Tips to be Fit: Cholesterol in your diet

April 10, 2018 GMT

A high cholesterol level is one of the main factors contributing to heart attacks, strokes and other circulation problems. Cholesterol is a soft, yellowish, waxy material. It’s found in every cell in our body and it’s essential for our cells to function properly. Cholesterol comes from two sources. Your body makes all the cholesterol you need.

The other source of cholesterol comes from your foods from animals. Meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products contain dietary cholesterol. These foods are high in saturated and trans fat. These fats cause your liver to make more cholesterol than it otherwise would. This added production means they go from a normal cholesterol level to one that’s unhealthy.

Tropical oils, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil, also can trigger your liver to make more cholesterol. These oils are found in baked goods. When you consume too much saturated fat, your cholesterol level increases. Excess cholesterol in your diet is eventually deposited in the inner walls of your arteries. As you get older, scar tissue and other materials build up over the cholesterol causing the arteries to narrow. This is called atherosclerosis. When the arteries leading to the heart narrow, blood flow becomes restricted which can lead to a heart attack. When the arteries leading to the brain narrow you can have a stroke. More than 40 million Americans have high levels of cholesterol.

Diet is the single most important factor, which can help lower your cholesterol level. Cholesterol is found in meats, dairy products and some vegetable oils high in saturated fat. Foods labeled “no cholesterol” aren’t necessarily healthy, and may still be loaded with saturated fat. Saturated fat has more affect on your blood cholesterol then the amount of cholesterol you take in. Read labels and limit your saturated fat intake to 14 grams daily. Other ways to lower your cholesterol include not smoking, loosing excess weight and getting involved in a regular exercise program. If you lower your cholesterol level 2 percent, you lower your risk of a heart attack by 30 percent.

Cholesterol and saturated fat is found in both the lean and the fat part of meats. By removing the fat and the skin from meats you do get rid of most of the saturated fat, some cholesterol and you cut calories. Meat still contains saturated fat even after removing the fat or skin. Saturated fat tends to boost your blood cholesterol levels even more than eating foods containing high levels of cholesterol. Meat is important in a balanced diet because it contains more usable iron than any other food. However, you should limit your intake to lean cuts of beef, pork, skinless poultry, and fat fish. You should also limit protein portion sizes to between 4oz. per serving.

Oils are another source of fat. All oils are a combination of saturated, unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fats should only be 10 percent of your total caloric intake. That means if you take in 1,200 calories, only 120 of those calories should be saturated fat calories. Two teaspoons of olive oil contains about two grams of saturated fat. The same amount of butter has six grams of saturated fat. Canola oil and olive oil are the best oils for cooking. You should avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Eggs are also a source of cholesterol and saturated fat. Eggs are an economical form of protein. Eggs have two edible parts, the yolk which has almost all the fat and cholesterol and the whites which has 3/4 of the protein, and only a trace of fat and no cholesterol. They can be part of a great low fat, low cholesterol protein meal. You can limit your intake of cholesterol by having one egg yolk for every six to eight egg whites. This combination contains about 25 grams of protein and 300 mg. of cholesterol. This will also give you 160 to 200 calories per serving.

How’s your cholesterol numbers? Fine you say, under 200. That number is only half the information needed to insure good health. When the doctor gives you your total cholesterol level, you should also be given your HDL (high-density lipoproteins) and your LDL (low-density lipoproteins) levels. In a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology researchers found that 64 percent of men with cholesterols under 200 still had coronary heart problems. The study also found that these men had higher than normal levels of LDLs and lower than normal HDL levels. A high cholesterol level or a high level of LDLs and/or a low level HDLs can be main factors contributing to heart attacks, strokes and other circulation problems.

Alcohol adds extra calories, which can lead to weight gain. Being overweight can raise your LDL level and lower your HDL level. Too much alcohol can also increase your risk of heart diseases because it can raise your blood pressure and triglyceride level. Men should have no more than two drinks containing alcohol a day. Women should have no more than one drink containing alcohol a day.

High cholesterol can be caused by many factors, which include family history, poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, alcoholism, cigarette smoking, underactive thyroid and diabetes.

Cholesterol Testing

Cholesterol screening is very important, but there are a few things that can affect the accuracy of your test.

Your position before you take your test will affect your levels. You should sit down before you take your test. Prolonged standing prior to the test can elevate total cholesterol levels an average of 10 percent. You should be seated at least five to 15 minutes before having your blood drawn.

Don’t do strenuous exercise for 24 hours because exercise will elevate your HDLs. This will cause an artificially elevated HDL level in your test results.

Alcoholic beverages will elevate HDL, cholesterol and triglycerides giving you inaccurate test results. To be safe you should not drink alcoholic beverages 24 hours before you take your test.

You don’t have to fast before you take your test and you don’t want to change your diet. The object of your cholesterol test is to test typical cholesterol levels. Changing your diet before the test will not give a true indication of your normal levels.

Pregnancy can also elevate your cholesterol levels, especially after the first trimester. We can’t tell you not have a baby, but we would suggest holding off on having a cholesterol test until three months after giving birth.

So, get your LDL and HDL levels when checking your cholesterol levels.