7 High-Cholesterol Foods That Are Super Healthy
For years, you’ve been told that high-cholesterol foods increase the risk of heart disease.
However, many recent studies have shown that this isn’t necessarily true (1).
Most of the cholesterol in your blood is produced by your liver. When you eat foods high in cholesterol, your liver produces less (2).
For this reason, cholesterol in the diet has only minor effects on blood cholesterol levels in most people (3).
Studies also suggest that eating dietary cholesterol has no link to heart attacks or strokes (3, 4).
What’s more, many foods high in cholesterol are among the healthiest and most nutritious foods.
Here are 7 high-cholesterol foods that are super healthy.
Cheese is a tasty, filling, nutrient-dense food.
One ounce or slice of cheddar provides 28 mg of cholesterol, which is a relatively high amount.
However, cheese is also loaded with other nutrients. For example, an ounce of cheddar has 7 grams of quality protein and provides 15% of the Daily Value (DV) for calcium (5).
Despite also being high in saturated fat, research suggests that it may improve heart health (6, 7).
High-protein, low-carb dairy foods like cheese may likewise help decrease body fat and increase muscle mass (8).
Cheese is a tasty, filling food that may improve heart health and promote the loss of body fat.
Eggs are among the most nutritious foods.
They’re also extremely high in cholesterol, with 2 large eggs providing 372 mg (9).
Additionally, eggs provide 13 grams of protein, 56% of the DV for selenium, as well as good amounts of riboflavin, vitamin B12, and choline (9).
Unfortunately, some people throw out the cholesterol-rich yolk and eat only the egg white. This is generally due to a misguided fear of the cholesterol in the yolk.
However, the yolk is by far the most nutritious part of the egg. It provides almost all the nutrients, while the white is mostly protein.
In addition, egg yolks contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which reduce the risk of eye disorders like cataracts and macular degeneration (10, 11).
Eating whole eggs may even reduce risk factors for heart disease in some people (12, 13).
What’s more, eggs may lower blood sugar levels and make you feel full and satisfied (14, 15).
Whole eggs are loaded with nutrients. Almost all of the nutrients are found in the yolks, which also happen to be high in cholesterol.
Liver is a nutritional powerhouse.
It’s also rich in cholesterol, regardless of the animal source.
For instance, a 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of beef liver contains 389 mg of cholesterol.
This serving also provides 27 grams of protein and is rich in many vitamins and minerals. In fact, it contains more than 600% of the DV for vitamin A and over 1,000% of the DV for vitamin B12 (16).
Furthermore, it provides 28% of the DV for iron. Plus, this is the heme form of iron that is most easily absorbed (17).
In addition, 3.5 ounces of beef liver contain 339 mg of choline, an important nutrient that helps protect the health of your brain, heart, liver, and muscles (18, 19, 20).
Along with whole eggs, liver is among the world’s best sources of choline. This is important because most people don’t get enough of this nutrient (19, 21).
Liver is packed with vitamin A, vitamin B12, protein, and iron. It is also extremely high in choline, which most people don’t get enough of.
Shellfish are delicious and nourishing foods.
Some of the most popular types include shrimp, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, clams, and scallops.
Interestingly, shellfish are low in fat yet high in cholesterol.
For example, a 100-gram (3.5-ounce) portion of shrimp contains 211 mg of cholesterol and only 2 grams of fat.
Shellfish are also a great protein source and very high in vitamin B12 and choline (22 ).
One serving of most types of shellfish likewise provides around 90% of the DV for selenium, a mineral that reduces inflammation and may decrease the risk of prostate cancer (23, 24).
In addition, shellfish are some of the best sources of iodine, which is crucial for proper brain and thyroid function. Research has shown that many people are at risk of iodine deficiency, particularly women and children (25, 26).
Shellfish are high in protein and rich in several nutrients, including selenium and iodine, that reduce disease risk.
5. Cod liver oil
Cod liver oil delivers amazing health benefits in a concentrated form.
Just one tablespoon contains 570 mg of cholesterol.
It also contains 453% of the DV for vitamin A and 170% of the DV for vitamin D (27).
Cod liver oil is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of heart disease and offer various other benefits (28).
What’s more, some researchers have suggested that vitamin D and omega-3 fats may work together to protect against cancer (29).
Cod liver oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D. It may protect against heart disease.
6. Other organ meats
Although liver is the most popular organ meat, others are consumed as well.
Some other common types include kidneys, heart, and brain.
Like shellfish, most organ meat is high in cholesterol and low in fat.
For instance, a 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of lamb kidneys contains 565 mg of cholesterol and only 4 grams of fat (30).
Organ meat is also rich in several vitamins and minerals, including the B vitamins, selenium, and iron. In fact, 100 grams of lamb kidneys provide a whopping 3,288% of the DV for vitamin B12 and 398% of the DV for selenium (30).
In addition, heart meat is very high in CoQ10, which may reduce the symptoms of heart failure. CoQ10 may also reduce muscle pain related to cholesterol-lowering statin drugs (31, 32).
Organ meat, such as kidney and heart meat, is rich in many vitamins and minerals. Heart meat is also high in beneficial CoQ10.
Sardines are a true superfood.
They’re also higher in cholesterol than many people realize. A 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of sardines contains 142 mg of cholesterol.
One serving of sardines also provides 25 grams of protein, 24% of the DV for vitamin D, 29% of the DV for calcium, and 96% of the DV for selenium (33 ).
Additionally, it contains 982 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. These have several health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and protecting brain health (34, 35, 36).
Omega-3 fats may also ease symptoms in people with depression. In one 12-week study, 69% of people who took the omega-3 fat eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) daily reported a reduction in symptoms of depression (37).
Sardines are rich in several nutrients. They are very high in omega-3s, which improve heart and brain health while fighting depression.
The bottom line
Dietary cholesterol has only minimal effects on blood cholesterol in most people. More importantly, it has no strong links to the risk of heart disease.
The truth is that most of the foods that are high in cholesterol are also healthy and nutritious.
This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.
Our team of licensed nutritionists and dietitians strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.
This article contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.