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What meat is lowest in cholesterol?

Prevent High Cholesterol

By living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your cholesterol in a healthy range and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Make healthy eating choices

Your body makes all of the cholesterol it needs, so you do not need to obtain cholesterol through foods. Eating lots of foods high in saturated fat and trans fat may contribute to high cholesterol and related conditions, such as heart disease.

What you can do to help prevent cholesterol:

  • Limit foods high in saturated fat. Saturated fats come from animal products (such as cheese, fatty meats, and dairy desserts) and tropical oils (such as palm oil). Foods that are higher in saturated fat may be high in cholesterol.
  • Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium (salt), and added sugars. These foods include lean meats; seafood; fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt; whole grains; and fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat foods naturally high in fiber, such as oatmeal and beans (black, pinto, kidney, lima, and others), and unsaturated fats, which can be found in avocados, vegetable oils like olive oil, and nuts. These foods may help prevent and manage high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol levels.
  • Learn more about healthy diet and nutrition at CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity website.
  • Find healthy, seasonal recipes at the Million Hearts ® healthy recipes page .

Maintain a healthy weight

Senior runners in nature, tying shoelaces. Man with smartphone.

Talk with your doctor about what a healthy weight is for you.

Overweight and obesity raise levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Excess body fat affects how your body uses cholesterol and slows down your body’s ability to remove LDL cholesterol from your blood. The combination raises your risk of heart disease and stroke.

What you can do:

  • To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website. Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure excess body fat.
  • Talk with your doctor about what a healthy weight is for you.
  • Work with your doctor on a food and fitness plan to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight.

Get regularly physical activity

Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

What you can do:

  • Get active as a family. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or bicycling, every week. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.
  • Make physical activity a part of each day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park a little farther away, walk to the store, or do jumping jacks during commercials.
  • Learn more and get more tips at CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity website.

Quit smoking

Smoking damages your blood vessels, speeds up the hardening of the arteries, and greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease.

What you can do:

  • Talk with your doctor about ways to help you quit.
  • Learn more about tobacco use and ways to quit at CDC’s Smoking & Tobacco Use website.

Limit alcohol

Too much alcohol can raise cholesterol levels and levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood.

What you can do:

  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women should have no more than one.
  • Learn more at CDC’s Alcohol and Public Health website.

Work with your health care team

You and your health care team can work together to prevent high cholesterol. Discuss your other medical conditions and any medicines you are taking, and bring a list of questions to your appointments. You can use this list of questions from the Million Hearts ® The Scoop on Statins webpage .

More information


  • About Heart Disease
  • About Stroke
  • Aortic Aneurysm
  • About High Blood Pressure

Other organizations

  • American Heart Association (AHA):
    • Cholesterol
    • The Skinny on Fats
    • Life’s Essential 8™: Your checklist for lifelong good health
    • Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025
    • Fats and Cholesterol

    What meat is lowest in cholesterol?

    Learn about UCSF’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, important updates on campus safety precautions, and the latest policies and guidance on our COVID-19 resource website. You can also access information from the CDC . Learn more

    chicken cooking on grill

    The study, led by scientists at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) – the research arm of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland – surprised the researchers with the discovery that consuming high levels of red meat or white poultry resulted in higher blood cholesterol levels than consuming a comparable amount of plant proteins. Moreover, this effect was observed whether or not the diet contained high levels of saturated fat, which increased blood cholesterol to the same extent with all three protein sources.

    “When we planned this study, we expected red meat to have a more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat, but we were surprised that this was not the case – their effects on cholesterol are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent,” said the study senior author Ronald Krauss, MD, senior scientist and director of Atherosclerosis Research at CHORI.

    Krauss, who is also a UCSF professor of medicine, noted that the meats studied did not include grass-fed beef or processed products such as bacon or sausage; nor did it include fish.

    But the results were notable, as they indicated that restricting meat altogether, whether red or white, is more advisable for lowering blood cholesterol levels than previously thought. The study found that plant proteins are the healthiest for blood cholesterol.

