Different types of low cholesterol snacks and snacking tips

Cholesterol is an important molecule involved in bodily functions, from vitamin absorption to structuring cell membranes. However, an imbalance between “good” and “bad” kinds of cholesterol may lead to negative health effects.

For this reason, a person may benefit from cutting down on processed sugary or fried foods. These types of food may cause elevations in cholesterol levels.

A wide range of fruits, vegetables, starchy foods, and proteins can act as good substitutes. Dairy and dairy alternatives may also help improve a person’s cholesterol levels.

This article discusses some foods that have a positive impact on cholesterol. It also outlines healthy snacking tips and answers common questions about low cholesterol snacks.

For more science-backed resources on nutrition, visit our dedicated hub.

Types of cholesterol

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Scientists define cholesterol as a fatty molecule that plays several important bodily roles.

There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. People may refer to LDL cholesterol as “bad” cholesterol and HDL cholesterol as “good” cholesterol.

If a person has too much LDL, they may be at risk of developing certain health conditions.

Starchy foods

According to a 2020 study, replacing certain dietary sugars such as fructose or sucrose with starch may reduce LDL cholesterol levels. Therefore, a person may better maintain healthy cholesterol levels by replacing sugary snacks with starchy foods.

Some nutrient-rich starchy foods include:

  • sweet potato
  • potato
  • yam
  • cassava
  • plantain

Protein

It is important to distinguish between how much cholesterol food has and its effect on bodily cholesterol. According to a 2019 study in Korea, this issue is relevant to the status of animal proteins as low cholesterol foods since animal proteins often have lots of cholesterol.

The authors of this study suggest that only certain processed meats may increase total and LDL cholesterol levels. The study did not find similar effects in people who ate eggs or unprocessed meats. However, the authors also note the need for further conclusive research into this topic on larger populations.

A better source of low cholesterol protein may come from soy products. Research suggests that soy protein may help lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Heart UK recommends the following soy foods as good sources of low cholesterol proteins:

  • edamame or young soybeans
  • tofu
  • soy mince or meatballs

Learn more about low cholesterol meats and meat alternatives.

Dairy and dairy alternatives

Dairy products can contain a significant amount of saturated fat, which may raise a person’s cholesterol levels. However, this depends on the product type and whether it is full or low fat. Therefore, a person should consider speaking with a doctor about consuming dairy products in moderation to help lower cholesterol.

Some fermented dairy products may help lower LDL cholesterol levels. These include:

  • some types of cheese
  • yogurt
  • kefir

Non-fermented dairy products such as cow’s milk are not likely to lower LDL cholesterol levels. However, some dairy-free alternatives may help.

Heart UK recommends soy milk and soy yogurt as alternatives to dairy-based snacks.

Healthy snacking tips

Maintaining a balanced diet is the key method for sustaining healthy cholesterol levels. A person may follow these tips to help develop a balanced low cholesterol diet:

  • practicing conscious or mindful eating
  • keeping a good stock of healthy snacks
  • trying new and healthy recipes

Research also suggests that avoiding trans and saturated fats is important for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.

Frequently asked questions

Below are answers to some of the most common questions about low cholesterol snacks.

Is popcorn low in cholesterol?

Popcorn without added sugar or salt may have low levels of cholesterol. However, popcorn can have high levels of cholesterol if people prepare it with butter or a sugary coating, such as caramel.

Are pretzels low in cholesterol?

This depends on the type of pretzel. Hard and soft pretzels may contain different ingredients, but many contain refined carbohydrates. A healthier option may be pretzels containing whole grains. A person can check the nutrition label on the product to determine its cholesterol content.

What cheese has low cholesterol?

There is limited research into which cheeses are best for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. However, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) recommends people try to eat fewer hard cheeses, such as cheddar.

Summary

A person may find it difficult to balance their intake of “good” and “bad” cholesterol. However, a range of snack options may help reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.

People should speak with a healthcare professional if they are concerned about their cholesterol intake. A doctor or dietitian can help create meal plans and advise a person about other lifestyle modifications to lower cholesterol levels.