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Why Dietary Cholesterol matters and how it impacts our health

Sources of Dietary cholesterol include the main steroid from animal tissues. The main food sources include egg yolk, shrimp, beef and pork, poultry, cheese, butter, etc. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. There is no research that shows evidence to support the role of dietary cholesterol in the development of Cardiovascular disease. Most people are not aware, that CVD increases due to some foods which eat are rich in a high amount of saturated fat since they increase LDL cholesterol. Eggs are important for our diet as they are rich in proteins, have minimal saturated fats i.e 1.56 g/ egg, and are also rich in micronutrients like vitamins and minerals.

Eggs are rich in dietary choline, one of the key components for the development of the liver, and helps in muscle function, it is also essential for fetal and neonatal brain development. Inadequate intake of choline in pregnant women increases the risk of neural tube defects in offspring.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance helps to build body cells. It essentially comes from two sources, our body makes cholesterol in the liver and rests we get from the food we eat such as meat, poultry, full-fat dairy products, etc. These external sources are also high in saturated fats and trans fats, leading to an increase in LDL cholesterol, one of the major sources pushing you towards CVD risk.

Why Dietary Cholesterol matters

Dietary Cholesterol circulates in the blood and if bad cholesterol increases lead to an increase in the risk of heart health. LDL cholesterol is known as bad cholesterol as it contributes to fatty build ups in the arteries. (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis narrows the arteries and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. HDL cholesterol is considered as good cholesterol so it’s always better to have it more. HDL carries LDL away from the arteries and back to the liver where LDL is broken down and passed from the body. A healthy HDL cholesterol level may protect against heart attack and stroke. TRIGLYCERIDES are the most common type of fat in the body. A high TGL level with high LDL or low HDL linked with fatty build ups within the artery walls which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Cholesterol is a natural component in everyone’s blood. When one’s cholesterol levels are too high then they might land up in hyperlipidemia, hypercholesterolemia, or high blood cholesterol – a risk for heart attack, heart disease, and stroke. We can treat high cholesterol with proper diet, low in saturated fats and trans fat, regular exercise, weight management, and medication.

Diet to reduce cholesterol

  • Limit the foods rich in saturated fat and Trans fat: – meat, egg yolk, shrimp, and high-fat dairy products.
  • Eat plenty of soluble fiber- foods high in soluble fiber help to prevent the digestive tract from absorbing cholesterol.
  • Include all whole-grain cereals and its products in your diet.
  • Eat all seasonal fruits and vegetables which are fresh and colorful.
  • Include legumes in your diet such as kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
  • Eat fish that are high in omega 3 fatty acid; though omega 3 fatty acid does not lower LDL level it improves HDL levels. They also protect the heart from blood clots, inflammation, and reduce your risk of a heart attack.
  • Fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids are salmon, tuna, and mackerel.
  • Limit salt intake, but don’t completely stop salt intake, as it is essential for our body functioning.
  • Avoid eating processed foods, papad, pickles, ready to eat food items, table salt, etc.
  • Limiting salt will not reduce blood cholesterol but it will reduce blood pressure which is good to lower the risk of heart disease.
  • Limit alcohol intake as it adds extra calories which leads to weight gain. Being overweight increases your LDL cholesterol levels and lowers the HDL cholesterol levels. Too much alcohol can also increase your risk of heart disease because it can raise your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.

Let’s learn about the type of fats

  • Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and they are beneficial as they can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and play a number of different roles that benefit our body.
  • Unsaturated fats are found in plant foods such as vegetables, oils, nuts, seeds.

There are two types of good unsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fats: Monounsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on your heart when eaten in moderation and when select in your diet over saturated fats and trans fats. MUFA are simply fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule. Oils that contain monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature and start to turn solid when chilled. MUFA is found in olive, canola, and peanut oils; avocados, nuts such as almonds,  hazelnuts, and pecans, seeds such as pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. Monounsaturated fats can help to reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Oils rich in monounsaturated fats contribute Vitamin E and antioxidants. Like all fats, MUFA also contain 9 calories per gram

Polyunsaturated fats: Sunflower, corns, soybean, and flaxseeds oil, walnuts, flax seeds, fish, canola oil, Omega 3 are an important type of polyunsaturated fat which body can’t make, so it must come from food Fish, flax seeds, walnut, canola and soybean oil are rich sources of omega 3 fatty acid

Saturated fats: Saturated fats are simply fat molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are found in animal foods and some are from plant foods like coconut, coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, etc. Whole and reduced-fat milk, butter and dairy dessert, cheese, meat product such as sausages, beef, etc., cookies and grain-based desserts and fast foods.

Trans fats: Trans fats are made by heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen gas, a process called hydrogenation. Trans fats are not a good type of fat for heart, blood vessels and rest of the body as they increase LDL and lowers HDL; creates inflammation – a reaction related to immunity which has been implicated in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic condition; contribute to insulin resistance.


Article Authored by

Prachi Velhal

Prachi Velhal, Clinical Dietitian and research associate

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