This waxlike fatty substance is found in meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, fish and seafood. It’s particularly plentiful in shrimp, liver and egg yolks. While high-cholesterol diets cause high blood cholesterol in animals, this is not the case in humans. Dietary cholesterol has little or no effect on most people’s blood cholesterol. One reason for this is that our intestines absorb only half the cholesterol we eat. If your blood test results reveal that your cholesterol level is too high, you don’t have to give up eggs or seafood. A study from Harvard University did not find any significant association between egg intake and risk of heart disease or stroke on healthy men and women.3 You’re safe to enjoy five or six eggs a week, as this will not affect your risk for heart disease.
However, too much dietary cholesterol can raise levels of LDL cholesterol in some people, especially people with hereditary forms of high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends that we consume no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day. Choosing animal foods that are lower in saturated fat also helps to cut down on dietary cholesterol. Here’s a look at foods that might be contributing to your intake of cholesterol:
FOOD CHOLESTEROL (MILLIGRAMS)
1 egg, whole 212 mg
1 egg, white only 0 mg
Beef sirloin, lean only, 3 oz (90 g) 64 mg
Calf liver, fried, 3 oz (90 g) 416 mg
Pork loin, lean only, 3 oz (90 g) 71 mg
Chicken breast, no skin, 3 oz (90 g) 73 mg
Salmon, 3 oz (90 g) 54 mg
Shrimp, 3 oz (90 g) 135 mg
Milk, 2% MF, 1 cup (250 ml) 19 mg
Milk, skim, 1 cup (250 ml) 5 mg
Cheese, cheddar, 31% MF, 1 oz (30 g) 31 mg
Cheese, mozzarella, part skim, 1 oz (30 g) 18 mg
Cream, half and half, 12% MF, 2 tbsp (30 ml) 12 mg
Yogurt, 1.5% MF, 3/4 cup (175 ml) 11 mg
Butter, 2 tsp (10 ml) 10 mg
In the fall of 1999 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration passed a regulation allowing manufacturers of soy foods to add a health claim on the label. Labels on cartons of tofu, soy beverages, veggie dogs and veggie burgers now tell shoppers that eating a low-fat diet containing 25 grams of soy protein a day lowers the risk for heart disease.
In 1995, the soy-and-heart-disease link became popular when researchers from Lexington, Kentucky, published a report in the New England Journal of Medicine that analyzed 38 studies on soy and cholesterol.4 The researchers determined that eating soy protein instead of animal protein significantly lowered high levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Since then, a number of other studies have confirmed soy’s cholesterol-lowering ability.
It appears that soy does more than lower high LDL cholesterol levels. A regular intake of soy may raise your HDL cholesterol, lower high blood pressure and keep blood vessels healthy. Natural compounds in soybeans appear to also act as an antioxidant, preventing oxygen damage to LDL cholesterol (since LDL cholesterol damaged by oxygen free radicals sticks more readily to artery walls).
Soybean’s heart-healthy attributes are credited to its protein and isoflavone (phytoestrogens) content. When it comes to lowering cholesterol levels, you need both components. Supplements containing purified isoflavones will not lower your
cholesterol levels. If you want to keep your LDL cholesterol levels healthy, add 25 grams of soy protein to your low-fat diet each day. Use the following guide:
SOY FOOD SOY PROTEIN (GRAMS)
Soy beverage, 1 cup (250 ml) 9 g
Soybeans, canned, 1/2 cup (125 ml) 14 g
Soy nuts, 1/4 cup (60 ml) 14 g
Soy flour, defatted, 1/4 cup (60 ml) 13 g
Soy protein powder, isolate, 1 scoop 25 g
Tempeh, 1/2 cup (125 ml) 19 g
Tofu, regular, 1/2 cup (125 ml) 10 g
Veggie burger, Yves Veggie Cuisine 11 g
Veggie dog, small, Yves Veggie Cuisine 11 g
Plant foods contain a mix of two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, but they will contain more of one than the other. It’s soluble fiber—which dissolves or swells in water—that has been shown to lower high blood cholesterol levels. The best food sources of these fibers include oats and oat bran, psyllium-enriched breakfast cereals, legumes and certain fruits and vegetables.
Adding soluble fiber to a low-fat diet can significantly lower elevated cholesterol levels. Studies show that adding oats and beans to your diet can lower cholesterol by up to 16 percent. And eating a psyllium-enriched breakfast cereal has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol by 9 percent.5
There are two ways in which soluble fiber exerts a cholesterol-lowering effect. When this fiber reaches your intestine, it attaches to bile and causes it to be excreted in the stool. Bile is a digestive aid that’s released into your intestine after you eat. Your liver makes bile from cholesterol and sends it to your gall bladder to be stored until it’s needed. Since soluble fiber causes your body to excrete bile, your liver has to make more of it from cholesterol. The end result is a lower blood cholesterol level. When unabsorbed fiber reaches your colon, bacteria degrade it and form compounds called short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids may hamper your liver’s ability to produce cholesterol.
Dietary Cholesterol for Heart Disease Photo Gallery
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