There’s nothing like a hearty breakfast to start your day. Bacon, cookies, buttery grits — oh my! When it comes to the first meal of the day, the tempting taste sensations are pretty much endless. On the downside, though, a lot of our favorite breakfast go-tos can be loaded with cholesterol.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
When you’re brunching it up or grabbing a quick bite before work, what should you reach for? Registered dietitian, Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CCSD, LD, shares some good brekkie picks and watch-outs to help keep your cholesterol under control.
Breakfast foods that are high in cholesterol
When it comes to cholesterol content, Patton says these foods can be the worst breakfast offenders.
“The combination of egg, cheese and bacon/sausage can be a major source of cholesterol. And if they are cooked in butter or served on a croissant, that adds even more cholesterol,” says Patton.
Your morning perk-me-up could be doing more harm than good if it’s dressed up with all the extras. Patton says lattes with whole milk and whipped cream are another source of cholesterol.
The alternatives aren’t much better
You’ve been stocking up on that organic chicken sausage and feeling pretty darn proud about it, too. Good effort, but you still have to watch out for cholesterol. “People often think that turkey bacon, turkey sausage or chicken sausage are better options. However, they only have slightly less cholesterol than pork or beef counterparts,” Patton explains.
Low cholesterol breakfast foods you should consider
You hear “breakfast” and your mind goes to the usual hits — pancakes, cereal, toast, eggs or maybe a smoothie. But you might want to start thinking globally instead of locally when it comes to switching up your am rotation.
“A lot of cultures start their day with beans, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, extra-virgin olive oil and pita bread. While we might consider these as non-traditional breakfast items, they’re good because they don’t have cholesterol and will provide steady energy throughout your morning,” Patton says.
You might add it to morning smoothies or enjoy yogurt parfaits for breakfast. But yogurt isn’t always an obvious choice for many.
“Yogurt is a common food for breakfast, but some may not consider it. Depending on its fat content, there may be some cholesterol in it but not a lot,” notes Patton. If you go for yogurt in the morning, she suggests choosing one that doesn’t have added sugar. Instead, add fruit to sweeten it with natural sugar, along with additional flavors and textures from oats, nuts, ground flaxseed and chia seeds.
Other low-cholesterol breakfast foods to keep on-hand
What are some low-cholesterol breakfast staples that we should always keep around the house? Patton recommends the following:
- Natural nut butters (almond, cashew, peanut, etc.).
- Nuts and seeds.
- Shredded wheat.
- Whole-grain or sprouted-grain bread.
- Yogurt with no added sugar.
Low-Cholesterol Breakfast Recipes
Change doesn’t have to be hard. Here’s some low-cholesterol breakfast inspiration to get you started.
Chia and Berry Breakfast Pudding
This hearty option is good if you’re looking for an alternative to eggs or even smoothies. You can make it ahead of time and it’s a great source of protein, fiber, omega-3 fats and important minerals. Get the berry breakfast pudding recipe here.
Since Patton mentioned keeping oats around the house, you might as well get creative with them. Overnight oats are a good solution when you need something quick and filling but don’t want to cook. And the flavor combinations are endless. Here are seven overnight oat recipes to try.
As we all know, avocado toast has become a brunch delight over the last few years. But you don’t need to make a reservation to enjoy it. Make this flavorful version of avocado toast at home in minutes. It has no cholesterol and is loaded with phytonutrients and healthy fats.
Veggie Omelet “Muffins”
We know, we know. Those breakfast egg sandwiches can get us into trouble. So here’s a savory alternative in “muffin” form. This combination of egg whites/egg substitute, low-fat cheese and fresh vegetables are simple to make and low in calories and fat. You can enjoy these veggie omelet “muffins” for breakfast with a side of fresh berries or have them for lunch with a nice tossed salad.
How much cholesterol should you eat?
Cholesterol is naturally produced by your body, so we should try avoiding it in the foods we eat. Your body uses cholesterol to make bile, a fluid that your liver makes to digest fat in your intestines. Your body also uses cholesterol to make vitamin D and hormones like testosterone and estrogen.
According to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the Daily Value (DV) for cholesterol is less than 300 milligrams (mg) per day. When you’re looking at nutritional labels, keep in mind that 5% DV of cholesterol or less would be considered low. If a food has 20% or more cholesterol per serving, that’s considered high.
Sources of dietary cholesterol
In Patton’s words, it’s simple. “Dietary cholesterol only comes from animal sources. So, if it comes from an animal, it has cholesterol.”
Here are some cholesterol culprits:
- Beef fat.
- Chicken fat.
- Egg yolks.
- Meats and Poultry.
- Pork fat/bacon.
- Processed meats and poultry products (bacon, hot dogs, jerky, some lunch meats and sausage).
- Shellfish (lobster and shrimp).
- Spreads (butter, cream cheese and sour cream).
Why it’s important to keep your diet in check
“A diet high in animal fat, saturated fat and cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, diabetes and obesity. It is important to assess how much animal fat you are consuming and try to replace it with plant-based foods instead,” says Patton.