More than 102 million American adults have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dl, which is considered unhealthy.

Approximately 35 million of these people have levels of 240 mg/dl or higher, putting them at high risk for heart disease.

Some cholesterol is necessary for your body to thrive. However, if your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” is too high, you can develop serious health issues, most notably heart problems and diabetes.

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Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a condition caused by a gene mutation and characterized by higher than normal levels of LDL cholesterol. This condition causes up to 10 percent of early-onset coronary artery disease, which is a disease that occurs before the age of 55 years. FH affects approximately 1 in 500 people and isn’t commonly diagnosed. Obviously, this condition is not diet-related.

However, many causes of high cholesterol can, at least partly, be linked to our diet.

The best way to either lower your cholesterol or ensure that you don’t develop high cholesterol as a result of your cholesterol intake is to watch your diet. Certain high cholesterol foods are both nutritious and beneficial to your health. However, there are many unhealthy high cholesterol foods to avoid or reduce in your diet if you’re looking to prevent high cholesterol problems.

Here are some high cholesterol foods to avoid:

1. Fried foods

Fried foods like breaded meat, french fries, and cheese sticks are not only high in calories but loaded with unhealthy trans fats and high in bad cholesterol. High consumption of fried foods has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and an increased risk of heart disease as a result of the high cholesterol and trans fat content.

2. Processed meats

If you have high cholesterol, processed meats like hot dogs, sausage, and bacon should be eliminated from your diet. Even if you don’t have high cholesterol, high consumption of these types of processed meats has not only been linked to heart disease but certain kinds of cancers like colon cancer.

3. High sugar content food/drink

High calorie, sugary desserts like cookies, cakes, pie, packaged snacks, donuts, ice cream and pastries tend to be high in cholesterol. These types of high sugar desserts are primarily lacking in beneficial nutrients. Frequently eating them will not only increase your bad cholesterol level, but can cause unhealthy weight gain leading to other health complications and increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes. Occasionally having a slice of cake or a cookie is okay if you generally aren’t eating them on a daily, consistent basis. You should also eliminate soda and juices that have a high sugar content from your diet.

4. Full-fat dairy products

Dairy products that have unhealthy full-fat should be avoided. If you are watching your cholesterol levels, you should consume low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy product options.

5. Fast Food

Last but certainly not least, if you want to lower your LDL cholesterol, you should avoid or limit eating typical unhealthy high cholesterol fast food.

Those who frequently eat fast food not only increase their bad cholesterol and risk for heart disease but have higher levels of inflammation, belly fat (obesity risk), and impaired blood sugar levels (diabetes risk). Due to pressure from consumers for healthier options, many fast-food chains are now offering some low cholesterol choices such as salads, grilled meat choices, and fresh fruit.

If you eliminate the above high cholesterol foods from your diet for at least 30 days, you should not only see a reduction in your harmful cholesterol levels but decreased inflammation and bloating.

If you substitute a heart-healthy diet which is primarily composed of whole grains, omega-3 fatty fish, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, and plenty of water, you should feel healthier. For people who are serious about being healthier, adjusting their diet should hopefully be a lifestyle change they embrace.

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