Food & Cholesterol


Since our focus this month is all about food and health, I thought I’d write a little something about the food we eat and how it affects our cholesterol levels.

Growing up, this was something I heard my dad mention often; ‘no I can’t eat that, it’s bad for my cholesterol’, ‘thanks, but I’m watching my cholesterol’, and every so often, ‘just egg whites for me this morning, the yolks will raise my cholesterol’.

Let’s start by defining what cholesterol is, and whether or not it is in fact bad for you.  Though it is important to limit your intake of cholesterol, for most of us, it is not as problematic as once believed. Simply put, and without getting too science-y about it, cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance that our bodies need to make hormones, vitamin D and the components we need to digest food. So, it is fair to note that our bodies actually need this substance to function properly, and therefore, should not be omitted entirely.

When it comes to food and cholesterol, it is not the high cholesterol foods that is bad for us, but in fact, the pairing of fats with carbohydrates.  So, consider this the next time your blood work shows high levels of cholesterol – don’t go cutting it out entirely, but rather think about what you’re having with it.

For a brief summary on the subject, and to understand more about the good and bad types of cholesterol, check out this article: Cholesterol | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

When it comes to food however, below is a list of common examples that have been known to be bad for cholesterol, some of which have been debunked, so I’ll be starting with those:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Shellfish
  • Red meat
  • Organ meat, such as liver
  • Sardines
  • Full Fat yogurt

All of the above are excellent sources of protein and iron, and when consumed in moderation, have been proven to be beneficial to our health and well-being. Furthermore, as these are quite high in fat, do think about the quantity and types of carbohydrates you consume them with, and if necessary, opt for healthier choices or reduce your portions.

High cholesterol foods to avoid however include:

  • Fried foods
  • Processed sugars
  • Processed meat
  • Fast foods

Yes, these are all delicious, and I personally am a huge sucker for fried foods and ice cream.  The fact is however, they are high in calories, trans fats, and are full of the bad kind of cholesterol. And so, my advice here would be to limit these as much as possible, and if you are suffering from any health problems, or are at high risk of heart disease, then try avoiding them altogether if possible. In short, these options should be seen as an occasional fun treat, and should not be frequently consumed.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions and put your mind at ease.  Should any of you have any pearls of wisdom, please feel free to share!

Stay tuned for more health-related pieces!



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