Foods to Limit or Avoid on a Low-Cholesterol Diet

Bread does not generally contain cholesterol, but varieties that include animal products, such as milk and butter, do contain cholesterol. White bread and other types made from refined grains may raise a person’s cholesterol levels.

Bread is a staple food for many different cultures, and there are hundreds of unique types.

Some varieties of bread contain dietary cholesterol, while others may raise LDL, or “bad”, cholesterol levels in the blood. However, studies suggest dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol levels.

The cholesterol content of bread depends on certain factors.

There are two types of cholesterol: one in the blood and another in food, known as dietary cholesterol.

Most bread is made with flour, water, and yeast and contains no cholesterol. But some types are made using animal products with high levels of saturated fats, which often contain cholesterol.

Additionally, bread made from white or refined grains can raise LDL cholesterol levels. We explore this in further detail below.

Saturated and trans fats

Some varieties of bread contain animal products such as milk, butter, or eggs, which contain saturated fat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foods higher in saturated fats usually contain lots of cholesterol.

However, dietary cholesterol has little effect on a person’s blood cholesterol. Saturated and trans fats in foods have a greater effect on increasing a person’s cholesterol levels.

Below is a table of the approximate cholesterol and saturated fat content of various types of bread.

White bread

White bread contains refined bread flour — a process that removes the bran and germ to give the flour a finer texture.

However, the process also removes essential nutrients such as:

Therefore, manufacturers add in vitamins by “enriching” refined flour but do not replace the fiber.

This lack of fiber means that white bread is less likely to make a person feel full and more likely to overeat. Refined grains, also known as refined carbohydrates, are also digested more quickly by the body, which can raise blood sugar levels.

A person with high blood sugar levels is more likely to have higher LDL cholesterol levels and lower HDL, or good, cholesterol.

Types of white bread include:

  • ciabatta
  • white pitta bread
  • white baguettes
  • focaccia
  • white sourdough
  • white wheat tortillas
  • flatbread
  • white sandwich loaf

Whole grain bread contains all the nutrients and fiber from grains, making it a good dietary fiber source.

The CDC states that fiber prevents the body from taking in some fat and cholesterol. This can lower triglyceride levels — another type of fat in the blood — and cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

A 2019 study also found that replacing white bread, which has a high glycemic index (GI) with wholemeal bread, which has a low GI, for breakfast slowed the body’s glycemic response. Research links higher blood sugar levels with high levels of LDL cholesterol.

  • whole wheat
  • whole barley
  • brown rice
  • whole grain oats
  • rolled oats
  • sprouted grains
  • whole rye
  • multi whole grains

Here are some answers to common questions about bread and cholesterol.

Does rye bread have cholesterol?

Rye bread does not have dietary cholesterol, as it does not contain butter or other animal products.

Does gluten-free bread have cholesterol?

Gluten-free bread made with animal products, such as milk, butter, or eggs, may contain some cholesterol.

Bread is a staple of many people’s diets worldwide. While most types of bread do not contain dietary cholesterol, some may include animal products high in saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fats are usually high in dietary cholesterol.

However, studies have shown that dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fat is more likely to increase LDL cholesterol levels in our blood, along with refined carbohydrates such as white bread.

People should try to increase their fiber intake, including eating more whole grain bread types, which can help to lower cholesterol levels. This can reduce a person’s risk of stroke and heart attack.

A low-cholesterol diet may improve your heart health. It can be overwhelming, though, so it’s helpful to have a list of high-cholesterol and high-saturated fat foods to avoid and limit. You’ll find that below.

Remember, it’s never too late to adopt healthier eating habits, but you should work with your healthcare provider to determine the right dietary changes for you.

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Saturated Fat and Cholesterol

Diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol can contribute to high total cholesterol and a high low-density lipoprotein (LDL—the “bad” cholesterol) level in the body, increasing your risk for coronary artery disease caused by atherosclerosis, which is plaque build-up in the arteries.

