Role of Cholesterol in Your Diet
Fat and cholesterol remain the most attention grabbers of all the nutrients in our diet. Dieticians or health experts focus on fat and cholesterol most of the time and blame both for all the health hazards and dietary concerns, though fat and cholesterol are essential components of the body and are vital to good health. Thus it is essential that fat and cholesterol-rich foods are taken in adequate quantity to keep the body metabolism functioning properly.
Importance of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in the cells of our body. Our body produces cholesterol because it is essential for the production of sex hormones, bile, vitamin D and functioning of the nerve cells. Animal foods are rich in cholesterol. High cholesterol foods are good sources of essential nutrients, such as fatty acids, proteins, and carbohydrates, but according to the American Heart Association, cholesterol intake must be limited to 300 mg per day to avoid chronic diseases.
Impact of Cholesterol
Scientific evidence clearly states that fat and a cholesterol-rich diet relates to chronic health problems. An individual relying heavily on a cholesterol-rich diet often complains of chronic problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Avoiding high cholesterol foods is one of the best ways to maintain a normal level of serum cholesterol, thus ensuring a properly functioning heart.
Do you know high cholesterol foods also contain saturated fat, which further raise LDL cholesterol (bad) levels in the body? Animal foods, such as meat, poultry, egg yolk, fish and milk products, are rich in cholesterol and saturated fats. When you eat animal foods in excess, you end up raising your cholesterol level. Eating foods rich in saturated fat is the main reason for the high level of cholesterol in the body because saturated fats cause the liver to produce more cholesterol, which is harmful to the body and responsible for a high rate of heart attacks. Thus to reduce your cholesterol levels, reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet is extremely important. Choose your food that does not have a high cholesterol content as your body itself produces the required cholesterol. Thus it means that even if you do not take cholesterol in your food, it would not impact your body functioning in any way. For this, you would need to distinguish less cholesterol rich foods from high cholesterol content foods.
Food Rich in Cholesterol
A high cholesterol rich diet means foods rich in saturated fats. Reduce the intake of the following high cholesterol content food in your diet for a heart healthy life.
1. Butter, Cheese, Margarine
Butter and cheese are high in trans and saturated fats, which are converted into cholesterol in the body, thus increasing cholesterol levels. Any diet containing butter and cheese is a high cholesterol diet. No doubt, butter and cheese add to the taste of your food; they are equally bad for the cholesterol in your body, thus impacting your heart directly. It is a misconception that you can substitute butter with margarine. In fact, in some cases, margarine is more dangerous than butter or cheese. Use liquid vegetable oil instead, which is rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are not harmful.
2. Fried and Oily Foods
Coconut and palm oil or grease that we so fondly use to fry our food are rich in saturated fats and cause high cholesterol. Fried foods are in no way a part of a healthy diet. On the other hand, broiled or grilled foods help lower cholesterol levels in the body and thus are less harmful. You can use vegetable oil, olive oil, safflower, corn, and soybean to cook food.
3. Red Meats
Animal meat contains high level of saturated fats, which cause high cholesterol. Reduce the intake of red meat, such as mutton and lamb in your diet or switch to white meats, such as chicken and fish to lessen the risk of high cholesterol. Reduce the intake of red meats and replace them with beans, poultry, and fish to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
4. Whole Milk
Whole milk is as dangerous as any other high cholesterol content food. With no fat extracted from it, whole milk is responsible for raising cholesterol levels in the body. Try switching from whole milk to a lower fat version of milk or fat-free milk. Or you can also try soy or rice milk, which will add to your taste and also have no negative impact on the cholesterol in your body.
5. Food Items We All Love
Reduce your intake of MacDonald’s Egg McMuffin, sponge cake, vanilla ice cream, muffins, cookies, among others, which are high in saturated fats and cause cholesterol levels to rise. If you are extremely fond of ice cream, you can substitute it for frozen yogurt. If this doesn’t suffice, use reduced fat ice cream.
Keep Cholesterol Levels Low
It is essential to understand that too much of saturated fat or cholesterol endangers health.
- Make omega-3 fats, such as walnuts, canola, ground flax seeds, fish, chia seeds, soybean, or flaxseed oil, an essential component of your diet and remain healthy.
- Try taking oats, nuts, barley, eggplant, okra, and other whole grains in your routine diet for low cholesterol levels.
- Eat fruits such as apples, grapes, and strawberries which are rich in pectin, a kind of soluble fiber that binds to cholesterol and throws it out of your body.
Remember, eating a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet is the health mantra practiced for ages. Avoid excessive intake of high cholesterol content food in your diet for a better functioning heart.
Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol
Center for Young Women’s Health: Dietary Fat and Cholesterol
Harvard Health Publications: Foods that Lower Cholesterol