestyle changes alone don’t lower your cholesterol enough, your doctor may recommend medication to keep it in a safe zone.
Not smoking, cutting down on alcohol, and getting up and moving is easy enough to understand (although actually doing it may prove difficult). One of the most confusing lifestyle shifts is changing how you eat. With all of the diet myths and changing research, you may not know where to even start when it comes to lowering your cholesterol with diet.
Fortunately, you can help lower your cholesterol with your first meal of the day. Dietitians 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 these Eating Habits You Must Follow If High Cholesterol Runs In Your Family.
You roll out of bed, throw on some clothes, and run out the door. Who has time to make anything in the morning, let alone eat it? Skipping breakfast does more than lead to ravenous mid-morning food cravings—it could also raise your cholesterol levels.
“Eating breakfast has been shown to lower total and LDL cholesterol (our bad cholesterol),” says Kathryn Piper RDN, LD, NBC-HWC or The Age-Defying Dietitian. In a 2020 meta-analysis, researchers found that the LDL cholesterol of people who skipped breakfast was an average of 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 parfait or overnight oats with your coffee if the idea of a big meal first thing in the morning doesn’t appeal to you.
If carbohydrates 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, prevents random and late-night snacking, and supports healthy cholesterol levels by nourishing your adrenals 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 tend to be carb-heavy: toast, oatmeal, pancakes, fruit, yogurt, waffles… but there are plenty of opportunities to fit in a serving or two of protein.
Add eggs or egg whites to toast, stir collagen powder in your coffee, sprinkle protein powder over your oatmeal, or whip up a turkey breast scramble to support healthy cholesterol levels, encourages Dunn.
“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 so many popular breakfast items fit this bill,” 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 both increase your risk for heart disease, explains Puello.
Starting your morning with sugary cereal, donuts, pastries, pancakes, bagels, or any other refined carbohydrates can significantly affect your risk for 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 decrease the risk by the same amount.
Choose whole grains and fruit over refined carbohydrates 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 okay on occasion, they shouldn’t be gracing your breakfast plate on a routine basis.
Processed meats are full of sodium and saturated fat that may raise your blood pressure and cholesterol and increase your risk for certain cancers, explains Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Owner of Sound Bites Nutrition.
Choosing a processed plant-based meat alternative isn’t 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 the portion size and try to enjoy them only a couple of times a month instead of weekly.