Is cheese good for your cholesterol?
Lowering Cholesterol: 11 Suitable And Inappropriate Foods
Table of Contents
- What is cholesterol and how unhealthy is it really?
- So are cholesterol-containing foods unhealthy?
- Healthy foods high in cholesterol
- Pasture-raised meat
- Unhealthy foods that are high in cholesterol
- Fried foods
- Fast food
- Desserts and sweets
- Processed meat products
- How can I effectively lower my cholesterol?
- Knowledge to take away
Cholesterol is one of the most talked about substances in nutritional science. Spontaneously, the word alone can cause you discomfort because you associate it with buzzwords such as diabetes, obesity and heart attack. But how harmful is the consumption of foods containing cholesterol really? In fact, having too high a cholesterol level can have negative health effects. At first glance, there is nothing wrong with the material.
In this article, we want to clear up some myths to help you deal with foods containing cholesterol.
What is cholesterol and how unhealthy is it really?
Cholesterol is a lipid, i.e. a fat-like substance that plays a vital role in our entire organism. Among other things, cholesterol is the starting material for various hormones and bile acids and also an important part of our cell membrane (1). Since cholesterol does not dissolve in water, our body uses a trick and binds cholesterol to certain proteins so that the substance in the blood can still be transported from the liver to other tissues.
These fat-protein compounds are the forms of transport of cholesterol and the most important aspect in cholesterol research, because the forms of transport are divided into two classes based on their chemical density: High density lipoproteins (HDL) and Low density lipoproteins (LDL). While LDL cholesterol flows away from the liver to the body tissues and can also accumulate in the blood vessels if there is an excess, HDL molecules transport the cholesterol from the body cells back to the liver, where it can be broken down.
Since HDL is able to collect excess cholesterol en route and even to remove it that has already been stored in the vessel walls, it protects against this hardening of the arteries and is therefore often referred to as "good cholesterol". An elevated LDL level, on the other hand, is considered a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, which is why LDL is also known as "bad cholesterol". (2).
Also interesting:Good Cholesterol, Bad Cholesterol? Everyone should know that
It is important to know, however, that only 25 percent of the cholesterol in our body is absorbed through food. The rest is produced by the liver. If you consume too little or hardly any cholesterol, your body can normally stimulate cholesterol production in order to provide you with enough of the substance.
If you take in too much cholesterol with food, the body is able to compensate for the excess by the liver stopping production. However, the "myth" about the need to keep your cholesterol low is not entirely unfounded, so there are often people who need to lower their cholesterol through diet. More on this in the following sections.
So are cholesterol-containing foods unhealthy?
In fact, recent studies have shown that dietary cholesterol intake does not significantly affect our cholesterol levels (3). That may sound surprising, but the studies actually did not find any connection between the intake of cholesterol through food and, for example, an increased risk of heart attack.
It has also been found that two-thirds of the world's population hardly have to expect any negative effects from the intake of foods containing cholesterol (4). As a result, it is a third of people who struggle with the effects of high cholesterol. And that can have serious health consequences for those affected. Measures should be taken here to lower cholesterol.
The causes which are responsible for an increased and thus pathological cholesterol level are diverse. Among other things, an unhealthy diet and an unfavorable, sedentary lifestyle can be responsible for high cholesterol levels. But metabolic diseases such as diabetes (diabestes mellitus, diet for diabetes) or the underactive thyroid and excessive alcohol consumption are among the causes of too much cholesterol in the body.
In addition, there are hereditary diseases that affect the cholesterol balance. Here, the LDL cholesterol levels are increased from birth, which in the worst case can lead to severe damage to the blood vessels.
In essence, this means: If too much of the “bad” LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it not only combines with the necessary proteins, but also with white blood cells, which are then deposited on the inner walls of blood vessels, especially in arteries.
The deposits accumulate, thicken and the affected blood vessels become more and more inelastic. One then speaks of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which in the worst case can end in a complete vascular occlusion. The resulting secondary diseases then end in those cardiovascular disorders that doctors and cholesterol experts have warned us about for years (5).
While research has since disproved that all people are at risk of becoming seriously ill if they ingest too much cholesterol, keep in mind that some foods can negatively affect cholesterol - and that doesn't necessarily include the typical ones suspect like butter or meat.
