Dear Fitness Lovers,
I am writing about cholesterol and fats – which seems to be a common dilemma!
Cholesterol and fats certainly have got a bad reputation. But the truth about cholesterol and fats is complicated. There are good and bad fats. And the cholesterol foods to avoid aren’t necessarily foods high in cholesterol.
Cholesterol and fats first went under attack, when it was discovered that a high cholesterol diet leads to heart diseases. The resulting expert advice was to avoid all foods with cholesterol.
But the truth about cholesterol is you make more than you imagine.
What’s more, to protect yourself from degenerative diseases, how much fat you eat isn’t that important. It’s basically the kind of fat you eat that makes all the difference. So, good fat, bad fat, what’s the big fat difference?
Understanding the Truth about Cholesterol and Fats
The sterols in cholesterol are health essentials necessary for your brain and building cell walls, specific hormones and the juices that digest fat.
And although high cholesterol in your bloodstream can cause problems, the cholesterol in food isn’t nearly the villain you’ve been led to believe.
Current scientific studies show very little relationship between the cholesterol eaten and blood cholesterol levels. (The only exceptions are for diabetics, who seem to be more sensitive to cholesterol in food.)
The major influence on your blood cholesterol levels is the mixture of good and bad fats in your diet – not the amount of cholesterol in your food.
Bad fats (trans fat and excess saturated fat) increase your risk of disease. But good fats (the polyunsaturated fat in whole grains, nuts and seeds and the monounsaturated fat in olive oil) reduce your disease risk.
So the simple sensible solution is to switch from bad fats to good fats.
7 Steps to Choosing Good Fats over Bad Fats
1. Cook and bake with olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is rich in heart-healthy fatty acids. Spread it on toast or use it in a vinaigrette.
2. Avoid all foods with trans fats. Read labels to steer clear of deadly trans fats. When eating out, avoid all baked goods and fried foods.
3. Include omega 3 foods daily. Cold water fish and good quality fish oil supplements are your best sources for the important omega 3 oils.
4. Limit your saturated fat intake. You need a very small amount of saturated fat in your diet for hormones and your cells.
5. Eliminate hydrogenated fats. Scan all ingredient lists to be sure your foods don’t contain any partially hydrogenated oils.
6. Go low fat on meat and dairy. Foods high in saturated fats can clog your arteries. So go lean on dairy, meats and poultry (no skin) and eat butter and cheeses only in very small amounts
7. Choose healthy whole grains. Nuts, beans, seeds, brown rice, whole wheat and rolled oats are rich in nutritious essential fatty acids.
Understanding Cholesterol Numbers
Cholesterol levels should be measured at least once every five years by everyone over the age of 20. The screening test that is usually performed is a blood test called a lipoprotein profile, which includes:
1 LDL (low density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called “bad” cholesterol)
2 HDL (high density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called “good” cholesterol)
3 Triglycerides (fats carried in the blood from the food we eat. Excess calories, alcohol, or sugar in the body are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells throughout the body.)
Results of your blood test will come in the forms of numbers. Here is how to interpret your cholesterol numbers:
LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries and increase your chances of getting heart disease. That is why LDL cholesterol is referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol. The lower your LDL cholesterol number, the better it is for your health. The table below explains what the numbers mean.
|LDL Cholesterol||LDL-Cholesterol Category|
|Less than 100||Optimal|
|100 – 129||Near optimal/above optimal|
|130 – 159||Borderline high|
|160 – 189||High|
|190 and above||Very high|
If you have heart disease or blood vessel disease, some experts recommend that you should try to get your LDL cholesterol below 70. For people with diabetes or other multiple risk factors for heart disease, the treatment goal is to reach an LDL of less than 100.
When it comes to HDL cholesterol – ‘good’ cholesterol — the higher the number, the better it is for your health. This is because HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease by taking the ‘bad’ cholesterol out of your blood and keeping it from building up in your arteries. The table below explains what the numbers mean.
|HDL Cholesterol||HDL-Cholesterol Category|
|60 and above||High; Optimal; helps to lower risk of heart disease|
|Less than 40 in men and less than 50 in women||Low; considered a risk factor for heart disease|
Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food and the body. A high triglyceride level has been linked to the occurrence of coronary artery disease in some people. Here’s the breakdown.
|Less than 150||Normal|
|150 – 199||Borderline high|
|200 – 499||high|
|500 or higher||Very High|
Your total blood cholesterol is a measure of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and other lipid components. Doctors recommend total cholesterol levels below 200
|Less than 200||Desirable|
|200 – 239||Borderline high|
|240 and above||high|