What is cholesterol?
Choosing to eat a plant-based diet is becoming more and more popular, but many people do not know what cholesterol is, how it affects our bodies, or even if it is harmful.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that our bodies create and use to build and maintain cells. It is made in our intestines, liver and pancreas.
Cholesterol is a chemically diverse steroid and is considered to be a ‘waxy’ substance that is found in all animal cell membranes and is the precursor of all steroid hormones.
Cholesterol is a lipid (fatlike) substance and is important in all animal cell membranes.
It is vital for life.
“Natural” cholesterol is found in all animal and some plant foods. Most people get the “bad cholesterol” type from eating animal products.
Cholesterol is one of the most important substances in existence. It is found in the bloodstream as well as in the liver, adrenal cortex, ovaries, and testes. It is the precursor of all steroid hormones.
It’s a primary building block of all the cells in your body and a natural part of your diet. Cholesterol is found in meat, eggs, fish, milk, vegetables and more.
It’s essential to the health of your nervous system, the functioning of your brain, and the production of hormones. Cholesterol is also naturally present in some plant-based foods.
Circulating cholesterol is the organic fat that is made by the body and is a vital organelle that helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins and regulate cell structure.
High levels of cholesterol have been linked to the risk of heart disease and various other conditions, but that doesn’t deter people from eating foods high in cholesterol.
Vegetarians may suffer less from high levels of cholesterol in the blood since the body takes longer to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins made by plants compared to animal flesh.
Good cholesterol and bad cholesterol
The biggest myth about cholesterol is that it causes heart disease and that because we have a lot of it, it is, therefore, the reason we have heart diseases. However, this is not true at all, and this is what we will reveal in this blog post.
Different foods can have good and bad cholesterol: the good cholesterol is called “HDL” and the bad “LDL”.
Cholesterol is a lipid found in all cells of the human body. It is a precursor of steroid hormones and is essential for the normal functioning of the body.
There are three different types of cholesterol:
- HDL – High-density lipoprotein is the “good” cholesterol and
- LDL – Low-density lipoprotein is the “bad” cholesterol
- VLDL – Very Low-density lipoprotein is also another type of “bad” cholesterol.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is a type of lipoprotein and also a carrier protein, which carries cholesterol in the watery component of your blood. It is made mostly in the liver.
It is known as “good cholesterol” because it helps to carry away extra cholesterol from the arteries to the liver for removing it from the body.
HDL is the so-called good cholesterol, as it transports cholesterol to the liver where it is metabolised. The higher your HDL the better.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) transports excess cholesterol to the cells in the body. It is one particle that makes up blood cholesterol.
The liver produces most of the cholesterol, but your body also gets cholesterol from the animal and plant foods you eat.
This is one form of cholesterol called LDL, also known as “bad cholesterol,” that contributes to plaque buildup in your blood vessels and contributes to the build-up of cholesterol inside the artery, causing blockages that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
High LDL cholesterol levels can lead to a risk for heart disease.
Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) is a form of lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are particles that transport triglyceride, cholesterol ester, and extra cholesterol from the liver to other locations in the body.
Triglycerides are a kind of fat stored in your body, usually for energy. They are made of a glycerol backbone, to which three fatty acids are attached.
Cholesterol ester is a lipid and is a fatty substance belonging to a group called sterols. Cholesterol ester is synthesised, ingested and produced by the body.
Cholesterol is the organic molecule that is found in animal cell membranes and is responsible for maintaining cell membrane fluidity and permeability.
All foods can have both good and bad cholesterol, however, there are some foods that are higher in good cholesterol and some that are high in bad cholesterol.
Cholesterol Is Good for You
Cholesterol in food is a big deal.
The presence of cholesterol in food is one of the first things everyone learns about when taking their first bite of a burger, taking their first bite of a meal, or any other time they might consider that burger or meal.
In our information-overloaded world, where we are told that we must eat this and not that because of the science-y magic of “dietary guidelines”.
It should be easy to remember that there is no “evil cholesterol” that needs to be avoided but is a vital component in the formation of all the hormones and chemicals that make the human body.
Now that we know that cholesterol is a type of lipid which is found in all animal cells. We should know that it is a waxy substance that is insoluble in water, but soluble in organic solvents such as ethanol.
It is essential for life and is required to build cell membranes and to manufacture steroid hormones, bile acids (for vitamin absorption), and vitamin D. It also helps to keep skin and cell surfaces strong.
Dietary cholesterol is found in animal products, and it’s also necessary to produce hormones, absorb vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin D. and process fat-soluble vitamins.
Cholesterol is a lipid and is found in every cell of the body: in the blood, skin, and organs. The body can make all the cholesterol it needs for normal functioning.
Plant-based food high in cholesterol
Plant-based foods are generally lower in fat and bad cholesterol than meat products and are healthier overall.
However, plants contain naturally occurring cholesterol, which can differ in its impact on body cholesterol levels.
For example, phytosterols and phytostanols are plant-based cholesterol-lowering compounds and depending on the type of plant, their levels may be higher or lower than cholesterol naturally found in animal products.
