Cholesterol: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Cholesterol: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Cholesterol: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Trying to lower your cholesterol? First the bad news: all foods from animals contain cholesterol. And some worse news? Bacon may be the number one offender!

Cholesterol is “a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all cells of the body,” according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. The body needs cholesterol to produce hormones, Vitamin D, and substances that help us digest food. The body will make enough of the cholesterol it needs to perform these functions, but a lot of the foods will raise cholesterol levels, and too much can lead to health issues. The American Heart Association recommends adults 20 years old and older should have their cholesterol checked with a lipoprotein blood test every four to six years. The daily recommended allowance of cholesterol is 300 milligrams.

There are two types of cholesterol: LDL and HDL. LDL cholesterol is considered the ‘bad’ cholesterol because it contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and make them less flexible. HDL cholesterol is considered ‘good’ cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries. Experts believe HDL acts as a scavenger, carrying LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is broken down and passed from the body. Most people realise egg yolks, fatty meats, and cheeses fall into the bad cholesterol category, but there are plenty of foods we don’t think twice about. Here are five foods particularly high in bad cholesterol that should be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Liver – while being high in iron is a good health benefit, being high in cholesterol is not such great news.

The liver is the body’s primary source of natural cholesterol – this is where the waxy substance is made and stored. The highest concentrated levels of cholesterol in animals are found in organ meat, especially the liver. Microwave Popcorn – loaded with butter, oil, and salt, this ‘healthy’ snack can do serious damage to your cholesterol levels without you even realising it. Shellfish – there are many health benefits to eating shellfish, but those with heart disease or high cholesterol levels should avoid all types of shellfish. For example, three ounces of lobster contains 61 milligrams of cholesterol. Considering the average lobster tail contains 6-8 ounces of meat, you will consume half the daily recommended allowance (300 milligrams) with just the tail – and that doesn’t include the butter you are sure to be dipping it in!

Macaroni and Cheese – mac n’ cheese is a favourite comfort food for many, but this gooey collection of cheeses and pasta is filled with saturated fats and cholesterol and should be reserved for very special occasions and even then in moderation. Roe – or fish eggs, contain high amounts of cholesterol. A one ounce serving contains 135 milligrams of cholesterol. So, if you are going to splurge on this delicacy, try not to overdo it. When it comes to watching cholesterol levels, it is not all doom and gloom. Everything in moderation and a healthy, balanced diet coupled with exercise are the keys to keeping your cholesterol in check.