Cholesterol is a substance created by our body to keep us healthy. We also get some cholesterol from food. There are two types of cholesterol, “good” and “bad.” The correct amount of both of these is very important. If you have too much of LDL (bad) cholesterol, it can clog your arteries. This can lead to heart disease, heart attack or stroke. HDL (good) cholesterol is what keeps the LDL from clogging your arteries. So you can see how you need the right amounts of both.
Most of the time you only hear about clogged arteries in old people or obese people. So why worry about it now? There are studies and much evidence that actually shows that buildup in arteries starts in childhood and slowly builds into adulthood. This is why, even as college students, we need to make sure that our cholesterol levels are good.
Cholesterol is affected by your diet. You can avoid foods that raise your bad cholesterol and you can also eat foods to raise your good cholesterol. LDL is raised when you eat saturated fats, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol. Not only do monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats NOT raise LDL, but they have also been shown to help lower LDL when eaten with a healthy diet.
So how do we keep our cholesterol under control? Here are a few suggestions regarding fat:
- Limit total fat intake to less than 25–35% of your total calories each day.
- Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total daily calories.
- Limit trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of total daily calories.
- The remaining fat should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, fish and vegetable oils.
- Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day.
Some examples of foods to aviod or have small amounts of are animal fats, butter, cream, whole-fat milk or other dairy products, coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter. Some foods that have better fats are salmon, trout, herring, avocados, olives, walnuts and liquid vegetable oils like soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower, canola, and olive. Even though these are better for you, you still need to eat them in moderation. Try to only get 25-35% of your calories from fat. How do you figure this out? Each gram of fat is equivalent to 9 calories. So you need to multiply however many grams of fat you eat by 9. Then divide by total calories and this will give you the percent of calories from fat.
Some other suggestions to help your cholesterol are:
- Reduce the amount of meat you eat in each meal.
- Eat only egg whites, as the egg yolk has a lot of cholesterol in it.
- Use liquid oils instead of solid fats.
- When eating dairy, always choose the low-fat option.
- Increase your intake of fiber and whole grains.
- Reduce your intake of sodium.