Cholesterol is a yellowish, waxy substance that is essential for your body's cells. Your liver produces all the cholesterol your body needs. For this reason, you do not have to eat any additional cholesterol. Too much cholesterol or a body that cannot get rid of extra cholesterol can increase your risk for health problems and the development of heart disease.
Cholesterol is not found in any plant-based foods. It's not in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans or nuts. It is in all animal products-all meats, poultry, egg yolks, whole milk dairy products (also found in one- and two-percent milk, just in lower quantities) and seafood.
You may have heard about "good" and "bad" cholesterol. These labels are made based on how the cholesterol works in your body. The good is high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and the bad is low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The good kind helps remove cholesterol from your blood stream. When too much bad cholesterol remains in your blood, it can build up in the walls of your arteries forming plaque, which can clog your arteries.
Now for the confusing part: it is the saturated fat you eat that raises the level of the bad LDL cholesterol in your blood. Some examples of foods high in saturated fat are butter, whole milk, cheese, ice cream and red meat. A build up of cholesterol is called atherosclerosis. It can increase your risk for heat attack and death.
It is necessary to have your cholesterol checked-especially if you take antipsychotic medication! Be sure you find out your scores for total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
|Low||n/a||Less than 40 mg/dl|
|Borderline high||130-159 mg/dl|
|Very High||190 mg/dl and above|
|Optimal||Less than 100 mg/dl||More than 40 mg/dl|
Note: These may be different for men and women.
Once you get used to healthful eating, looking for nutritious foods will become easier.
A recent study showed that a diet high in saturated fat can reduce the protective effect of HDL, not just increase LDL levels. This means that the quality of HDL can be altered by what you eat.
HDL is thought to have anti-inflammatory activity. It can help keep LDL cholesterol from blocking the arteries. A desirable HDL level is above 60. A level that is less than 40 for men and 50 for women increases your risk for heart disease.
Avoid saturated fats. Examples are butter, whole milk, cheese, ice cream, red meat, poultry skin, lard, palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, hydrogenated soybean oil and hydrogenated cottonseed oil.
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