Cholesterol is a very confusing topic. One day it’s bad, the next it’s good. One kind is bad, the other good. . . Yep we are all over the place when it comes to this topic.
First off, we need to remove the words bad and good from cholesterol. Like food cholesterol is neither bad nor good. We need it, yet, we don’t want too much of it. It’s both good and bad.
Cholesterol is found in animal products. Eggs, milk, meat, and shrimp. Cholesterol is not found in plant foods. Our bodies produce cholesterol in the liver. We don’t actually need to consume cholesterol but it’s not bad for you (does that make since- it’s hard to explain). A lot of good stuff comes from foods that contain cholesterol. Egg yolk is full of vitamin B, milk is full of calcium, and meats provide us with a good source of protein.
Let’s start with the good. We need cholesterol for membrane fluidity and permeability, manufacturing of bile (which helps us digest fats), to make steroid hormones (estrogen anyone), to produce vitamin D (bones bones bones), and to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins ADEK).
Cholesterol is bad because high concentrations in the blood are linked to heart disease.
Okay but some sad nutrition news. Food Cholesterol is not closely related to blood cholesterol. It’s estimated that about 25% of blood cholesterol comes from food and the other 75% from the liver. If someone has very high cholesterol, they will most likely be put on mediation to control the enzyme that produces cholesterol in the liver.
This is not to say that individuals with high cholesterol shouldn’t make dietary changes to control their cholesterol. For starters, a healthy individual should consume around 300 mg of cholesterol a day (an egg has about 186 mg). If an individual already has high cholesterol they should cut their cholesterol intake to 200mg a day.
We should also limit our saturated fat and trans fat intake. These types of fat are closely linked to cholesterol.
The next one seems obvious but Obese and Overweight individuals should take steps to loose weight.
AND I know this is news 😉 but exercise helps reduce blood cholesterol.
Also we need to consume more fiber. We are not able to breakdown fiber so it basically sits in our gut and absorbs cholesterol. This is just another excuse to consume a huge bowl of oatmeal, eat a salad, and have an apple.
*Note: added fiber- think fiber supplements- may not actually be absorbed in the same way as natural fiber- if possible eat the real thing!
So, cholesterol is a hot and cold subject. It’s not bad, it’s not good. We must have it but we can’t have too much.
Welcome to the world of nutrition J