How much cholesterol can I have?

The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that most people eat less than 200 mg of cholesterol a day. Many of us eat more. The average American man eats 360 mg of cholesterol each day. The average American woman eats between 220 mg and 260 mg.

How Much Cholesterol Is in Common Foods?


Look how much cholesterol is in each of these:

  • three-egg cheese omelet with a side of ham, and a glass of 2% milk: 793 mg
  • fried fish sandwich with tartar sauce and French fries: 55 mg
  • roasted light-meat chicken without skin, baked potato with sour cream, salad with Thousand Island dressing, and a piece of pecan pie: 169 mg

If you eat these three meals in a single day, that's more than 1,000 mg of cholesterol! To learn about the amount of cholesterol in other foods, see Which Foods Contain Cholesterol?

As with fat, it's OK to eat more than your cholesterol limit once in a while. But over several days, your cholesterol intake should average no more than 200 mg a day. Or, follow whatever limit your doctor sets for you.


How Can I Find Out the Amount of Cholesterol I Eat?

To find out how much you need to change your diet to cut cholesterol, try this.

  • Write down the amount of cholesterol in each of your meals and snacks throughout the day. Food labels list the milligrams of cholesterol in one serving as defined on the food label. If you eat a smaller or larger serving, then you're eating fewer or more milligrams of cholesterol. Do your best to estimate the milligrams of cholesterol in the amount of food you actually ate.
  • At the end of the day, add up your total.
  • Repeat this experiment for several days, then look at your totals. Are you at or below your limits on most days? If so, you're doing well. If not, you need to try to cut some cholesterol from your diet. You don't need to add up your actual cholesterol intake every day of your life. But it's a good idea to do this when you are starting to make diet changes so you know where you are at the outset. Then do it again every few months as you make changes to see whether your eating habits are really improving.