Cholesterol plays an important part in cell health, and can have both positive and negative connotations. There are generally two types of cholesterol — "good" and "bad" — and some foods can modify the levels of both of these inside the human body. Since dietary measures are very important in keeping cholesterol under control, studies have been conducted to reveal the impact of three major food categories on the body’s cholesterol: eggs, meat, and diary.
Eggs and cholesterol
Eggs are a food very rich in nutrients, but their yolks are also very high in cholesterol. Don’t judge a book by its cover, though, as there is more to eggs and cholesterol than meets the eye.
Cholesterol is not the simplest phenomenon to understand, mainly because it can be both good and bad. Without cholesterol, the body would not be able to keep cells healthy, nor would it be able to produce hormones such as cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone.
While you may come across a lot of different opinions on how egg yolks are bad for cholesterol, scientific studies have revealed the following information:
- Eggs boost your levels of good cholesterol.
- The consumption of omega-3-enriched eggs reduces your triglyceride levels.
- Total cholesterol levels rise slightly in some cases, but most of the time, they remain constant.
Another important factor to consider is that eggs cause bad cholesterol particles to rise from medium to large, which can lower the risk of heart disease. The key when eating any type of food is moderation and the same thing goes for eggs as well.
People who consume a moderate amount of eggs will likely have their cholesterol levels remain the same, compared to those who avoid eating eggs altogether.
Meat and cholesterol
There are people who wrongfully assume that meat needs to be eliminated completely from a diet. The important thing is to opt for lean meat, instead of meat that’s rich in saturated fat. Leaner cuts of meat can actually be very nutritious and healthy, as long as you know how to choose and how to cook them.
If you have high cholesterol, consider the following meats:
- Loin chop or pork tenderloin.
- Ground beef which contains at least 90 percent lean meat.
- Loin, arm and leg cuts from lamb meat.
- Loin, sirloin or chucks of lean beef.
With meat, cooking is extremely important. If you purchase a chuck of lean meat and then deep-fry it, it poses a high risk of cholesterol raise.
Here are a few suggestions on how to cook lean meat:
- If the meat you buy has visible chunks of fat on it, try to cut as much of it as you can before cooking it.
- Opt for any other cooking method that doesn’t imply frying: bake, roast, grill, or broil.
- If you prepare meat-based stews, refrigerating the food for a day causes the solid fat to raise to the surface, and can then be removed.
- The type of oil that you use when cooking meat make a world’s difference. Avoid using ingredients such as lard or butter, because they have a lot of saturated fat which is bad for your cholesterol.
- Always try to combine your meat intake with vegetables. The fibers inside vegetables work by reducing cholesterol absorption.
Another wrongful assumption that people make in relation to meat is that chicken is healthier than beef. It’s true that chicken meat contains less saturated fat than beef, but chicken and cows have different ways of storing fat. In chicken, fat is mainly stored underneath the skin, which makes chicken breast meat lower in cholesterol compared to chicken thighs.
Dairy and cholesterol
Not every dairy product is the same. There’s a lot of debate on the pros and cons of dairy consumption, but it all comes down to how natural the milk you drink actually is.
Dairy consumption can be a bit tricky. For a cholesterol point of view, science suggests that it’s better to replace whole-fat dairy products with others that are low in fat. You want to avoid saturated fat which can increase your bad cholesterol levels. Some of the best dairy suggestions for cholesterol are skim milk, low-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt, or low-fat ice cream.
It’s also important to note that dairy fat is very complex, as it made from hundreds of fatty acids. Some healthy fats are not present in skim or low-fat dairy products. Since the topic at hand is how different foods influence cholesterol, note that people with high cholesterol levels need to avoid dairy products rich in fat.
For a very long time, people have believed that eggs, meat, and dairy are bad for cholesterol. However, scientific evidence has shown us that things aren’t all that black and white. Eggs are "heaven" in terms of nutritional value, while meat can be healthy when you know what to buy.
With dairy, however, things are a little tricky, in a sense that high-fat dairy is good from different health-related points of view, but it can also be bad for cholesterol. If you’re having cholesterol problems, consuming moderate low-fat dairy is the best choice, provided that you get your other vitamins and minerals from other sources.