In the following article, we will introduce you to seven foods that you can safely incorporate into your eating plan despite having a high cholesterol content - and four foods that you should better avoid.
Healthy foods high in cholesterol
Here are seven foods that are very healthy despite being high in cholesterol:
Many people today still believe that over-consuming eggs can lead to high cholesterol levels. In fact, eggs are also high in cholesterol: one egg has an average cholesterol content of 211 milligrams, which is 70 percent of the recommended daily requirement.
The fear that eggs will cause blood cholesterol to skyrocket has been refuted by research (6). On the contrary, eating whole eggs can help increase the level of HDL, the “good cholesterol” in the blood.
Aside from their beneficial cholesterol content, eggs are an excellent source of protein and are loaded with beneficial nutrients such as vitamin A and vitamin B.
Also read:Eating eggs: the healthiest way to cook them
According to current research, the consumption of 1-3 eggs per day should be completely harmless for healthy people (7).
A serving of cheese, like a slice of cheese on bread, provides your body with around 27 milligrams of cholesterol, which is nine percent of the recommended daily allowance.
Cheese still does not have a good reputation, and in the past it was often associated with high cholesterol levels. However, an Irish study has shown that even fatty cheese does not increase the “bad” LDL cholesterol. In this respect, too, it makes no sense to go for the low-fat variant. Study participants who ate low-fat dairy products tended to eat more carbohydrates and had higher cholesterol levels (8).
In addition, most types of cheese provide a good portion of calcium, protein, vitamin B and vitamin A, which makes cheese a healthy companion in our diet.
Shellfish, including crabs, clams, and prawns, are known to be a generous source of protein. But they are also rich in cholesterol: For example, 250 grams of meat from a lobster would cover the entire daily cholesterol requirement.
So a bit of caution is advised with the amount of shellfish, but they also contain very useful bioactive components, such as so-called carotenoid antioxidants and amino acids, which prevent heart disease and lower LDL cholesterol (9).
Studies have even shown that populations that eat more shellfish for geographic and cultural reasons have been shown to suffer less from heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis (10).
Sardines are also sea creatures that make it easy for us to supply our bodies with enough protein, iron, magnesium and vitamin E by consuming them.
A 100 gram portion of the fish contains 131 milligrams of cholesterol, about 45 percent of your daily requirement, but at the same time provides you with 65 percent of the necessary vitamin D and a good portion of B12, which more than meets your daily requirement.
Also interesting:Vitamin D Deficiency: Do You Know These 5 Symptoms?
5. Pasture-raised meat
Answering the question of how the animal lived before it landed on the plate is not only worthwhile from an ethical point of view: The meat of animals that were able to eat fresh grass during their lifetime is much healthier than the meat of Stabled animals.
A lot of protein, important vitamins and minerals as well as a high proportion of iron are just a few of the advantages of grazing meat. The cholesterol content of meat from this rearing method is also significantly lower and contains significantly more omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
A 250 gram steak from pasture rearing contains around 65 milligrams of cholesterol, which covers the daily requirement of around 40 percent (11).
Yogurt is also a high cholesterol food, which also contains many other nutrients such as protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B and magnesium. A 250 gram cup of full-fat yogurt contains around 30 milligrams of cholesterol (around eleven percent of the daily requirement).
Similar to cheese, full-fat products should also be used here, as they help lower LDL cholesterol and can therefore also have positive effects on blood pressure. It also reduces the risk of strokes, heart disease, and diabetes (12).
In addition, our gut health benefits from fermented dairy products like yogurt by having a positive effect on friendly gut bacteria (13).
Also read:Probiotic foods: the 10 healthiest
Offal, such as the heart, liver or kidneys, are definitely not at the top of the favorite food list for many Germans. Nevertheless, offal has always had a permanent place in German cuisine and is still eaten in traditional dishes today.
In addition, offal is very nutritious: Chicken hearts, for example, are an excellent source of vitamin B12, iron and zinc. The proportion of cholesterol in 100 grams of chicken hearts is around 120 grams (70 percent of the daily requirement).
The combination of the nutrients and cholesterol it contains also appears to have a positive effect on the risk of cardiovascular diseases in organ meats. This is confirmed by a study carried out with 9,000 test persons in Korea, where the consumption of unprocessed meat, including offal, is very popular (14).
