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Nobody wants to hear from their doctor that they have high cholesterol, but unfortunately it’s a common problem in the United States. Although a healthy amount of cholesterol is needed in the body to build cells, having too much can cause blood clots to form in the arteries, which can lead to stroke or heart disease in some.

So what causes high cholesterol and how can we reduce it? Many factors contribute to increased cholesterol levels, including smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise, and poor diet.

To learn more about the ways a poor diet can raise cholesterol levels, we spoke with a few expert dietitians about the eating habits that secretly raise your levels. Read on and for more healthy eating tips, check out the best breakfast habits for high blood pressure.

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A diet high in red meat is known to increase the risk of high cholesterol. This is mainly due to its saturated fat content.

“Heart disease and obesity are the main diseases associated with a diet high in red meat. This is due to the high saturated fat content of meat, which leads to increased cholesterol and artery blockages as well as triglycerides Cutting out or drastically reducing saturated fat in your diet is one change that can help improve heart health,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD at Balance One Supplements.

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Many people may not realize it, but crash diets or other unhealthy diets can actually cause health and cholesterol problems.

“A lesser-known habit known to impact cholesterol is weight cycling. Specifically, weight cycling (also known as yo-yo dieting) has been associated with lower HDL (the ” good” cholesterol) and an increase in LDL (the “bad” cholesterol). ) more comfortable for anyone’s body. What can we do instead? Combat systemic weight stigma and discourage restrictive dieting,” says Rachel Fine, RDN and founder of At The Peak Nutrition.

RELATED: 4 Dangerous Side Effects Of Having A Restrictive Diet

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Fried foods are delicious, and often going to the drive-thru for a fast food lunch is one of the most convenient options. However, it can have a negative impact on your cholesterol.

“It is important to avoid or limit fried foods. These foods are high in cholesterol and should be avoided as much as possible, especially because the hydrogenated oil used to fry these foods contains bad fats that tend to increase bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body,” says Beth Hawkes, RDN, dietitian and owner of Nurse.

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If you are someone who watches your cholesterol, you may want to reduce your intake of added sugar. But regardless of your cholesterol levels, most Americans consume too much added sugar on a daily basis.

“It’s also important to limit sugary treats. Ice cream and baked goods, such as cakes, pastries, and cookies, contain added sugars, and there is a link between added sugars and increased LDL (bad cholesterol). Added sugars also lower the level of HDL (good cholesterol) and increase triglycerides in your body.These sugary treats, along with soft drinks and canned juices, are also associated with weight gain, which can possibly spike cholesterol levels in your body,” says Hawkes.

RELATED: 5 Snacking Habits To Avoid If You Have High Cholesterol

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Finally, if you can avoid or limit your intake of prepackaged foods, you may be able to help manage your cholesterol levels.

“These foods can raise cholesterol because they are low in fiber, often contain highly saturated (and environmentally harmful) palm oil (or a derivative) and are low in healthy nutrients, making them inflammatory and prone to inflammation. ‘raise cholesterol’, says Dana Ellis HunnesPhD, MPH, RD dietitian and author Recipe for survival.