Cholesterol is by far the most misunderstood as well as the most underrated substance we tend to perceive. An example of this would be for decades, people avoided healthy yet cholesterol-rich foods like eggs due to the fear that these foods would increase their risk of heart disease. It is important to first understand what it exactly is to further understand what it entails.
First things first, cholesterol is a fatty substance produced naturally by your liver and found in your blood. It is used for many different things in your body, but it can become a problem when there is too much of it in your blood.
High levels of cholesterol in your blood are mainly caused by eating foods high in saturated fats and trans-fats, and not including foods with unsaturated fats and with fiber.
The two main types of cholesterol are:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) — also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol because it can add to the build-up of plaque (fatty deposits) in your arteries and increase your risk of coronary heart disease.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) — also known as ‘good’ cholesterol because it can help to protect you against coronary heart disease.
Some foods contain cholesterol. This is called ‘dietary cholesterol’ and it is found only in animal products. For most people, eating foods high in dietary cholesterol only has a small influence on their blood cholesterol.
What we eat has an impact on our cholesterol levels and can help reduce our risk of disease. Eating a variety of nutritious food not only helps to maintain a healthy and interesting diet, but it provides essential nutrients to the body.
Here are some high-cholesterol foods that are incredibly nutritious and you should include in your daily diet in order to maintain healthy cholesterol levels:
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. They also happen to be high in cholesterol. However, research shows that eggs don’t negatively impact cholesterol levels and that eating whole eggs can lead to increases in heart-protective HDL.
- Whole grains
Oats, quinoa, barley, and whole wheat offer up fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein. Look for bread, pasta, and cereals made with a variety of whole grains.
- Nuts and seeds
Snack on them or use them as garnishes in salads and kinds of pasta. Stock up on the plain varieties. When you buy natural-style peanut butter or almond butter, look for products that contain just the nuts, or just nuts and salt.
- Dairy/calcium-rich foods
It is important to opt-in for low-fat dairy products. If you’re lactose-intolerant or vegan, try calcium-enriched or fortified cereals and juices, and green, leafy vegetables, to fill the calcium gap.
- Omega-3 rich-foods
Most of us aren’t getting enough of this good fatty acid in our diets. Thus, it is important to add fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut, herring, and mackerel to your diet as they have higher amounts of good fatty acids. You can also find plant omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts and ground flaxseed.
Choose skinless cuts of chicken or turkey breasts and lean cuts of meat. Make sure the red meat you go in for is at least 92% fat-free.
Along with foods to add to your diet, here are some foods you should limit or moreover avoid in order to stay healthy and again maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Foods to avoid
- Fried foods
Fried foods such as deep-fried meats and cheese sticks — are high-cholesterol and should be avoided whenever possible. They’re loaded with calories and can contain trans fats, which increase heart disease risk and are detrimental to your health in many other ways.
- Processed frozen foods
Processed meats, such as sausages, bacon, and hot dogs, are high-cholesterol foods that should be limited. High consumption of processed meats has been linked to increased rates of heart disease and certain cancers like colon cancer.
Too much sodium can help raise your blood pressure. You probably already know not to have too much-canned soup and salty snack foods.
Too much sugar causes problems with weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes as well as cholesterol. Easier said than done, but try to limit how much of this you eat and drink. You probably know many of the “usual suspects”: soda, sweet tea, candy, cakes, cookies, and ice cream, among others.
Lastly, it is important to get your cholesterol checked every 3–6 months and have a detailed diet chart given to you by your doctor. Side by side, it is also important to exercise regularly and have daily physical activity in your routine. All this will help in maintaining good cholesterol levels.