Foods and Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a vital component of all your body’s cells. Although popularly known, you should avoid food that is high in cholesterol, that is a simplification. Your liver produces most of the cholesterol in your body.

Does your blood carry more LDL (“bad”) cholesterol than you can use? That “free” cholesterol can prompt white cells that engulf it and foam up, causing it to get trapped in blood vessel walls, where it can harden. The excess LDL may be caused by your diet, weight, inherited (genetic) diseases (do your parents have high cholesterol?), or other diseases such as type 2 diabetes or an underactive thyroid. Lack of physical activity, smoking, age, medicines, and race may also affect your LDL level. Your doctor may prescribe a statin to modify how your body produces cholesterol.

Foods can affect the cholesterol in your body. Even if you are on medication for cholesterol, a good diet will work with your body, helping reduce the excess LDL in your blood. Changing what you eat can only help!

High fructose

Very high fructose intake increases LDL and total cholesterol. Avoid overdoing your consumption of:

  • Fruit juices
  • Sugary soft drinks
  • Dried fruits
  • Fruits
  • Honey
  • Sweetened fruit yogurt
  • Fruit pies
  • Fast food: burgers, sauces, pizza
  • Prepared salad dressings

List from MyFoodData.com

Fats are essential

Fats are one of the three main nutrient groups in our diet, along with carbohydrates and proteins. They serve as energy sources and as stores of excess energy. They are the main components of foods like milk, butter, tallow, lard, bacon, and cooking oils, and a major and dense source of food energy. Except for a few essential fatty acids, your body can produce the fat that it needs from other food ingredients. Your body digests and absorbs fat-soluble Vitamins A, D, E, and K only in conjunction with fat. Dietary fats also carry flavor and aroma ingredients that don’t dissolve in water.

As a vital substance, fat helps maintain healthy skin and hair, insulates body organs against shock, helps maintain body temperature, and promotes healthy cell function. It is a useful buffer against a host of diseases. Your body can dilute a substance that reaches unsafe levels in your bloodstream by storing it in new fat tissue. Then the substance may be either used by your body or removed by excretion, urination, bloodletting, sebum (your body’s essential oil) excretion, and hair growth.

Fats and your blood’s LDL level

Saturated fat: foods and cholesterol

Saturated fats can be solid at room temperature. In 2016, scientists found tentative evidence that associates dietary cholesterol with higher blood cholesterol. Some animal products, like beef and dairy products made with whole or reduced-fat milk (yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and butter) have mostly saturated fatty acids. Some also have significant contents of dietary cholesterol.

The American Heart Association recommends a general 7% caloric limit of saturated fat in your daily diet. In other words, for a 2000 calorie a day diet, no more than 140 calories should come from saturated fat. The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends replacing fats to reduce your consumption of cow’s milk and dairy products, palm oil, and meat.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends replacing dietary saturated fats with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats and/or high-quality carbohydrates (e.g. whole grains) to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Trans fat: foods and cholesterol

Trans fat is an unintentional byproduct of partial hydrogenation, a means of making relatively cheap liquid fats solid to extend their shelf life. Partial hydrogenation yields a fat product with a specific melting point, and other properties desired by food manufacturers.

Unfortunately, as a result, eating trans fat raises your LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowers your HDL (good cholesterol).

Hydrogenated oil is used in snack food, packaged baked goods, deep-fried products, and margarine, a replacement for butter and shortening. Try to reduce or eliminate these foods from your diet. The National Academy of Sciences has concluded that there is no safe level of trans fat consumption.

Unsaturated fat: foods and HDL cholesterol

Other animal products, like pork, poultry, eggs, and seafood have mostly unsaturated fats. This fat is liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fat contains somewhat less energy than a saturated fat molecule of the same length. Some testing has shown that it can raise a person’s HDL levels. A so-called Mediterranean diet includes mostly unsaturated fatty acids from olive oil and fish, vegetables, and lamb. Most foods containing unsaturated fat also contain saturated fat.

Sources of monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) include red meat, whole milk products, nuts: cashews, hazelnuts, high-fat fruits: olives, avocados, oils: olive, canola, tallow, lard, nut oils: avocado, macadamia nut, grapeseed, peanut, sesame, corn, almond, sunflower, grains: popcorn, whole grain wheat, cereal, oatmeal, hemp oil.

Sources of some polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), per 100 grams (about a half cup or the size of an average lemon): Sardines, 5; Soybeans, 7; Whole grain wheat, 9.7; Olive oil, 11; Seaweed, 11; Safflower Oil, 12.82; Avocado Oil, 13.5; Tuna, 14; Peanut Butter, 14.2; Unsalted Peanuts, 16; Wild Salmon, 17.3; Chia Seeds, 23.7; Sesame Seeds, 26; Sunflower Seeds, 33; Canola Oil, 34; Walnuts, 47.

Replacing 5% of energy intake from saturated fats with equivalent energy intake from either PUFAs, MUFAs, or carbohydrates from whole grains was associated with 25%, 15%, and 9% lower risk of CHD. (NIH.gov)

All fats contain 9 calories per gram of fat. Don’t bother with math: just replace saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats.

Vedas is minutes from I-45 (Houston’s North Freeway) in The Woodlands. Call 281-298-5476 for a free consultation with Dr. Nangrani. She can help you balance your diet foods and cholesterol.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

See also our Cholesterol Primer

Wikipedia: fat

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