Cholesterol, as you no doubt have heard, is the bad stuff that has made "meat" and "eggs" truly four-letter words. Actually, it's produced in your liver and is necessary to help you live. Unfortunately, it's produced by other animals, too--cows, chickens, even shellfish. So when you eat these food sources, you're getting cholesterol.

While dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol, most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by the liver. And dietary saturated fat is a greater villain than cholesterol for heart disease. Still, it's advisable to limit your dietary cholesterol because too much in your blood can cause buildup of atherosclerotic plaques, the fatty accumulations in arteries that can block blood flow and lead to a heart attack. Here's how to limit dietary cholesterol:

Monitor your meats

To reduce both cholesterol and fat in your diet, eat no more than three 3-ounce servings of meat each week. And when you do, choose leaner cuts such as tenderloin, flank, top round, eye of round and top sirloin. While chicken and turkey have less saturated fat than "red" meats such as steak and hamburger, don't assume they are cholesterol-free. All meats have cholesterol. Actually, organ meats of any type from any animal should be avoided by those with high cholesterol: The highest concentrations of cholesterol are in liver, brains and gonads.

And beware of some sea life

Fish is generally a heart-healthier alternative to meats, because it tends to be lower in overall fat and higher in heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. But some shellfish, such as shrimp, though low in saturated fat, are high in cholesterol and should be eaten sparingly by those with high cholesterol.

Make that omelet from whites

Eggs are a nutritious food, but skip the yolk: Just 1 1/3 eggs contain the total daily cholesterol intake recommended by the American Heart Association. However, egg whites are cholesterol-free and still pack plenty of nutritional bite.

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