For years, you’ve been told that high-cholesterol foods can cause heart disease.
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 cholesterol in the blood (3).
What’s more, many foods high in cholesterol are also among the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet.
Here are 7 high-cholesterol foods that are actually super healthy.
Cheese is a tasty, filling, nutrient-dense food.
One ounce of cheese provides 27 mg of cholesterol, which is relatively high.
However, cheese is also loaded with other nutrients. For example, an ounce of cheese has 7 grams of quality protein and provides 20% of the RDI for calcium (5).
Bottom Line: Cheese is a tasty, filling food that may improve heart health, promote the loss of body fat and help prevent cavities.
Eggs are definitely among the most nutritious foods on earth.
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.
Bottom Line: 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 nutrition 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 396 mg of cholesterol.
This serving also provides 28 grams of protein and is rich in many vitamins and minerals. In fact, it contains more than 600% of the RDI for vitamin A and more than 1,000% of the RDI for vitamin B12 (17).
It also provides 38% of the RDI for iron. What’s more, this is the heme form of iron that is most easily absorbed (18).
Bottom Line: 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 is low in fat yet high in cholesterol.
For example, a 100-gram (3.5 ounce) portion of shrimp contains 195 mg of cholesterol and only 1 gram of fat.
It’s also a great protein source and very high in niacin, vitamin B12 and iron (23).
In addition, shellfish is one 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 (26, 27).
Bottom Line: Shellfish is a high-protein food that is rich in several nutrients that reduce disease risk, including selenium and iodine.
5. Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil delivers amazing health benefits in a concentrated form.
What’s more, some researchers have suggested that vitamin D and omega-3 fats may work together to protect against cancer (30).
Bottom Line: Cod liver oil is rich in vitamins A, D and omega-3 fatty acids. It may provide protection from heart disease and cancer.
6. Other Organ Meats
Although liver is the most popular organ meat, others are also consumed.
Some other common types include kidneys, heart and brain.
Like shellfish, most organ meat is high in cholesterol and low in fat.
Organ meat is also rich in several vitamins and minerals, including the B vitamins, selenium and iron. In fact, one serving of kidneys provides a whopping 874% of the RDI for vitamin B12 and 181% of the RDI for selenium.
In addition, heart meat is very high in CoQ10, which may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and heart failure. CoQ10 may also reduce the muscle pain related to cholesterol-lowering statin drugs (34, 35, 36).
Bottom Line: 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 provides 25 grams of protein, 68% of the RDI for vitamin D, 38% of the RDI for calcium and 75% of the RDI for selenium (37).
Bottom Line: Sardines are rich in several nutrients. They are very high in omega-3s, which improve heart and brain health, while fighting depression.
Take Home Message
Dietary cholesterol has only minimal effects on blood cholesterol. More importantly, it has absolutely no link with the risk of heart disease.
The truth is that most of the foods that are high in cholesterol are also super healthy and nutritious.
These foods should be embraced, not feared.