Cholesterol is a waxy substance that circulates through the blood stream and is found in the tissue of all animals, including humans. It only makes sense then that any food derived from animal sources contains cholesterol with the highest levels of cholesterol being found in egg yolks and organ meat such as liver or kidneys. There are two types of cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) which are considered good (HDL) and bad (LDL). If you have too much of the bad LDL cholesterol in your blood stream your risk for coronary artery disease, heart disease, and heart attack are greatly increased.
Cholesterol is a necessary nutrient that transports different compounds, including triglycerides, fatty acids, phospholipids, cholesterol, and small amounts of steroids and fat soluble vitamins, through the blood stream. Your body makes some cholesterol and the rest it needs comes from animal sources. Food derived from plant sources does not contain any cholesterol.
This doesn’t mean that all plant food sources are safe when it comes to high cholesterol. Plants and animal food sources with high levels of trans-fat, or saturated fat are actually more responsible for high cholesterol levels then foods that have just high cholesterol. Foods prepared in saturated fat found in many vegetable oils are more dangerous to your health then foods that are just high in cholesterol.
This can be confusing but if you look at a meal we are all familiar with it will make more sense. We all know that eggs, or the yolks, are high in cholesterol and when we have a breakfast of eggs and bacon, or sausage; it can cause blood cholesterol levels to go up. What most people don’t realize is that the high fat content of the bacon and sausage is more responsible for this increase then the cholesterol in the eggs.
You don’t necessarily want to have low levels of HDL cholesterol but you do want to keep your LDL levels low. The reasons for this are simple; high LDL levels are known to increase the risk of coronary artery disease by clogging artery and contributing to plaque build up in the artery walls. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, actually circulates through the blood stream and picks up LDL cholesterol, removing it from the circulatory system and taking it to the liver, which disposes of it.
Another thing to watch is triglyceride levels because high levels of these chemical forms of fat are associated with high LDL levels and low HDL. Triglycerides are found in many foods and are also made by the body which uses them for energy production. High triglyceride levels are found in the obese and people who have diabetes.
One of the easiest ways to reduce cholesterol is by avoiding foods high in saturated fat and trans-fats. You can eat foods that have cholesterol in them, but moderation is the key and avoid eating them with foods high in saturated fats. Losing weight and exercise is also a good way to reduce cholesterol levels. If diet and exercise are not working your doctor may choose to use prescription medications in conjunction with the strategies above to reduce high cholesterol levels.