Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Didn't Know That - Cholesterol

If you're like me you have high cholesterol. I don't take meds but am really supposed to watch my diet.  That's good but what actually does watching my diet mean?  Here is what I found out, again, through Weight Watchers.

What is cholesterol?  This fat-like, waxy substance, produced mainly by the liver, is essential to the body:  It forms part of cell membranes, insulates nerve fibers, and is a building block for hormones.  (This I didn't know.  I've really only heard of it being spoken about in as a negative.  I also didn't know that it was produced by the liver.)

What's the difference between blood cholesterol and dietary cholesterol?  Blood cholesterol, produced by your own body, circulates in your bloodstream.  Two important forms of blood cholesterol are LDL (so-called "bad cholesterol"), which can build up on artery walls and narrow them; and HDL ("good cholesterol"), which carries away these damaging deposits.  Dietary cholesterol, found in the foods you eat, does not go directly into the blood, although consuming too much dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol.  (OK, I've always had a problem keeping these 2 apart due to there letter names being so close.  I think I'll label them LDL with the 1st L standing for lousy and HDL with the H standing for healthy.  Now maybe I can keep them apart.)

What are other causes of high blood cholesterol?  Heredity and obesity are important contributing factors, but the greatest controllable risk factor is a high intake of saturated fat, which is found in meats, butter, whole milk products, and coconut and palm oils.  (I eat very little red meats but have to admit that I do love my butter and cheese.  I don't use coconut and palm oils and rarely fry anything so hopefully I'm doing pretty good in this dept.)

How much cholesterol is it safe to eat?  The American Heart Association recommends a daily limit of 300 milligrams.  (Yes, this requires reading labels before eating as well as a bit of educated memory that can be used when eating out.)

What foods contain cholesterol?  Only foods from animal sources - meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and eggs.  (All of the foods I really enjoy!  I can now see why it is healthier to be a vegan.)

What is a normal blood cholesterol level?  A reading of under 200 is considered desirable for adults;  240 and above is high.  (Mine is barely over the 240 so I'm considered high.  I would like to live to be 100 so I plan on getting this down.)

How can I lower my blood cholesterol?  Lose weight if your're overweight; eat less saturated fat (substitute monounsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oil); and eat more soluble fiber (found in many fruits, oats, barley, and dried beans and other legumes).  (I do fit the overweight so I need to work on that.  I do use olive and canola oil so I'm ok there, but I don't eat enough fiber.  Since I love fruit, oats and dried beans this shouldn't be a problem to correct, as long as I use a seasoning for my beans that doesn't come from meat.  One of the recipes I posted on Martha's Recipe Cabinet is for a bean soup that I used a sauce to make.  I didn't look at the nutrition info on the package but it gives me the possible seasoning solution of using sauces to season my beans.)

What this all boils down to is that we all need to watch our cholesterol and the only way to do that is through educating ourselves on how much cholesterol different foods actually have.  Here are some examples:

1 oz. of:
Bottom round beef braised - 27mg
Ham, cured, roasted - 17mg
Chicken, dark meat, roasted - 27mg
Turkey breast, roasted - 20mg

4 medium shrimp steamed - 111mg
2 oz. Cod, baked - 31mg

Yolk - 272 mg
White - 0mg

3/4 oz. cheddar - 23mg
1/3 cup 2% cottage, lowfat - 6mg
1 cup whole milk - 34mg
3/4 cup nonfat, plain Yogurt - 3mg

Fats and Spreads 1 tsp.:
Butter - 11mg.
Vegetable oil, all types - 0mg

Sweets and Snacks:
2 oz. homemade pound cake - 117mg
1 oz. milk chocolate - 7mg

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