High cholesterol foods that are better avoided
While some foods containing cholesterol are very healthy and have a positive effect on your body, other foods of this type are unhealthy and can even be harmful.
Here we're going to show you four high cholesterol foods that you'd better get off your nutritional list if you're looking to lower your cholesterol:
1. Fried foods
Regardless of whether it is fried meat, chili cheese nuggets or the popular mozzarella sticks: Fried food should be avoided as far as possible in a responsible diet.
On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the intake of calories quickly shoots through the roof when eating deep-fried foods. In addition, fried foods often contain dangerous trans fats, which can have negative effects on cholesterol levels and blood lipids, increase the risk of heart attacks and even promote depression.
Also read:Hidden Danger: Why Trans Fats Make Us Sick
Those who like to eat fried products run the risk of developing heart disease, obesity, or diabetes (15).
2. Fast food
Fast food is probably one of the top risk factors for numerous chronic diseases these days, such as obesity and diabetes.
Those who like to dangle through the nearest burger shop on their way home or find it difficult to resist the currywurst stall around the corner also run the risk of having higher cholesterol levels, more belly fat, higher inflammation levels and impaired blood sugar levels (16). If you want to lower your cholesterol, it would be better to avoid these foods.
However, those who eat less processed foods and prepare more meals freshly at home can count on lower body weight, lower body fat percentage and a reduction in risk factors for heart disease in the long run.
3. Desserts and sweets
Too much of the unhealthy, too little of the healthy - this is how the problem, arguably the biggest hurdle in healthy eating, can be summed up. Sugar, which is found in many foods such as cookies, cakes, ice cream and sweets, is a real temptation for many people. Unfortunately, in addition to high levels of sugar, these foods also contain unhealthy fats and empty calories.
Furthermore, these foods usually cannot score with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals or healthy fats, which our body needs for a healthy metabolism.
Frequent consumption of these foods can have negative effects on both cholesterol levels and overall health, and lead to rapid weight gain over time. In addition, research has shown clear connections between diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer and the excessive consumption of desserts (17).
4. Processed meat products
This type of food containing cholesterol is definitely one of the greatest risks for us Germans. Processed meat products include any sausage products that many Germans put on their plates or bread slices at least once a day.
In some studies, a high consumption of processed meat has been linked to an increased risk of certain heart diseases and cancers, such as colon cancer (18).
For example, one of these large-scale studies with more than 614,000 participants suggests that even a 50-gram serving of processed meat is associated with a 42 percent higher risk of developing heart disease.
How can I lower my cholesterol?
If you have a high cholesterol level, you should first clarify all important and individual questions with your doctor. We would like to draw your attention to some general tips that can lower the LDL cholesterol level and create a healthy ratio of LDL and HDL.
Here are some healthy ways to lower cholesterol effectively:
- Eat more fiber. Fruits and beans in particular can help lower the levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood.
- Move! Those who are more physically active can have a major impact on their cholesterol levels.
- Losing Weight: Losing excess weight is one of the best ways to lower your cholesterol levels. While the unhealthy LDL is reduced, weight loss can increase the positive HDL.
- Avoid Other Health Risks: Other bad habits, such as smoking, can also negatively affect your cholesterol levels.If you give up these vices, your HDL cholesterol may increase and your risk of cancer and heart disease will decrease significantly.
- The increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids can be particularly helpful in the fight against high cholesterol levels. These can be found in oily fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel; an alternative is to take preparations such as fish oil or algae capsules.
As you can see, there are many ways to lower your cholesterol. Just following some of these aspects can produce significant results, as well as other health benefits such as weight loss and increased wellbeing.
Start with your good intentions right away and click through our 30 best recipes for a low-cholesterol diet:
Knowledge to take away
If you want to lower your cholesterol level, you don't necessarily have to do without foods that contain cholesterol. Because not all cholesterol is the same as bad cholesterol. There are healthy foods that contain cholesterol, such as eggs and yogurt, that are very nutritious and can be easily integrated into a balanced diet.
However, you should avoid foods that raise the “bad” cholesterol in the blood, such as processed meat, fast food and sweets. Ignoring a pathologically elevated cholesterol level can have serious consequences for your health.
A few small changes and the abandonment of bad (eating) habits can effectively and long-term lower high cholesterol levels. This will prevent many diseases and reward yourself with an all-round healthier lifestyle.
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