Foods High in Cholesterol

It is important to understand how foods high in cholesterol affect the body and which foods raise the risk of heart disease. Why is this so important for you?

Fried Onion Rings Cottage Bar Food Macros March 29, 20114

Onion rings are a food high in cholesterol.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of 616,000 Americans in 2008 … almost 25 percent of all deaths in the U.S. that year.

Even though cholesterol is an important and naturally occurring substance in the human body, most health experts agree that unhealthy levels of certain types of cholesterol are a significant risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis, or clogging of the arteries.

The Role and Importance of Some Cholesterol

Every animal, including humans, needs a certain amount of cholesterol to survive. Cholesterol is important to the development of cell membranes, the metabolism of certain vitamins and vital in the creation of hormones including estrogen and testosterone. Cholesterol is so critical that, if an animal does not consume enough cholesterol to function, his liver will produce more.

Because all animals use cholesterol to function, cholesterol is present in all animal products, including its meat, skin, organs, milk and eggs. You consume this cholesterol when you eat food made from animal products and absorb it into your digestive tract.

How Cooking Affects Cholesterol in Foods

Many high cholesterol foods only become that way because of the way the food is prepared and cooked. For example, plant-based foods like green beans do not contain cholesterol. But roll them in breading and drop into a deep fryer … as some restaurants do for appetizers … and now you’ve got a food high in cholesterol.

Foods high in cholesterol introduce cholesterol into the body. Cholesterol moves from your gut to the awaiting cells through the bloodstream. However, cholesterol faces one big problem; it is an oily, waxy substance known as a lipid. Cholesterol does not dissolve well into the watery plasma of blood. The body overcomes this by packaging the cholesterol lipids you eat with special proteins to create lipoproteins that move through blood easily.

Foods That Can Raise The More Harmful LDL and VLDL

There are several types of lipoproteins and each seems to act in a unique way; the foods you eat cause an increase in some types of lipoproteins but not others. Scientists classify these lipoproteins according to their densities. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, carries freshly created or consumed cholesterol from the gut to the cells around the body. Excess simple carbs and starches can raise LDL.

Doctors think of LDL as "bad" cholesterol because it introduces cholesterol into the bloodstream. If the LDL cannot find a cell in need of cholesterol, the LDL just dumps the cholesterol along an arterial wall like garbage along a highway. Excess cholesterol can then accumulate and harden, injuring the delicate lining of the arteries or clogging them entirely.

VLDL is the worst culprit. VLDL transports triglycerides, which is fat it its natural form. Because of its association with triglycerides, high levels of VLDL is strongly associated with an increased risk for heart disease. Food containing trans fat, processed foods and fried foods are such a danger because they increase VLDL levels.

High-density lipoproteins, or HDL, are similar to garbage men. HDL is small, sometimes only 6 nanometers, but very dense. HDL uses its tiny, high-density nature to scrap excess cholesterol from arterial walls and transport it back to the liver, where it is processed and recycled or eliminated from the body. Some types of food high in dietary cholesterol actually increase HDL and lower LDL levels, cleansing the blood of harmful cholesterol and improving your overall cholesterol profile.

Foods That Can Raise Protective HDL

While it may seem counter-intuitive, many foods containing needed fatty acids will actually increase HDL and, in return, lower LDL and VLDL levels. Some types of fish provide high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, thought to increase HDL levels. Cod liver oil, olive oil and the fats in peanut butter increase HDL without raising your bad cholesterol.

Scientists are beginning to understand that not all foods high in cholesterol cause heart disease … some high cholesterol foods, including eggs and organ meats … do not change total cholesterol levels or raise the risk for heart disease even when eaten with some regularity.

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