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Are Zero Cholesterol Foods Healthier?

Are Zero Cholesterol Foods Healthier?

At some point, you probably bought a food product where the label says “zero cholesterol.” And because cholesterol has been associated with bad health outcomes, you may think that the food is healthy. But is it really possible for a food item to not contain cholesterol? What’s the truth behind no cholesterol food?

Cholesterol, An Overview

Let’s start the discussion about no cholesterol food items with an overview of what cholesterol is.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the blood and is naturally produced by the liver. While excessive blood cholesterol level is associated with many diseases, it’s crucial to keep in mind that at healthy levels, cholesterol plays many vital roles.

There are two types of cholesterol:

  • Low-Density Lipoprotein or bad cholesterol. Excessive amounts of LDL may cause plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis), significantly increasing the risk of heart disease.
  • High-Density Lipoprotein or good cholesterol. HDLs, according to experts, can help protect you against heart disease.

Of course, let’s not forget about the dietary cholesterol or the cholesterol we get from food.

no cholesterol food

Do We Really Have No Cholesterol Food Items?

You must be wondering: do we really have zero cholesterol foods?

Experts say we do.

According to them, dietary cholesterol is only present in foods coming from animals. Plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, do not contain cholesterol. Even the kinds of nuts and seeds that have fat have zero cholesterol.

But what about the “cholesterol-free” labels in some food items?

A representative of the American Nutrition and Dietetics explained that “cholesterol-free” means the foodstuff has less than 2 mg of cholesterol and 2 grams or less of saturated fats2.

Now, here’s an interesting fact: In most cases, consuming high cholesterol foods has little effect on blood cholesterol. If your latest laboratory results show high blood cholesterol, experts say that’s probably due to a high intake of saturated and trans fats and low consumption of unsaturated fats.

Do You Need to Limit Your Cholesterol Intake?

Because dietary cholesterol doesn’t usually have a huge impact on blood cholesterol, most people do not need to refrain from eating foods high in cholesterol.

What experts are more worried about is the intake of saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats can influence how the liver handles cholesterol, and this may increase blood cholesterol.

However, there are some instances when consuming no cholesterol food makes sense. Those instances include having high blood cholesterol or an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. People with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) might also want to consider consuming no cholesterol food products. FH is an inherited condition that makes the patient prone to having excessive levels of blood cholesterol.

Recommendations from Experts

For experts, moderation is always the key.

A healthy and balanced diet consists of a variety of no cholesterol food items, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. For protein, consider lean sources like fish and poultry. And even though they are high in cholesterol, experts still recommend an adequate intake of eggs and shellfish.

As for the foods you may want to avoid, think of saturated and trans fats that are found in baked goodies, fatty meat, full-fat dairy, and processed foods.

Finally, be careful even if the label says it is no cholesterol food item. Just because it doesn’t contain cholesterol doesn’t mean it doesn’t have high amounts of bad fats.

Key Takeaways

Cholesterol, a fatty substance in our bloodstream, performs vital bodily functions. However, an increased level of blood cholesterol is associated with heart disease.

Still, experts highlight that you don’t necessarily need to limit your diet to no cholesterol food items. They are more worried about the high consumption of saturated and trans fats.

Learn more about Cholesterol here.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Cholesterol – healthy eating tips, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/cholesterol-healthy-eating-tips, Accessed October 26, 2021

What do cholesterol-free and low-cholesterol food labels mean?, https://www.sharecare.com/health/nutrition-diet/low-cholesterol-food-labels, Accessed October 26, 2021

High cholesterol food, https://www.heartuk.org.uk/low-cholesterol-foods/foods-that-contain-cholesterol, Accessed October 26, 2021

High-Cholesterol Foods to Eat and Avoid, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/high-cholesterol-foods-to-eat-and-avoid/, Accessed October 26, 2021

Familial hypercholesterolemia, https://www.rapidtables.com/tools/notepad.html, Accessed October 26, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Oct 25
Fact Checked by Kristel Lagorza