Cholesterol is a waxy substance that’s necessary for your body to build cells. The cholesterol that you need is produced in your liver, and any extra
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that’s necessary for your body to build cells. The cholesterol that you need is produced in your liver, and any extra will come from your diet in the form of animal products. Plant-based foods are naturally cholesterol-free. However, when it comes to heart health, cholesterol gets a pretty bad reputation – and for good reason. High cholesterol levels in the blood have been shown to increase blood pressure and can heighten the risk of developing heart disease and other serious health conditions. While we do need some cholesterol in our diets, there’s a fine line between just enough and too much.
There are two kinds of cholesterol – the good kind, HDL (high-density lipoproteins) and the bad kind, LDL (low-density lipoproteins). Having too much LDL and not enough HDL can cause a build-up of plaque in your artery walls, which over time can lead to a build-up in your brain and heart, increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease. When it comes to your diet, high intakes of saturated and trans fats will have the biggest impact on the levels of cholesterol in your blood. Foods that are high in these will increase how much cholesterol your liver naturally produces. So, which foods should be eaten in moderation if you want to protect your heart?
Since dairy fat comes mostly from saturated fat, butter as its by-product is even higher when it comes to this fatty acid. Butter is not only popular on toast and sandwiches but also in cooking, so it’s important to be careful when it comes to how much you consume as it’s easy to overdo it without realising. Moderate butter consumption allows for healthier fats to fit into your diet and it can easily be swapped with olive oil or nut oils. An alternative like olive spread on your morning toast can be just as tasty without the same level of saturated fats.
Soda might be a popular way to quench your thirst, but it’s definitely high on the list of food and drinks that can increase your levels of bad cholesterol since it is so high in sugar. Health experts recommend limiting your sugar intake to no more than 25g per day, which you could easily get from just one glass of soda – 12oz typically contains around 40g of sugar. While drinking soda occasionally is unlikely to have a huge impact on your health, it’s important to be mindful when it comes to how much you are drinking. If you can’t go without fizzy drinks, try sugar-free alternatives or mix sugar-free cordial with sparkling water for a healthier option.
KFC might be a tasty treat that’s hard to resist, but fried chicken is a huge culprit when it comes to increasing cholesterol levels in the blood. Not only is there saturated fat found in the skin of the chicken, but there’s the extra fat that soaks into the batter when frying. It’s even worse if you’re getting it from a place like KFC that cooks over and over again in the same oil in the fryer. If you love fried chicken, keep it moderate when getting fast food and consider making healthier alternatives at home instead, such as taking off the skin before cooking or making it in an air fryer to reduce the amount of fat.
Coconut oil is often hailed as a health food and excellent skincare product, but it’s actually quite controversial. However, while it can be healthy in moderation, the key here is not to overdo it because it does have quite a high saturated fat content. Coconut oil raises the levels of both good and bad cholesterol levels, so while a small amount of it is okay in cooking from time to time if the flavour is required, it’s best not to use it as your main cooking oil. Instead, use it on your skin as a wonderful natural skin care product. It’s also great for conditioning your hair.
Sweet treats like cakes and cookies are enjoyable from time to time, but since they are made with ingredients like butter that contain a lot of saturated fats, they’re not only bad for your waistline, but also for your heart and cholesterol levels. Saturated fats like palm oil tend to be commonly used in supermarket baked goods since they increase the shelf life of the products, but they are also likely to raise your cholesterol. Instead, you could try making healthier baked goods at home using ingredients that are lower in saturated fats.
Processed meats like bacon, hot dogs and sausages should be avoided as they are high in saturated fats and can lead to an increase in LDL cholesterol. High consumption of processed meats correlates with not only an increased risk of heart disease but also a higher rate of certain cancers including colon cancer. One study showed that eating an additional 50g serving of processed meat per day can increase your risk of developing heart disease by over 40%.
What to Eat Instead
While foods that are high in saturated fats are likely to raise your cholesterol levels, the good news is that certain foods will lower them. This list of twelve foods that are brilliant for your heart from I’m Insured can help you get started when it comes to what you should include more of in your diet. I’m Insured helps you find life insurance companies that will offer high cholesterol life insurance or high blood pressure life insurance even if it has led to underlying health conditions that might make it more difficult or expensive to get life insurance elsewhere. So, which foods should you eat more of?
Adding more eggs to your diet might seem counterproductive since they are naturally quite high in cholesterol, but they are one of the most nutritious foods that you can eat. Research shows that eating eggs does not negatively impact cholesterol levels; in fact, it can cause an increase in the good type of cholesterol, HDL. Eggs are also an excellent source of protein and several other nutrients like vitamin A and B.
Shellfish like prawns, clams, mussels and crab are an excellent source of protein. Although they are quite high in cholesterol, they are rich in certain bioactive components like the amino acid taurine and carotenoid antioxidants that help to lower LDL cholesterol and prevent heart disease. In fact, in populations where seafood is regularly consumed, they tend to have lower levels of heart disease and other conditions like arthritis and diabetes.
Full-fat natural yoghurt is packed with nutrients such as calcium, protein, magnesium, vitamin B, potassium and zinc. While it is high in cholesterol with 245g of yoghurt containing almost 32mg of cholesterol, research shows that consuming more full-fat natural yoghurt and other fermented dairy products is associated with a reduction in LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of certain conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes along with being beneficial to gut health.
While some cholesterol is important for your health, too much LDL cholesterol can be seriously bad for your heart. Knowing what foods to avoid and what to eat instead can help you keep your heart healthier for longer.