Here’s a list of foods that are high in cholesterol or saturated fat that you need to limit or avoid:

Eggs and Meat

  • While eggs contain cholesterol, studies suggest that most people can eat an egg or two per day without appreciably increasing their cholesterol levels or their cardiovascular risk. The exceptions to that are if you have diabetes or heart disease, or if you’re at high risk for heart disease, you should restrict eggs in their diet to no more than two to four egg yolks per week.
  • Limit high-fat cuts of beef like top loin, T-bone, tenderloin, porterhouse, brisket, rib-eye, and flank steak. Choose meats labeled “choice,” “select,” and “lean.”
  • Avoid so-called “organ” meats such as liver and sweetbreads, which have as much as 375 mg of cholesterol per 3-ounce serving.
  • Limit processed and luncheon meats such as bologna, ham, hot dogs, sausage, and packaged lunch meats. They’re high in saturated fats and sodium.
  • Avoid duck and goose, though note that lean, skinless breast or leg are lower-fat choices. Avoid frying anything in duck or goose fat.


  • Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.
  • Check the food labels of packaged foods for the terms “hydrogenated” or “partially-hydrogenated oil.” If these terms appear as one of the first five ingredients, it would be advisable to avoid or limit those products.


  • Limit French fries and other fried dishes made with partially hydrogenated or saturated fats.
  • Try baked sweet potato fries or fruit for a healthier alternative.


  • Limit cakes, cookies, crackers, pastries, pies, muffins, and doughnuts, especially those made with partially hydrogenated or saturated fats.
  • When baking at home, consider low-fat recipes to make your desserts more cholesterol-friendly.

A Word From Verywell

Keep in mind that your new cholesterol-friendly diet doesn’t have to be as restricted as you might have expected it to be. Although it does involve limiting or avoiding the foods listed above, there are plenty of new foods and recipes to add in as well. You can change up old favorite recipes by substituting more heart-healthy choices and find creative ways to prepare new foods you may not have tried before that help lower cholesterol, such as black, navy, or kidney beans, eggplant, okra, oats, soy, and fatty fish.

By Ellen Slotkin, RD, LDN

Ellen Slotkin is a registered dietitian specializing in heart-healthy nutrition, weight management, and pregnancy nutrition.

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Are you trying to remember which fat is the good fat to use in the kitchen? If you are confused about whether to use unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated or saturated fats when cooking, it’s understandable. It can be confusing.

Dr. Regis Fernandes, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, says fats that raise your bad cholesterol levels and increase your risk for heart disease are the ones to avoid.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (0:59) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please courtesy: “Mayo Clinic News Network.” Read the script.

“Saturated fat is a type of fat that solidifies in room temperature,” says Dr. Fernandes.

Coconut oil is an example, so is palm oil.

“Saturated fat consumption is directly related to cholesterol levels in the blood,” he says. “The higher the saturated fat intake, the higher will be the cholesterol level in the blood.”

“There are two types of unsaturated fats that are considered healthy fats. We have the polyunsaturated fats, and you have the monounsaturated fats. And those two types of fats are considered the good fats because they do not raise the LDL cholesterol,” says Dr. Fernandes.

LDL is low-density lipoprotein. That’s the bad cholesterol. The opposite is high-density lipoprotein.

“HDL is considered a good cholesterol because it’s measuring the amount of cholesterol that is removed from your arteries back to the liver,” Dr. Fernandes says.

You’ll find these good fats in olive oil, avocado oil, and soybean and vegetable oil.

Avocado, nuts, olives, olive oil

Try these tips to reduce unhealthy fats in your diet

  • Use oil instead of butter. For example, saute with olive oil instead of butter, and use canola oil when baking.
  • Eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, instead of meat at least twice a week.
  • Choose lean meat and skinless poultry. Trim visible fat from meat. Remove fat and skin from poultry.
  • Limit processed foods, which often contain saturated fat. Instead reach for whole fruits and vegetables when you’re hungry.

There’s nothing wrong with a snack during the day. Here are some options if you need to be careful about too much cholesterol.

Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables blended up with protein, provide a satisfying and healthy smoothie.

It can be challenging to know what food you can eat if you have high cholesterol, especially if you’re looking for something to snack on between meals. So many snack foods are loaded with saturated fats and sugar that it may seem prudent to cut out snacks altogether. However, eating at regular intervals is important for keeping normal blood sugar levels and your metabolism moving.

While the best snacks are high in fiber or protein and low in sugar and saturated fats, it’s important to know that, as with every diet, there isn’t a one size fits all answer.

“We’re finding that different foods for different people can cause elevated cholesterol,” says Julia Zumpano, RD, from the Cleveland Clinic. “We’re finding some people respond really well to a low-saturated-fat vegan diet to lower the cholesterol, and some people respond more on a higher-fat, higher-protein, and low-carb. It’s really based on the mix of your genes.”

Here are some surefire snack ideas that will keep you satisfied and your cholesterol levels stable throughout the day.

