Cholesterol Content in Meats: What You Need To Know

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Cholesterol and You

Cholesterol is necessary for normal body function. It is produced in the body by the liver and can be consumed through animal sources. Our genetics and dietary intake are the two main factors that influence our serum cholesterol levels. Elevated cholesterol levels can contribute to heart disease. Reviewing cholesterol content in meats and managing your intake can help you better manage your serum cholesterol levels.

The Basics

A good way to remember if something has cholesterol is by identifying whether or not it has a liver. If it does not have a liver, then it does not have cholesterol. For example, eggs come from a chicken, and a chicken has a liver so this means that eggs have cholesterol. The good thing about eggs is that only the yolk of the egg contains cholesterol. The white of the egg does not so you can enjoy an egg white without worrying about the cholesterol. Fruits, vegetables, and grains would not have cholesterol because they do not have a liver.

Some animal sources are higher in cholesterol than others. If you are a meat eater, you want to evaluate the cholesterol content in meats. Dark meats, red meats, and some shellfish are high in cholesterol. The leaner the meat, the lower the cholesterol content. Other than meats, cheeses and milk products made from whole milk are high in dietary cholesterol.

Cholesterol Content in Meat

A three ounce portion (approximately the size of a deck of cards) of cooked beef has 78 mg of protein. A three ounce portion of shrimp is at the highest with 128 mg of cholesterol. A three ounce portion of white meat turkey has the lowest amount of cholesterol in the meat category at 66 mg. However, some fish portions are lower averaging around 45 mg per three ounce serving. Below is a list of the cholesterol content in the most commonly consumed meats.

  • Dark meat chicken without the skin, 81 mg
  • White meat chicken without the skin, 72 mg
  • Dark meat turkey without the skin, 87 mg
  • White meat turkey without the skin, 66 mg
  • Bacon, 1 slice, 5 mg
  • Ham, Pork, boiled, 75 mg
  • Veal, lean, 84 mg
  • Tuna, 55 mg
  • Haddock, 40 mg

Cooking methods can also affect the cholesterol content in meats. Avoid using butters and other animal fats, and use methods like grilling, broiling, and baking to help keep cholesterol content low.

Message from the RD

If you suffer from high cholesterol, pay attention to the amount of dietary cholesterol that you consume daily. Genetics do play a role in whether or not one will have elevated cholesterol levels. However, you have ultimate control over your dietary intake. Read food labels and look for foods low in cholesterol. The daily recommendation for dietary cholesterol intake is 300mg per day. Make sure to consume adequate servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to increase your fiber intake. Fiber has been shown to help reduce the serum cholesterol levels in the blood.


Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010

Cholesterol Management Health Center

Wardlaw, G.M. Perspectives in Nutrition, Fourth Edition, 1999.