- Food Energy or Total Calories
- Linoleic / Omega 6
- Alpha Linoleic / Omega 3
- Vitamin A (RAE)
- Thiamin (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat (lipid) which is produced by the liver and is crucial for normal body functioning. Cholesterol exists in the outer layer of every cell in our body. It is a waxy steroid and is transported in the blood plasma of all animals. The word “cholesterol” comes from the Greek word chole, meaning “bile”, and the Greek word stereos, meaning “solid, stiff”. The brain has the highest cholesterol concentration of any body organ.
Cholesterol is carried in the blood by molecules called lipoproteins (which are compounds containing both fat and protein). There are three main types:
- LDL (low density lipoprotein)
LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to cells. If too much is carried there can be a harmful buildup of LDL on the inside of artery walls. This can increase the risk of arterial diseases. Most human blood contains approximately 70% LDL. This is often referred to as the bad cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is found in foods with saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat. You can replace these bad fat foods with foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
- HDL (high density lipoprotein)
HDL takes the cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver. In the liver, it is either broken down or expelled from the body as waste. Experts say HDL prevents arterial disease. HDL does the opposite of LDL. This is often referred to as good cholesterol. Studies show that regular physical activity can help your body produce more HDLs. Reducing trans fats and eating a balanced, nutritious diet is another way to increase HDL.
Calories we consume but are not used immediately by our tissues are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells. When your body needs energy and there is no food as an energy source, triglycerides will be released from fat cells and used as energy – hormones control this process.
What Cholesterol Does for You:
- Builds and maintains the outer layer of cell membranes
- Ensures proper brain growth and development
- Aids in tissue and hormone function
- Converts sunshine to vitamin D
- Important for the metabolism of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K)
- Insulates and protects your nerves
- Aids in digestion
What Happens When there is a Cholesterol Deficiency:
- Cerebral hemorrhaging can occur
- Depression, aggression, impulse control problems
What Happens When Too Much Cholesterol is Consumed:
- Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries)
- Increased heart disease risk
- Heart attack
- Angina (chest pain that occurs when your heart muscle does not get enough blood)
- Other cardiovascular conditions
What are Optimal Cholesterol Levels?
- If you do not have any other heart disease risks, blood levels of LDL cholesterol between 100 and 129 mg/dL are considered more or less ideal, MayoClinic.com reports.
- If you have some additional risk for heart disease, you will ideally keep your LDL levels below 100 mg/dL.
- If you have high heart disease risks, you will ideally keep your LDL levels below 70 mg/dL.
- At the other end of the scale, the least ideal LDL results reach 190 mg/dL or higher. High levels of LDL fall in a range between 160 and 189 mg/dL, while borderline high levels range between 130 and 159 mg/dL.
Ask your doctor about your specific heart disease risks.
- Ideally, both men and women will have HDL levels that reach 60 mg/dL or higher, according to the American Heart Association. Levels in this range will give you active protection against the development of heart disease.
- If you are female, an HDL level that falls below 50 mg/dL seriously raises your risks for the development of heart disease.
- Men with HDL levels below 40 mg/dL have similarly serious heart disease risks.
Ask your doctor about specific steps you can take to increase your HDL levels.
- Ideally, your total cholesterol levels will fall below 200 mg/dL, the AHA reports.
- Levels that fall between 200 and 239 mg/dL are considered borderline high.
- If your total cholesterol level equals or exceeds 240 mg/dL, you have more than twice the risk for serious heart disease than someone who maintains total cholesterol at an ideal level.
Be aware that high levels of HDL can increase your results on a total cholesterol test. If this is the case, you may not actually fall in a high-risk category.
- Your triglyceride totals should fall in the normal range of less than 150 mg/dL, the AHA notes.
- At the other end of the scale, the least ideal triglyceride levels reach 500 mg/dL or higher.
- If your triglyceride levels fall between 200 and 499 mg/dL, they are considered high.
- Borderline high triglyceride levels fall between 150 and 199 mg/dL.
Consult your doctor for more information on appropriate cholesterol levels.
How Much Cholesterol do You Need in Your Diet?
This table presents Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) and Adequate Intakes (AIs) recommended by the USDA to maintain a healthy diet.
NRR = No required role for these nutrients other than as energy sources was identified; the body can synthesize its needs for saturated fatty acids and cholesterol from other sources. There is an incremental increase in plasma total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations with increased intake of saturated or trans fatty acids or with cholesterol at even very low levels in the diet. Therefore, the intakes of each should be minimized while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet
Best Plant Sources of Cholesterol:
Cholesterol comes from animal products and is not found in plants. However, some foods may have a healthy effect on blood cholesterol levels. Some options include:
- Whole grains, such as oatmeal, oat bran and whole-wheat products
- Nuts, such as walnuts, almonds and brazil nuts
- Omega-3 fatty acids (flaxseeds and flaxseed oil)