Cholesterol is a substance which is found in the body and in animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. It plays a vital role in producing hormones and vitamin D in the body, as well as in digesting fat through the production of bile. Although cholesterol is produced by the liver, additional cholesterol is introduced to the body through the diet. Cholesterol isn’t easy to mix with blood, and this means that it must be transported through the body by lipoproteins, particles which are both low and high in density. These are commonly referred to as LDL (low-density lipoproteins) and HDL (high-density lipoproteins), or “bad” and “good” cholesterol.
Although cholesterol is necessary for everyday bodily functions, excess cholesterol in the form of LDL can cause plaque to buildup in your arteries (known as atherosclerosis). This LDL is commonly linked to less-healthy sources of fat, including trans and saturated fat. On the other hand, HDL helps remove excess cholesterol in the body and is associated with healthy unsaturated fats. Although cholesterol – and cholesterol-rich foods – can be healthy, you must keep your cholesterol levels in check as they’re linked to increases in both strokes and heart disease. Aside from dietary sources, cholesterol can be lowered and kept at a healthy level through exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.
To maintain healthy cholesterol levels, you should limit how much LDL-rich foods you eat, regulate your intake of nutrient-rich HDL foods, and increase your dietary fiber. This is because fiber (particularly soluble fiber found in oats, fruits, and beans) can reduce the more damaging LDL levels. Unhealthy habits like smoking and sedentary, inactive lifestyles are also known to affect bad cholesterol, so a healthy diet must be matched with regular exercise. When it comes down to harmful cholesterol-rich foods, the following should be limited or avoided to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
1. Fried Foods
Fried foods, particularly deep-fried meat, are typically very high in LDL cholesterol and are to be avoided as much as possible. Not only are fried foods highly calorific, but they are also loaded with trans fats, which increase the risk of heart-related diseases. Although cholesterol is only present in animal products, that doesn’t make deep-fried vegetables much healthier – they still contain the same trans fats that cause a host of health issues.
2. Fast Food
Although there are some relatively healthy fast food chains out there, the typical fast food restaurant serves food that is high in cholesterol, sugar, fat, and salt. All of these are detrimental to your health. This is because fast food meat is typically heavily processed and deep-fried. Fast food should be avoided, and you should opt for healthier alternatives. The frequency of fast food takeaway meal consumption by a population is well known to have a strong link with obesity.
3. Processed Meats
As with fast food, processed meat should be avoided. This includes everything from sausages and hot dogs to corned beef and canned meats. Processed meat is generally higher in bad cholesterol and has been linked with certain cancers and heart disease when consumed regularly. Instead, opt for cleaner cuts of meat, seafood and plenty of leafy greens. In drastic instances, a vegan diet is often recommended as a means of cutting out cholesterol entirely.
4. Fatty Desserts
Cookies, cakes, and cream-based desserts are loaded with sugar, cholesterol, and are high in fat. Although you cannot escape the occasional slice of cake, frequently indulging in desserts will cause both weight gain and health decline in the long run. For one, sugar intake is strongly linked to diabetes and heart disease, as well as certain cancers.
Curries often provide a double whammy of cholesterol-loaded content. Cooked in butter or ghee and containing a host of meats, rich curries can be a particularly poor dietary choice when you are looking to lower your cholesterol. This is especially so if consumed regularly.
Although most people needn’t cut down on good cholesterol like eggs, shellfish and other seafood, those at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease or with a fatty heart may be advised to eat less than 200 mg of cholesterol a day, no matter the source. Although diet is very important in reducing cholesterol levels, physical activity and weight loss are also vital to living a long and healthy life.