Some plant foods contain almost no cholesterol, while other foods also contain lots of cholesterol. The best way to know the effect of food is to look at all the information you have on it, and see how it affects the cholesterol levels in your blood.
Plant-based high cholesterol food includes:
- nuts (especially almonds and pecans),
- whole grains,
- beans, and
Animal foods rich in cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy substance in your blood that is formed from cholesterol-rich foods you eat, mostly from animal products.
But most of the cholesterol in your body comes from your liver cells, which makes it a healthy substance. While you cannot get rid of it, you can reduce your intake of foods that contain it.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, added sugars and refined grains in favour of foods high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy and other seafood.
The cholesterol in food differs from the cholesterol in your blood.
High cholesterol is a risk for heart disease. To lower cholesterol, avoid eating foods that are high sources of cholesterol.
The animal foods that contain high amounts of cholesterol are:
- Muscle meat and fatty meat – (from beef, pork, chicken, turkey),
- Lean meat – (like liver)
- Glandular organ meats – (like kidney),
- seafoods – (from fresh crab meat, etc.)
- Baked goods,
- Fish oils,
- egg yolks, and
- dairy products,
Cholesterol is an essential nutrient found in all animal foods and is one of the few nutrients that is not metabolised by the body; it must be consumed. This means that a diet high in cholesterol can increase your risk for heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases.
Healthy and balanced eating is an essential element of heart wellness. Consuming foods high in cholesterol does not increase blood cholesterol if they’re part of a healthy diet.
How much cholesterol do we need to eat?
How many grams of cholesterol do we need to consume each day?
Various studies have determined that the amount of cholesterol in the diet can affect the cardiovascular health and disease risk of a person.
Different types of cholesterol have been linked to different health issues.
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is often associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
LDL cholesterol is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol because it has been shown to cause blockages in the arteries and may even contribute to heart disease and other problems.
High levels of LDL cholesterol have also been associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other degenerative diseases.
You need to eat only a moderate amount of cholesterol, but no more than you already are.
The average intake is between 300 to 500 mg of cholesterol per day. This is equivalent to three to five egg yolks. A high cholesterol intake can lead to cardiovascular diseases.
Cholesterol is present in every cell of the body. The body makes all the cholesterol it needs. If you eat more cholesterol than you need, the body makes less.
If you eat a plant-based diet, your body will make more cholesterol than it needs. This is because plants do not contain cholesterol, and your body makes it when it does not have enough of it.
Ways to lower Cholesterol in the body
The science behind cholesterol is not set in stone.
We know certain foods can help us lose weight and keep it off, but which foods are the best? Which foods are most effective?
It is a complicated topic, but there are a few simple ways to lower your risk of developing heart problems.
A major cause of the cardiovascular disease is high cholesterol from food, and what food we eat can have an enormous impact on our cholesterol levels.
This is why we eat whole foods, which are chock full of vitamins, minerals, and fibre.
But there are some foods that are loaded with cholesterol and other saturated fats, such as deep-fried foods, meats, high-fat dairy products, and processed foods.
Some ways that have been shown to lower blood cholesterol profiles are:
- The most natural way is to eat natural foods. Eat a diet that is low in saturated fat and trans fat, and instead, eat a diet rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.
The Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) are beneficial in reducing the bad LDL cholesterol in our body.
- You can eat more foods with soluble fibre, such as oats and beans. Soluble fibre dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance in your stomach that slows down the absorption of cholesterol.
- avoid eating too much animal-based food.
- Add more cholesterol-lowering foods to your diet.
- Cut back on red meat, especially fatty cuts.
- Rely more on vegetarian sources of protein, such as nonfat dairy, nuts, seeds and legumes.
- Plant based food can help lower cholesterol by replacing some of the saturated fats in your diet with unsaturated fat.
- Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, such as olive oil, avocados, soybeans, and lean cuts of beef.
- Limit your intake of trans fat, found in many processed foods.
- Choose whole grains instead of refined grains.
- Watch your portion sizes.
- eat more fruits, as there is no high level of bad cholesterol in fruit
Elevated cholesterol is the root of heart disease, and doctors have recommended a healthy lifestyle that includes an improved diet as a first step in lowering any form of cholesterol.
Dangers of consuming an exorbitant amount of cholesterol
Among the most damaging of all food groups, cholesterol is found in all of our bodies, but primarily in our blood.
It is present in the liver, the placenta, the heart, and even the brain. Our body needs it to function properly, but consuming too much of it is not good for your body.
Consuming an outrageous amount of cholesterol can increase your bad cholesterol (LDL) levels.
This, in turn, can cause:
- clogged arteries and lead to coronary artery disease.
- heart disease risk (like Coronary heart disease)
- chronic disease risk
Life without cholesterol would be very boring, and even vegetarians can consume cholesterol from food.
Modern nutritionists are in agreement that cholesterol does not pose the threat to human health as once believed.
However, cholesterol is an essential nutrient needed for a variety of functions in the human body.
Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance in our bodies. It is essential for normal body functions. It’s a nutrient and a building block of life.