Half of all heart attacks occur in people who have normal cholesterol levels. New England Journal of Medicine researchers in 2017 studied 10,000 heart attack victims and found elevated levels of C-reactive protein, or CRP, in their bloodstreams.
Now that researchers know high-cholesterol foods don't raise blood cholesterol much, they're looking elsewhere, says Atlanta-based sports nutritionist Marie Spano. Sugar is the biggest enemy. According to Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, it may raise cholesterol and heart disease risk more than saturated fat.
Meat is high-cholesterol food to avoid. Your body needs cholesterol to build cells and hormones. Lean, unprocessed red meat as part of a Mediterranean-style diet may improve heart health, according to research.
Spano says man-made trans fatty acids raise cholesterol and cause heart disease. Trans fats are still in a surprising number of bad cholesterol foods, including prepackaged baked goods, desserts, and chocolate. Avoid products with partially hydrogenated oils, says Spano.
Deep-frying foods in unhealthy oils increases the formation of trans fats, according to Food Chemistry research. Deep-fried foods to avoid with high cholesterol are also unhealthy or fatty, like fried chicken, mozzarella sticks, and donuts.
Simple carbohydrates without fibre cause inflammation and LDL cholesterol to rise. Overeating refined carbs like white rice, pasta, and bread can have the same effect as drinking soda, says New York dietitian Amy Shapiro.
Bread, rice, pasta
Spano warns that most cereals contain refined carbohydrates and added sugars. In a Plos Biology study, people with healthy blood sugar levels developed prediabetes and diabetes after eating cereal with milk. Sugar is the main cause of fatty liver disease, which increases heart attack risk, according to the World Journal of Gastroenterology.
Some health gurus recommend coconut oil, flour, and water despite their high saturated fat content. Any fat tends to raise HDL levels, but coconut oil seems especially effective. It's unproven, so eat it sparingly. One Harvard professor called coconut oil "poison."