    When we planned this study, we expected red meat to have a more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat, but we were surprised that this was not the case – their effects on cholesterol are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent.

    Ronald Krauss, MD

    This study, dubbed the APPROACH (Animal and Plant Protein and Cardiovascular Health) trial, also found that consuming high amounts of saturated fat increased concentrations of large cholesterol-enriched LDL particles, which have a weaker connection to cardiovascular disease than smaller LDL particles.

    Similarly, red and white meat increased amounts of large LDL in comparison to nonmeat diets. Therefore, using standard LDL cholesterol levels as the measure of cardiovascular risk may lead to overestimating that risk for both higher meat and saturated fat intakes, as standard LDL cholesterol tests may primarily reflect levels of larger LDL particles.

    Consumption of red meat has become unpopular during the last few decades over concerns about its association with increased heart disease. Government dietary guidelines have encouraged the consumption of poultry as a healthier alternative to red meat.

    But there had been no comprehensive comparison of the effects of red meat, white meat and nonmeat proteins on blood cholesterol until now, Krauss said. Nonmeat proteins such as vegetables, dairy, and legumes, such as beans, show the best cholesterol benefit, he said.

    “Our results indicate that current advice to restrict red meat and not white meat should not be based only on their effects on blood cholesterol,” Krauss said. “Indeed, other effects of red meat consumption could contribute to heart disease, and these effects should be explored in more detail in an effort to improve health.”

    Co-Authors: Lead author Nathalie Bergeron, UCSF Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Oakland, California and Touro University; Sally Chiu, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute and Touro University; Paul T. Williams and Sarah King, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute.

    Funding: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    Disclosures: Krauss and Bergeron are recipients of a grant from Dairy Management Inc., but this grant is not for the submitted work; Krauss holds a licensed patent for ion mobility analysis of plasma lipoprotein particles.

    UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in Oakland and San Francisco are among the nation’s finest pediatric medical centers, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings. Their expertise covers virtually all pediatric conditions, including cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders, pulmonology, diabetes and endocrinology, as well as the care of critically ill newborns, in the Bay Area, California and beyond.

    The UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals are known worldwide for basic and clinical research and are at the forefront of translating research into interventions for treating and preventing pediatric disease. The hospitals are affiliated with University of California, San Francisco, whose schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Nursing are among the nation’s leaders in graduate-level health science education, as well as research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

    Worst Foods for High Cholesterol

    A spread of fatty foods that can raise cholesterol

    You need cholesterol. It’s a crucial material your body uses to build the hormones, cells, and vitamins that keep you alive and healthy. But many people—including 94 million American adults—have high cholesterol levels, which puts them at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

    Romit Bhattacharya, MD, is a Mass General Brigham cardiologist. He is also the associate director of the Cardiac Lifestyle Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.

    In this article, Dr. Bhattacharya explains what it really means to have unhealthy cholesterol levels. He shares tips about the worst and best foods to eat when you have high cholesterol.

    What is cholesterol?

    Many people are familiar with the term “cholesterol,” and have heard that high cholesterol is dangerous. But to truly grasp the value of healthy cholesterol levels, it’s important to understand what the word means.

    “Cholesterol is a particle in the blood that all humans and animals need to live,” says Dr. Bhattacharya. “But in today’s day and age, we end up with too much of it. Its primary role is to create a membrane—like a bubble—around molecules in the body and help them travel from place to place.”

    Maintaining healthy cholesterol is really about consistency of effort. If you’re doing 80% of the right things 80% of the time, that’s a great start.

    Romit Bhattacharya, MD
    Mass General Brigham

    Why is high cholesterol dangerous?

    According to Dr. Bhattacharya, the concept of high cholesterol is not as cut and dry as it seems. That’s because when doctors talk about cholesterol levels, they’re referring to average levels in a world where most people get more than they need. Dr. Bhattacharya recommends thinking about this more as a concept of “unhealthy levels of cholesterol” in your body.

