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Posted by Jane N.

Your Cholesterol Level Doesn’t Depend on How Much Cholesterol You Eat

I’ll never forget the first time I got my cholesterol tested. How surprised was I, a relatively healthy and nutrition-conscious individual, had cholesterol over 200! (Under 180 is more ideal) Being slapped in the face with cholesterol reality was a bit stunning and embarrassing, especially after boasting about my exercise and eating regime. Feeling betrayed by food, I then blamed my parents, whose genetic material was probably the culprit behind my nasty results.

My doctor later confirmed that genetics play an important role in cholesterol levels, despite all my valiant efforts, and that eating foods with cholesterol doesn’t exactly elevate it. Cholesterol is a liquid found only in animal products. It is a nonessential nutrient, meaning it’s not necessary to get it in the diet because our body already makes all we need. But there’s no need to avoid it at all costs. Even a glass of fat free milk contains around 5mg of cholesterol. A glass of milk certainly isn’t considered unhealthy either!

Rather, the factor that seems to affect cholesterol more is saturated fat. Blood cholesterol levels elevate as more saturated fat is ingested. It is the deposit of these fats in the artery walls that contribute to atherosclerosis, or heart disease. This is why nuts are considered “healthy” foods; although they are mostly fat, they contain higher levels of unsaturated fats packed with vitamin E and protein.

In an article in Newsweek, Just one high-fat meal can be bad for arteries, a meal containing saturated fat did more damage to arteries and hindered HDL or “good” cholesterol effects than the same meal with polyunsaturated fats. Cholesterol levels within the food were not even of particular focus.

It seems that the more saturated fat a food contains the more cholesterol it contains. Switch to using polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oils instead of butter. Focus on foods containing fiber that help lower cholesterol, such as apples, nuts, oats, beans and whole grain breads. And remember, it’s not always your fault. If your parents had high cholesterol, chances are you might too.

Have you successfully lowered your cholesterol through diet? Provide your own tips and resources!

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