Cholesterol in Meats and Dairy
To keep your blood cholesterol level low, choose only the leanest meats, poultry, fish and shellfish.
- Choose chicken and turkey without skin or remove skin before eating.
- Some fish, like cod, have less saturated fat than either chicken or meat.
- Since even the leanest meat, chicken, fish, and shellfish have saturated fat and cholesterol, limit the total amount you eat to 6 ounces or less per day.
Poultry. In general, chicken and turkey are low in saturated fat, especially when the skin is removed. When shopping for poultry remember:
- You can buy chicken and turkey pieces with the skin already removed. Or buy pieces with the skin on and remove it yourself before eating . . . it’s easy to do.
- Remember, the white meat itself always contains less saturated fat than the dark meat.
- Limit goose and duck. They are high in saturated fat, even with the skin removed.
- Try fresh ground turkey or chicken that is made from white meat like the breast.
- Remember that some chicken and turkey hot dogs are lower in saturated fat and total fat than pork and beef hot dogs. There are also "lean" beef hot dogs and vegetarian (made with tofu) franks that are low in fat and saturated fat.
Fish and Shellfish. When shopping for fish and shellfish remember that:
- Most fish is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than meat or poultry.
- Shellfish varies in cholesterol content. Shellfish have little saturated fat and total fat. Even shrimp can be enjoyed occasionally on a Heart Healthy Diet provided you eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day. For example, 3 ounces of steamed shrimp has 167 milligrams of cholesterol.
Meat Substitute. Dry peas and beans and tofu (bean curd) are great meat substitutes that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Dry peas and beans also have a lot of fiber, which can help to lower blood cholesterol. Try adding a ½ cup beans to pasta, soups, casseroles, and vegetable dishes. Tofu takes on the flavor of marinades well. Try marinating tofu in a nonfat dressing or a tangy sauce and grilling or baking for a heart healthy dish.
Eggs. Egg yolks are high in dietary cholesterol--each contains about 213 milligrams. So, egg yolks are limited to no more than 4 yolks per week. This includes the egg yolks in baked goods and processed foods. Check the label to see how much cholesterol the food contains or ask the bakery if the recipe uses whole eggs. Limit these types of foods for occasional treats.
Egg whites have no cholesterol, and you can substitute them for whole eggs in recipes -- two egg whites are equal to one whole egg. You can also use cholesterol-free egg substitute in place of whole eggs - In many baked goods, you can’t tell the difference.
Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group. Like high fat meats, regular dairy foods that have fat -- such as whole and 2% milk, cheese, and ice cream -- are also high in saturated fat and cholesterol. However, dairy products are an important source of nutrients. You should eat 2 to 3 servings per day of lowfat or nonfat dairy products. Here is a guide to buying low fat and nonfat dairy foods:
- Milk. Buy fat free and 1% milk rather than whole or 2% milk. Fat free and 1% milk have just as much or more calcium and other nutrients as whole milk - with much less saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Cheese. When looking for hard cheeses, go for the versions that are "fat free," "reduced fat," "low fat," or "part skim." Choose varieties that have 3 grams of fat or less per ounce.
When looking for soft cheeses, choose low fat (1%) or nonfat cottage cheese, farmer cheese, or part-skim or light ricotta. Some of these cheeses have 3 grams of fat or less per ounce.
If you are watching your sodium intake, choose lower sodium cheeses. Read the label to compare the sodium content.
- Frozen Dairy Desserts. Buy frozen desserts that are lower in saturated fat, like ice milk, low fat frozen yogurt, low fat frozen dairy desserts, fruit ices, sorbets, and popsicles.
- Other Dairy Foods. Buy low or nonfat yogurt; like many other dairy foods, it is an excellent source of protein and calcium. Eat lowfat or nonfat yogurt alone or as a topping or in recipes. Try topping with fruit.
Try lowfat or nonfat sour cream or cream cheese blends. Many taste as rich as the real thing, but have less fat and calories.