High-Cholesterol Foods : Which to Eat, Which to Avoid

Cholesterol is a fatty substance or a type of lipid that plays a vital role in human health. Many people think that cholesterol only means a harmful substance, but this belief isn’t right all the time. As with anything in our diet and our life, cholesterol has its harms and benefits. Cholesterol is essential for cell functions and structure, enter in the synthesis of bile acids, represents a precursor for many necessary substances, such as vitamin-D, steroid hormones (cortisol), and sex hormones (as testosterone). On the other side, when the cholesterol level becomes higher than its normal range, it put the people at risk of many diseases, especially cardiovascular diseases.

Cholesterol in your body may be endogenous or exogenous. The liver synthesizes your body needs from cholesterol, but also, cholesterol exists in many foods that are common in our diets, such as meat, eggs, and cheese. These foods may elevate the cholesterol level above the normal range, which puts you at a higher risk of some diseases.

Cholesterol is fat, and the fats are insoluble substances; thus, it can’t move alone through the blood. We have compounds called lipoproteins, which are proteins attached to lipids and enable them to move through the blood. We have two main Lipoproteins that carry cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL is good cholesterol because it takes cholesterol from the body parts to the liver, and the liver excretes it from your body. LDL is bad cholesterol because it travels with cholesterol from your liver to other body parts, which may lead to plaque formation in your vessel and raises the risk of atherosclerosis. In the treatment of high cholesterol, we try to lower the level of LDL.

High cholesterol is a manageable risk factor of atherosclerosis that may lead to diseases such as coronary artery disease, heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease.

The balance between HDL and LDL is under the control of genes, but other causes and risk factors may affect this balance. The most common and important cause of high cholesterol levels is an unhealthy lifestyle. Also, lifestyle modification is the center of the management of high cholesterol.

The unhealthy lifestyle includes an unhealthy diet, which contains a high amount of bad fats (saturated and trans fats). These fats present in foods, such as fried and processed foods, some meats, and chocolate. These foods may elevate the level of bad cholesterol (LDL).

Also, lack of physical activity, overweight, and obesity, elevate the LDL level. Smokers are at high risk of hypercholesterolemia and its complications because smoking lowers the good cholesterol (HDL) and raises the harmful type (LDL). High cholesterol may be genetic in some people (familial hypercholesterolemia). But also, it may be due to other conditions, such as hypothyroidism, liver and kidney disease, pregnancy, polycystic ovary, and diabetes. Also, some medications may elevate the LDL level and lower the HDL, such as corticosteroids and progestins.

High cholesterol is more common in the elderly than in children and teens, and its effect is higher on the elderly.

High cholesterol doesn’t cause specific symptoms, but regular screening is necessary to detect cases of high cholesterol early. Early detection allows managing the cholesterol levels before it causes complications. Undetected high cholesterol may lead to a heart attack without warning signs.

To keep our cholesterol within the healthy range, we should know the foods that contain high cholesterol or may elevate its harmful type. Also, we should know the healthy range of cholesterol and the recommended schedule for screening.

We should know how to prevent high cholesterol and how to manage it if it is high.

We will focus here on foods high in cholesterol.

Before the discussion, you should know that the recommended daily intake (RDI) of cholesterol for the average healthy individual is about 300mg daily, and the saturated fats should provide less than 7% of the recommended daily calorie intake (2000 calories for women and 2500 calories for men).

Foods high in cholesterol:

Foods that contain cholesterol aren’t unhealthy all the time, but we have healthy and unhealthy foods contain cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol doesn’t represent a problem because the liver can handle it by lowering its production. The problem is with saturated and trans fats that affect the way that the liver manages cholesterol by and raises the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) over the good cholesterol (HDL).

(A) Cholesterol-rich healthy foods

These foods contain cholesterol, but they don’t rich in saturated and trans fats.

1. Eggs

Eggs are a popular food, and it is one of the most highly beneficial, nutritious, and advisable foods. Eggs are rich in proteins, and it is an efficient supplier of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin-B, vitamin-A, vitamin-K, selenium, calcium, and zinc. Besides this high value, eggs are also rich in cholesterol. One large egg provides about 240mg cholesterol, which represents about 70% of the recommended daily intake (RDI). Many people have wrong beliefs about the cholesterol of eggs that may drive some people to avoid eggs and lose their high nutritional value. The scientific research has denied these false beliefs about eggs and showed that eating a whole egg can raise the level of good cholesterol (HDL). Three eggs daily are safe and useful for healthy individuals.