    Here’s why: “Imagine you live near a factory that gives off dangerous fumes. You might not have asthma or be coughing day in and day out, but in the back of your mind, you’re wondering if it’s healthy to inhale these fumes every day. That’s how I’d think about cholesterol: We’re all living in a world where we’re exposed to higher levels of it than we should be.”

    When your body has more cholesterol than it needs, problems arise. Dr. Bhattacharya explains cholesterol begins to build up on the walls of your arteries, increasing your chance of developing heart disease and other serious problems.

    One tricky thing about high cholesterol is that unlike some medical concerns, unhealthy cholesterol levels may not create noticeable symptoms. “It’s a game of trust,” explains Dr. Bhattacharya. “If your doctor tells you your cholesterol is too high, you need to act on it—even if you’re feeling well.”

    Although high cholesterol doesn’t usually cause symptoms, Dr. Bhattacharya says there is one sign that can often go unnoticed: erectile dysfunction.

    “We used to think erectile dysfunction in men over 40 was happening because people were getting older. But it’s a problem of blood flow. The blood vessels in the penis are like the blood vessels in the heart. When enough cholesterol cakes the walls of the blood vessels, blood and nutrients can’t get to those organs.”

    Otherwise, the first symptoms are often a heart attack, stroke, or chest pain (called angina). Because the first symptoms of high cholesterol are often debilitating events like heart attack and stroke, it is especially important to get your cholesterol levels measured regularly by your doctor and make sure you are maintaining healthy levels.

    Does high cholesterol cause heart attack or stroke?

    “Heart attack and stroke are the most common problems caused by a very high cholesterol level,” says Dr. Bhattacharya. “When cholesterol builds up along artery walls, that’s called atherosclerosis—and heart attack and stroke are both typical diseases atherosclerosis can cause. When we think about the ways that we can prevent cardiovascular disease, which is the number-one cause of death in the world, controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure are key.”

    What are the best foods to lower high cholesterol?

    “Plants basically don’t make cholesterol,” explains Dr. Bhattacharya. “So, if you’re worried about cholesterol, eating plants is going to help. And among plants, high fiber content is important. It cleans out your gut, it allows you to detoxify, it feeds your gut microbiome in a healthy way, and it can help prevent cholesterol from absorbing into your bloodstream.”

    A heart-healthy low-cholesterol diet may include foods like:

    • Plants with high water content, like spinach and other leafy greens
    • High-fiber foods, including beans, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and a range of vegetables
    • Whole grains, such as oats, whole wheat bread, brown rice, and even popcorn
    • Fruits and berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, apples, oranges, grapes, etc.
    • Nuts such as walnuts and almonds (a handful will do!)
    • Polyunsaturated fats, like certain vegetable oils. These include canola oil, sunflower seed oil, and olive oil.
    • Lean, oily fish, and skinless poultry

    For those truly looking to lower their cholesterol, Dr. Bhattacharya adds that it’s important to think not just in terms of quick results, but in terms of a consistent lifestyle.

    “Fad diets don’t work as well. They can get you down briefly, but then—boom—you’re back up. Maintaining healthy cholesterol is really about consistency of effort. If you’re doing 80% of the right things 80% of the time, that’s a great start.”

    What are the worst foods for high cholesterol?

    When it comes to the worst foods for high cholesterol, Dr. Bhattacharya says it’s important to look out for animal products—particularly red meat and dairy.

    “High-fat dairy is for growing calves,” Dr. Bhattacharya explains. “It’s for growing infants who need cholesterol and fat in their diet to build their brains, their nerves, their bodies. When we’re eating full-fat dairy and meat, we’re ingesting a whole lot of dietary cholesterol—particularly saturated fat, which has consistently proven to increase cholesterol levels. So, message number one is this: Decrease your saturated fat intake to at least less than 10% of your daily calories.”

    The worst foods for high cholesterol, given their high saturated fat content, include:

    • Red meat, like beef, pork, and lamb, as well as processed meats like sausage
    • Full-fat dairy, like cream, whole milk, and butter
    • Baked goods and sweets
    • Fried foods
    • Tropical oils such as palm oil and coconut oil
    • Butter
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