Everyone has cholesterol in their bodies whether they eat animal products or not. Cholesterol is a building block of body cells and hormones and it is necessary for metabolism. High cholesterol can be harmful to the body by blocking and damaging arteries.
Cholesterol comes from two sources:
- Serum (blood) cholesterol flows through the bloodstream. Your body manufactures most of its blood cholesterol, but it absorbs some from the foods you eat. A total blood cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL is a healthy goal.
- Dietary cholesterol is found only in foods of animal origin, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. It is not found in plant foods. This source is easier to control. Individuals should limit their intake of cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams daily.
- HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) is the good, Healthy cholesterol. HDL picks up and carries excess cholesterol from artery walls and brings it back to the liver for processing and removal. You want this number to be high—at least 60 mg/dL—to protect your heart. Levels too low (less than 40 mg/dL) are bad for your health, increasing your risk for heart disease.
- LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) is the bad, Lazy cholesterol. LDL is made by the liver to carry cholesterol to the body’s cells and tissues. It may form deposits on the walls of arteries and other blood vessels. You want this number to be low. Less than 100 mg/dL is optimal (and up to 129 mg/dL is near optimal). Unhealthy levels are 130-159 mg/dL (borderline high), 160-189 mg/dL (high), and over 190 mg/dL (very high).
- Triglycerides are the most common forms of fat found in food and in the body. The visible fat on chicken and steak is actually triglycerides. If you are overweight, your body stores the extra calories you eat as triglycerides. People with high triglyceride levels often have low HDL (good cholesterol) levels; this combination is considered by many experts to be associated with an increased risk for heart disease. Less than 150 mg/dL of triglycerides is considered normal. Levels above 150 are considered high to different degrees: 150-199 mg/dL (borderline high), 200-499 mg/dL (high) and over 500 mg/dL (very high).
High Cholesterol: Healthy Choices When Eating OutMany restaurants offer delicious, low-fat, low-cholesterol meals. These tips will help you make eating out healthy and enjoyable.
Before You Order
- If you are familiar with the menu, decide what to order before entering the restaurant. This tactic will help you avoid any tempting foods that may not be so healthy.
- If you are trying a new restaurant, take time study the menu in order to avoid making unhealthy decisions.
- Have the server remove temptations (butter, for example) from the table.
- Drink two full glasses of water before your food arrives.
- Avoid foods described in the following way: buttery, buttered, fried, pan-fried, creamed, escalloped, au gratin (with cheese), or a la mode (with ice cream).
- If you want to eat bread, choose Melba toast or whole-grain rolls without butter or margarine.
When You Order
- Order foods that are steamed, broiled, grilled, stir-fried, or roasted.
- Order potatoes baked, boiled, or roasted instead of fried. Ask the server to leave off the butter and sour cream.
- Order first so that you will not be influenced by other's choices.
- For appetizers, order broth-based soups such as minestrone or gazpacho.
- Choose seafood, chicken, or lean meat rather than fatty meats; remove all visible fat from any meat.
- Order broiled, baked, grilled, steamed or poached entrees
- Ask the server to substitute low-fat foods for high-fat foods. For example, ask for steamed vegetables instead of fries.
- Ask the chef to remove the skin from poultry and to prepare your food without butter or cream sauces. Or ask for the sauce on the side so you can control how much you eat.
- Ask the server about ingredients or preparation methods for the dishes you're not familiar with.
- Order vegetable side dishes without sauces or butter or ask them to put them on the side.
- For dessert, order sorbet or fresh, seasonal fruit without whipped cream or a topping.
- When choosing from a salad bar, avoid items like grated cheese, prepared salads, cream dressings, chopped eggs, bacon bits and croutons.
- Use a squeeze of lemon instead of dressing on salads. Or try rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar.
- If you opt for dressing on your salad, order the dressing on the side. Dip your salad fork into the dressing, then into the salad. You will consume less dressing if you just get a taste of it on each mouthful of salad, rather than pouring it over the salad.
Average Cholesterol content of some meat products:
Chicken breast, oven roasted, fat-free sliced – 2 slices = 15 mg
Boneless skinless chicken breast – 3-4 oz = 60 mg
Salmon – 3 oz. = 60 mg
Shrimp – 3 oz. = 100 mg
Shrimp – 4 large = 35 mg
Tilapia – 4 oz. = 60 mg
Egg yolk – 1 = 165-200 mg (Recommended: 2 yolks/week)
Heart Healthy Guidelines to LOWER CHOLESTEROL:
* Limit foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol and those containing refined flours and sugars
* Enjoy monounsaturated fats such as canola and olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado and salmon
* Avoid Fried foods
* Eat more foods with fiber - raw fruits and vegetables, vegetable sources of protein - beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, flaxseeds
*Eat fish 2 times per week - ocean fish baked, broiled or grilled (watch serving size)
* Exercise regularly
* Enjoy soy protein - tofu, soymilk, soy nuts, and edamame
* Choose fat free or 1% milk and other dairy products
* Lose weight, even just 5-10 pounds can make a difference
* Try eating meatless a few times per week
References: Spark People and Web MD