You probably already know that too much blood cholesterol is bad for your health. That alone explains why you should care a lot about your cholesterol level.
Not too long ago, people shunned cholesterol-rich diets like eggs because they were believed to put one at risk of heart disease. Dietary guidelines warned against consuming more than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol each day. Dietary cholesterol is the kind that comes from foods such as meat, dairy products, seafood, egg yolks, etc. Your liver is the other source of cholesterol.
In 2015, a research published by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found out that dietary cholesterol wasn’t harmful and does not raise the cholesterol levels in the body either. Trans and saturated fats, together with added sugars, turned out to be the real culprits.
Further, the research noted that some cholesterol-rich foods come loaded with vital nutrients not present in the diets most of us consume. Later I’ll be looking at how your foods relate to your cholesterol levels.
Meanwhile, let’s first understand what cholesterol is in detail.
What Is Cholesterol?
To put it simply, this is a fat-like substance found in your blood that the liver naturally produces. Its role is to maintain the health your nerve cells, synthesize vitamin D, and generate some hormones. Cholesterol comprises three parts:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – This is often called bad cholesterol. Too much LDL contributes to the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries that eventually puts you at risk of heart disease, stroke, or peripheral artery disease. This is after plaque forms and then blocks blood flow.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) – This is also known as good cholesterol. It helps to completely remove the excess cholesterol that accumulates in the tissues and blood. In the process, it minimises the chances of blood vessel complications happening.
- Triglycerides – Whenever you eat, your body converts the calories it no longer uses into triglycerides. It’s a type of fat that is then released into the bloodstream. If not pumping some energy into your body, it will be kept as blood fat. Sources include dietary fat, excess alcohol, high sugar diets and extra calories. Harvard health publishing indicates that high triglycerides levels spell trouble and could result in acute pancreatitis.
Food and Cholesterol levels
You can raise your HDL and lower the triglycerides and LDL by making some changes to your diet, taking cholesterol medication, or doing routine exercises. For now, our focus is on the diet.
What’s The Safe Blood Cholesterol Level?
Did you know that in 2017-18, 6.1% of all Australians had high cholesterol levels? Now, how does one know if they fall in this bracket? Is cholesterol level 7 too high for Australians? If yes, what’s the ideal range?
First off, note that high cholesterol levels can only be diagnosed through a blood test done at a credible medical centre. Assuming no risk factors are present, health authorities in Australia suggest that your cholesterol level should be less than 5.5 mmol per litre. But for those who smoke, suffer from high blood pressure, or have pre-existing heart complications, your LDL should be no higher than 2 mmol per litre.
What Foods Can Help You Manage Your Cholesterol?
Top on the list are foods rich in saturated fats. According to the Australia Heart Foundation Organisation, increasing saturated fat intake will raise your LDL. Those found in specific vegetable oils and animal products are the common culprits.
If your calorie limit is 2000 a day, you would be safer keeping the saturated fat lower than 22 grams per day (or less than 7% of your energy intake).
To avoid saturated fats, health authorities in Australia recommend you limit the following:
- Fatty meats
- Sausages, salami, and other processed foods
- Take-away foods, especially deep-fried ones
- Biscuits, cakes, and pastries
Instead, take legumes, oats, healthy snacks; sulphur compounds such as allicin; food components found in alfalfa sprouts, chickpeas, and other related foods.
Foods with trans fats should also be avoided because they usually lower your HDL while raising the LDL. Common culprits include fried, baked, and packaged foods.
Generally, reducing your fat intake will help to bring down your total blood cholesterol level. But that in itself is not sufficient to help you reach optimum cholesterol levels. Consume the right fats regularly. And don’t make the mistake of taking high glycaemic index carbs in place of fats.
There are more healthy eating tips you may want to consider in order to properly manage your cholesterol. Be sure to learn as much as you can about them. You can as well visit a medical centre to take a blood test that will help you know your total blood cholesterol values.