Effects of Diet on Blood Cholesterol

Cholesterol is an essential nutrient for humans (contrary to popular belief that cholesterol is bad). Cholesterol is not bad for human health; it is the excess cholesterol which is bad for our health and general well being. Cholesterol is essential for synthesis of several hormones (estrogens, progestin’s, and other male and female sex hormones) as well as for synthesis of steroid hormones. Without steroid hormones human life is difficult to imagine. But, cholesterol is a two edge sword, which cuts on both sides, if beyond limit and we need to take care of this.

Regulation of diet can help us keep cholesterol within normal limit and maintain good health status. We need approximately one gram of cholesterol every day and fortunately our body can synthesize the required one gram in liver and we do not need any cholesterol from exogenous sources such as food. Excess dietary intake of cholesterol thus can harm us by getting deposited in different organ systems, especially cardiovascular system.

How foods affect blood cholesterol levels?

Foods high in saturated fats, cholesterol and high in total fat content contribute to high blood cholesterol levels. Total amount of fat as well as type of fat influence blood cholesterol. In general the higher the total fat content the greater is blood cholesterol level. Types of fat have greater influence on blood cholesterol levels, e.g. presence of saturated fatty acids (which are mostly found in fats of animal origin such as beef, pork and other red meat) increase blood cholesterol level, whereas presence of unsaturated (mono unsaturated fatty acids and poly unsaturated fatty acids) fats in food can reduce blood cholesterol level and good for health.

Most foods generally contain both saturated as well as unsaturated fats. But, animal foods contain higher amount of saturated fatty acids than unsaturated fatty acids and plant fats contain higher amount of unsaturated fatty acids and little of saturated fatty acids. This is the reason most people should eat fat form plant origin and this is recommended by experts to reduce blood cholesterol.

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