Nutrition Facts: All you Need to know About Cholesterol

What is Cholesterol..?

Cholesterol is another food ingredient that gets more than its fair share of bad press. Biochemically, cholesterol is a steroid-based molecule related to fat. Despite what you sometimes hear, cholesterol is needed in small amounts for good health. It is a major structural component of many body tissues, including the cardiovascular and nervous systems.

It’s also used in the synthesis of many of the sex and adrenal hormones, as well as some digestive enzymes. There are two primary forms of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and lowdensity lipoprotein (LDL). From a health point of view, your goal is to keep HDL levels high and LDL levels low. LDLs tend to be sticky in texture and attach more easily to arterial walls, causing blockages. If the blocked arteries happen to be located in the heart, the end result could be a heart attack. Blocked arteries in limbs can lead to cell death, gangrene, and eventually amputation.

Evolution has decided that HDLs should be used to combat the destructive LDLs. HDLs attach to and carry away LDLs before they have a chance to build up on arterial walls. HDLs also carry extra cholesterol to the liver, where it is converted to bile salts and excreted. Most readers are probably aware of the risk factors that negatively impact cholesterol. While you have little control over genetics, such lifestyle factors as smoking, drinking, nutrition, and exercise can be controlled. Quit smoking (or never start), reduce your alcohol consumption, cut down on saturated and trans fat, and start exercising– including cardio (hopefully you’re already way ahead on this one!).


Even if you’re following this advice it’s a good idea to have regular blood tests performed to check your cholesterol levels. Now you probably think that a blood test for cholesterol would simply tell you how much cholesterol is in your body. Well it does, but doctors actually use several measurements to deduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

The three measurements are:

LDL cholesterol

HDL cholesterol

Total cholesterol

The first thing I should tell you is that total cholesterol doesn’t simply mean LDL cholesterol plus HDL cholesterol. There are additional types of cholesterol, but I really don’t need to discuss them here. Cholesterol is measured as milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood. Medical types have abbreviated it as mg/dL. In some cases only your total cholesterol will be measured, other times you will get results for all three. With regards to total cholesterol,

here is a general guide:


Your doctor may give you these cholesterol values as a ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. This is calculated by dividing your total cholesterol by your HDL cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the ratio should be below 5:1. A ratio of 3.5:1 is optimal. So, you should not simply keep track of your cholesterol levels, but you should also do everything in your power to keep your LDL levels low and HDL levels high.


Most of us probably realize that fried foods, ice cream, and fatty red meats raise cholesterol levels. Well here’s some great news. There are actually foods you can add to your diet to reduce your cholesterol levels. Researchers have discovered that some foods, particularly deep sea fish, oatmeal, walnuts, and foods high in plant sterols, can help regulate your cholesterol. Research has also revealed that a diet combining some of these foods may be just as effective 227 at reducing cholesterol as cholesterol-lowering drugs (particularly LDL or “bad” cholesterol). In no particular order, here are some superfoods that will help keep your arteries cholesterol free for decades to come!

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