Whole Fruits and Vegetables

Nuts like almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and cashews are high in vitamins and minerals. They also contain good monounsaturated fats, which can help lower cholesterol levels.

Nuts are high in calories, though, so be sure to stick to the recommended 1-ounce single serving size of around 24 almonds, 14 walnut halves, or 12 hazelnuts, recommends the Cleveland Clinic.

Heart-Healthy Dips and Spreads

Another way to eat your vegetables is to combine them with healthy dips. Zumpano recommends a Greek yogurt dip with ranch seasoning and dill or rosemary. Greek yogurt is higher in protein than plain yogurt and has less sugar than flavored yogurt.

Other familiar options include hummus and guacamole. If you are tired of vegetable dippers like carrots and bell pepper, these dips also go great with unsalted pretzels and whole-grain crackers.

A quick and easy snack for fruit is spreading some nut butter over a slice of apple or banana. If you’re in a hurry, most gas stations will have either of these fruit and individual containers of single servings of peanut butter.

There is no reason to throw carbs out of the window if you have high cholesterol; just be mindful of what you’re eating. Whole wheat or whole grain bread is your best bet due to the high amounts of fiber compared with other bread. But they are not a good enough snack on their own.

“I’m always including some source of protein to go with a carbohydrate,” says Luis Rustveld, PhD, RD, and assistant professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “What happens if you just have crackers by itself is that you’ll probably be hungry an hour later and want to keep snacking. But if you add protein with it, you’re going to be full longer throughout the day.

Once you choose your bread, toast it up and top it with any number of heart-healthy options. Almond butter and sliced bananas are suitable for a morning snack, while avocado toast can be a good afternoon option.

For a smaller-scale version of toasts, tuna salad with whole wheat crackers like Triscuits is a more portable option.

Protein-Rich Smoothies

If eating raw fruits and vegetables seems like a daunting challenge, Rustveld recommends smoothies. But there’s a condition — it has to have protein.

“I would halve the amount of fruit that you add to a smoothie and then add veggies and a scoop of protein,” says Rustveld, emphasizing the importance of balancing ingredients. “I wouldn’t have papaya, mango, blueberries, and then a handful of kale and a spoonful of protein powder because it’s still going to get all that sugar.”

Instead, use fruit and yogurt as a flavoring and natural sweetener, and make the bulk of your smoothie healthy and high-fiber vegetables that will create a filling and satisfying snack.

Zumpano also recommends turkey roll-ups using low-sodium sliced turkey breasts with a mozzarella cheese stick and mustard rolled up in a whole grain wrap.

Bag Up Your Own Trail Mix

Some of these snacks may sound like something better eaten at home, but there are plenty of options when you leave the nest. One of the easiest snacks for a busy person is a homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruits, and whole-grain cereal.

Trail mix can even be made ad hoc while you’re out of the home. Find the 100-calorie individual packets of nuts like Planters NUT-rition Heart Healthy Mix, low-sugar dried fruit at the gas station, and sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and you have a two-minute snack at the ready.

Zumpano says to be wary of pre-made trail mix with higher sugar levels than homemade versions, as many options now include candy and chocolate.

Make Healthy Choices Outside of Your Home

Despite your best planning, you may find yourself without anything to eat. You are on a long drive, and your only option is a gas station or convenience store. Suddenly, your options are limited to prepackaged items and questionable fruit. How can you still snack responsibly?

Samantha Pyser, RD, lead outpatient registered dietitian at NYC Health + Hospitals, Lincoln in New York City, says to look at package labels and make sure the snack has at least 3 grams of fiber and 100 milligrams or less of sodium per serving.

“High-fiber snacks help promote reducing cholesterol, and it also increases satiety,” says Pyser. “If you feel more full after your snack, that can also help prevent overeating because you won’t want as much food.”

For energy bars, Pyser recommends Lara bars, Nature Valley Protein Bars, or the Navitas Power Snacks.

If you need the comforting crunch of a chip, the green pea and red lentil Harvest Snaps fit the high-fiber and low-sodium bill. Kale chips, fresh-popped popcorn, and roasted chickpeas can also be great options.

Finding individually packaged servings of some of the snacks mentioned above, like hummus and guacamole, are great, but Pyser recommends looking at the nutrition label before purchasing. Wholly Guacamole makes cholesterol-friendly guacamole snack packs, but the Sabra brand equivalent is too high in sodium.

Additional reporting by Zachary Smith

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